When Elizabeth* received a text message from someone claiming to be from a nursing recruitment agency about a job in a care home, she was intrigued.
Elizabeth phoned the number to find out more. The job offer was attractive – a staff nurse position with a basic wage of £17 per hour paid directly to her by the care home and an additional uplift of £31 per hour paid by the agency. The care home was more than 60 miles from where she lived, but the agency offered to cover travel and accommodation costs, as well as expenses.
After speaking to the person a few times, Elizabeth travelled to the care home for an interview. The person from the agency sent her an email to tell her she was successful and sent through a contract on headed paper.
Looking back, Elizabeth says there were a few things that didn’t seem quite right. “I do ask myself why I didn’t look into it more or ask someone,” she says. “But when it’s happening to you, it can be confusing, or you just don’t think about it.”
The person from the agency was adamant that Elizabeth shouldn’t discuss the terms of the contract or her pay with anyone else. “He said I shouldn’t tell any of the other staff because they might get upset if they weren’t being paid the same,” she recounts. “But he also told me not to speak to my manager about it which I can see now wouldn’t be right.”
I do ask myself why I didn't look into it more, but when it's happening to you it can be confusing
Elizabeth started working at the care home in November 2019, paying for her own hotel and travel costs up front. She was paid the agreed £17 per hour by the care home but received nothing from the agency.
“I called the person from the agency, but they told me there was a delay in setting me up on the system,” says Elizabeth. “I worked a few more shifts in December and still didn’t receive the money. I kept calling but eventually the mobile number stopped working.”
When Elizabeth could no longer get through to the person, she spoke to the care home manager who said they didn’t know anything about the additional payments.
Elizabeth also learnt that another nurse working in the care home had been appointed through the same person and hadn’t received their money either. Now suspecting it was a scam, Elizabeth decided to contact the RCN advice team.
I kept calling but eventually the mobile number stopped working
“The care home was so desperate for staff that the manager asked us to stay and work through Christmas offering us accommodation on site,” says Elizabeth. “I said no but the other nurse decided to stay as he’d borrowed money to cover his travel and accommodation and needed to work to pay some of it off.”
Dougie, an RCN officer, began looking into things. With Elizabeth’s permission, Dougie spoke to the care home manager and unearthed that they too had fallen victim to the scammers. “They said they’d been contacted by the same person who offered to get them nurses for a finder’s fee,” explains Dougie. “The manager was desperate for staff and against their better judgement paid the large fee.
“The manager advised me that the contact from the agency was chasing them daily, and then almost hourly, in late November for the money and as soon as it was paid, they never heard from them again. It now seems apparent that the agency was trying to get this money before the nurses realised that they were never going to get their £31 per hour uplift plus expenses.”
Dougie contacted the RCN’s legal team, but they weren’t able to find the person responsible and advised that therefore they couldn’t take action.
After speaking to the nurse who she’d worked with in the care home, Elizabeth later learned that more nurses had been recruited through the same scam to work in another care home owned by the same company.
“It just goes to show that these things can happen to anyone,” says Elizabeth. “I want others to hear about this so they can protect themselves. I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
Elizabeth says: “I can’t emphasise this enough – if you’re offered a job and told not to tell anyone about it or something doesn’t seem right, think twice. Speak to your friends and family, show someone else the contract, check if the company is registered and seek advice from the RCN advice team.”
Speak to your friends and family, show someone else the contract and seek advice
“The person only ever wanted to speak to me on their mobile number, which is another sign to look out for. I believe it was a pay and go number that they just got rid of once they’d received the money from the care home. I didn’t speak to anyone else at the agency. I did call the landline listed for the company, but it went straight to voicemail. If you can’t get through to a company on the other numbers listed, you should question it.”
In this case, Elizabeth may have been approached because the scammers already knew she was a nurse. “I remember responding to a job advert online a few months before I received the text,” she says. “It was another very tempting offer and I wonder if it’s the same people and they kept my details.”
Dougie says: “If something seems too good to be true, then that could be the case. If you have any concerns or want some advice, whether it’s about a job offer or something else, contact our advice team and they can help.”
Spotting a scam
If you’re an RCN member and you’ve experienced something similar to Elizabeth, please get in touch with our advice team for support. Sharing this information can also help protect others by helping to identify scams targeting nursing staff.
Other more common scams can include calls, text messages or emails requesting personal or financial information. Try to remember the following advice.
- Always question unsolicited calls, texts or emails asking for information such as your name, address, bank details, email or phone number. If you receive one, don’t provide this information. Instead, contact the company directly. The best way to get in touch with a company is to use a known email or phone number, such as one from a genuine piece of correspondence or the company’s official website.
- Many scams start with a phishing email. Remember, your bank won’t send you an email asking for you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Don’t click on a link in an unexpected email or text and remember that email addresses and phone numbers can be spoofed. If you’re not sure if something is genuine, contact the company directly as explained above.
- Be wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you business deals or job offers out of the blue. If something feels wrong or too good to be true, then it’s usually right to question it. If it’s a company you haven’t heard of, look it up online. You can contact our advice team for support and advice.
You can also visit Action Fraud’s website.
Calls from RCNi
RCNi is part of the RCN Group and publishes nursing journals and online content. Sometimes RCNi contacts RCN members with special telephone offers for subscriptions. You’ll only receive these calls if you’ve opted into receiving them. Our advice team often receives queries from members checking if these calls are genuine.
To help you verify this, RCNi only uses two dedicated telephone numbers: 0203 375 6051 and 0203 824 2827. The caller will also explain that they are calling on behalf of RCNi and will be able to confirm your RCN membership number, your name and the address registered to your membership during the call. Find out more.