7 Feb 2014

Why is government website carrying fake jobs?

The government’s Jobmatch website is carrying bogus vacancies from nine online recruitment agencies run by a Baptist deacon in Coventry, who makes money by encouraging visitors to post their CVs.

More than 11,000 positions currently advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website may be bogus, an investigation by Channel 4 News has found.

The jobs, which range from sous chefs to dry cleaners, account for almost one-in-50 of all those posted in Britain on the site and, in some areas, a third of all the jobs available on Jobmatch, may be fake.

Since March 2013 it has been mandatory for all jobseeker’s allowance claimants to register and use the Jobmatch website.

Those who fail to do so can have their benefits cut entirely. But if some of the jobs on the site are not genuine, the claimants who have applied for them may have been wasting their time.

The investigation found that nine apparently unconnected recruitment websites, advertising thousands of positions across the UK, are all controlled by one man in Coventry – Mark Coward, a businessman and Baptist deacon who has posted thousands of jobs.

Coward’s company

In recent months, Coward has received thousands of pounds for marketing job products at applicants. Jobseekers who answered any one of thousands of ads posted by Coward were encouraged to visit a legitimate recruitment business, CV-Library, using links that showed Coward had recommended them.

He then received £1 for every CV successfully submitted to CV library. Coward later said that most of the original applications submitted to him for the jobs he posted were then simply deleted.

Last year Channel 4 News was contacted by Richard Evens, an out-of-work librarian who had concerns.

At first, Mr Evens was delighted when a raft of library jobs suddenly appeared on the Universal Jobmatch website. Each position was offered in a different area of the country but the job descriptions were identical.

Three companies posted the ads: Thomas Reilly Associates, MF Training and Recruitment Solutions and Que Consultants.

All are controlled by Coward, and his business network has many other identities. Jobs Junction, Career Nationwide, Recruitment 4 Office, Retail Jobs 4U, Career In Caring, and Find My New Job are all controlled by him.

Some of the websites associated with these businesses were registered anonymously but linked back to rental properties owned by Coward in Coventry.

It was under the names of Thomas Reilly Associates Ltd, a dormant recruitment company based at a PO box in London, and Que Consultants, a dissolved recruiter which employed Coward’s wife Dionne, that most ads were posted however.

‘Offshore outsource company’

Channel 4 News sought to establish the credibility of some of the adverts listed on the Universal Jobmatch by these firms. It was unable to find a dry cleaning job posted in Greenhithe, Kent, or sous chef position posted in Lairg in the Scottish Highlands.

One in three jobs located in Lairg and available on the Jobmatch website had been posted by Coward.

The search continued but, having failed to find any employers matching the job descriptions posted by the Cowards, we contacted them.

They said that they were unable to verify if the jobs were genuine because all the adverts they uploaded on the Universal Jobmatch website had been harvested by an “offshore outsource company”, run by a man called Vikram Mishra in New Delhi.

Channel 4 News was unable to contact Mr Mishra at the address they gave in Delhi, and no trace of the company they claim to work with has been found. The Cowards “categorically reject any accusation that they willingly posted adverts for jobs that weren’t authentic”.

This afternoon, CV Library, the firm that paid the Cowards, told us that they have terminated the relationship.

Concerns about the quality of employer vetting on the Universal Jobmatch first emerged in 2012 when hackers posted a job advert for a “Target Elimination Specialist working for the British government” – “particularly suitable”, so the ad said, “for those who like their martinis shaken and not stirred”.

In response, the Department for Work and Pensions said they would vet employers to ensure that the jobs posted on the site are genuine.

Our investigation places question marks on thousands of them. Tonight the DWP told us: “The vast majority of those employers offer genuine roles for jobseekers to apply for – however we won’t hesitate to ban the small minority who try to break the rules and post fraudulent jobs. When possible, it can – and has – led to criminal prosecutions.

“This individual has been suspended from the site and the vacancies removed. We take any allegations of this nature very seriously and will investigate any further evidence Channel 4 provides.”