‘My job application was withdrawn by someone pretending to be me’

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Nicholas Fearn.
Nicholas Fearn

“It feels concerning that someone is potentially using my identity and that I can’t do much about it.”

Journalist and blogger Nicholas Fearn told the BBC that someone created a Gmail account in his name, and withdrew his job application.

He said he had applied for a writing job at a company in South Wales and was selected for a written assessment at its office.

The BBC has contacted the company for comment.

When Mr Fearn applied for a job at the company he didn’t hear back.

He said the recruitment team said they’d get back to him by Friday, but they never did.

At first, he assumed he was unsuccessful, but after emailing his contact there, it turned out someone had created a Gmail account in his name and asked the company to withdraw his application.

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Nicholas Fearn

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A screenshot of the email sent to the company

Mr Fearn said the talent assistant told him they were confused because he had apparently emailed them to withdraw his application on Wednesday.

“They forwarded the email, which was sent from an account using my name.”

He said he felt “really shocked and violated” to find out that someone had created an email account in his name just to tarnish his chances of getting a role.

“I’ve been stressing about the whole situation”, he said. “As a journalist, I use email as a way to pitch for work and communicate with clients, so it’s really worrying that someone is impersonating me.”

Mr Fearn said the company were confused and said they weren’t able to pass his assessment through to be reviewed and that the hiring manager had not read it.

“I was really surprised by this response, as the email I had apparently sent was so impersonal and from a completely different Gmail account.”

He subsequently rang the company to understand more about the situation. They agreed to take a look at it and assess his work.

A few hours later, Mr Fearn received a call from the company’s recruitment team who said that they would be investigating the situation.

How might it have happened?

When Mr Fearn completed his written assessment, he said he had to save the Word document under his full name to a particular file. In that file, he could see the names and assessments of other candidates.

He also has a Twitter account and had tweeted the company to say he had applied for the role.

Could it have been another candidate? Or was it someone else who saw Mr Fearn’s tweet?


Paul Myers, BBC online investigation specialist

How tricky would it be to track down the sender?

In short, it’s very difficult to find out who the sender of the email is.

It appears they used a Gmail account. Google masks the Internet Protocol address which can identify a computer, so the police would have to go to Google.

If the sender hadn’t used a Gmail account the police could have used the IP address to find their Internet service provider (ISP) and ask them for the identity of the sender. But they might have used a Virtual Private Network, which allows you to change your IP address, to mask their identity.

Even in this case, it would only be possible if you had access to an email sent from the fake account.


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Nicholas Fearn

Twitter response

People have been responding to Mr Fearn’s tweet in a way which suggests this is not the only time something like this has happened.

Next steps?

Mr Fearn believes that the written assessment was the first stage of the hiring process for this role, so he doesn’t think anyone has been chosen yet.

“The company has agreed to take a look at my assessment. But I honestly feel like someone sent this email to increase their chances of getting the role.”

He has also since reported the situation to Action Fraud.

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