My partner is looking to get into her first accounting job. She had an interview for a role.
She was successful and was told she would be working mostly from home (which sounds too good) and they would provide the equipment (A laptop and whatnot).

Today she was told they want to take her but she would have to pay a £99 deposit for the equipment they will give her, because in the past people had taken the job and equipment and quit shortly after taking the equipment with them.

This sounds odd to me for a number of reasons

  • If they trust her to do the job why don't they trust her not to steal the equipment?
  • Why wouldn't they take it off the first salary?
  • It's company equipment, keeping the laptop could be considered theft and she would be prosecuted?

The company is listed in government records but their balance sheet was £600 last year although they had just been funded the year prior.
They have a website but are otherwise impossible to find, apparently they are mostly acquiring clients on fairs, at least that's what their facebook profile suggests. The owner also has a facebook profile where she occasionally writes things about accounting.

I find this extremely fishy but seeing it optimistically it could be legit.
The company seems to be very small so I could understand that this is a risk for them but asking for an upfront payment is suspicious.

Is this common (in the UK)? Would it be common or acceptable to take it off the first salary?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 17, 2022 at 22:15

6 Answers 6


Is it common in the UK? No. Absolutely not.

Companies expect to supply the equipment and software for their employees. It's a business expense. If the employee runs off with the laptop, it's theft, as you say; but in all my years in business, I've never seen a remote user try to steal employer equipment. Laptops get lost and damaged, of course, but that's what insurance is for.

There is no mention of the software needed. When are this company going to ask payment for that? Accounts software is certainly not cheap.

My opinion is that it's a complete scam. There are lots of legit companies out there that need a bookkeeper, she just needs to get on the phone to a few, or call an accounting employment agency.

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    +1 Anytime an employer asks you for money, it's a HUGE red flag. This one smells like a scam to me as well. balance sheet was £600 last year? Smells like a rat to me. Aug 12, 2016 at 21:05
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    I've been on the employer's side on this equation. We had to supply remote employees with about $85 (US) in equipment to do the assigned tasks. We had a few not return the equipment when they quit. It was about 1 in 3 who did not. We just averaged that out, and realized paying $30 to spin up an employee was a lot less than the "soft" costs we had in administration and recruitment, and realized worrying about it was pointless. Of course, no references were provided later for those that didn't return equipment. Aug 12, 2016 at 21:10
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    @ChristopherEstep I disagree, I can't see any reasonable reason to charge new hires and I build this stuff for a living
    – Dan
    Aug 13, 2016 at 6:33
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    If an employer has a serious problem with theft in these situations, then in my view it tends to speak volumes about the quality of the employer - their activity is either so marginal that they are forced to fish in a pool of semi-criminals for candidates, their pay so poor that their financially deprived workers are tempted by criminality, or their attitude to the workforce is so bad that most leave with such serious grievances that they'll appropriate or destroy the employer's property in the process.
    – Steve
    Feb 19, 2022 at 10:05
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    This is a common scam, here's the US-based FTC examples closest match: consumer.ftc.gov/articles/…. Any job that wants any payment is a scam. Feb 24, 2022 at 18:44

The whole thing sounds fishy. My advice is to turn away and don't look back. Even if it is legitimate this company is in trouble, and they're basically asking her for money so they can buy a laptop to give her at best.

Small businesses are often careful with money out of necessity but, if they're not investing in core infrastructure, they're going to fail anyway.

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    Yep - whether it's an outright scam is immaterial, the company is a disaster and one way or another it's going to be bad news.
    – Dan
    Aug 13, 2016 at 6:35
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    @Dan: It's not 100% immaterial, because if it's an outright scam (and it so is), then in addition to running away, the OP's partner should also notify the authorities.
    – ruakh
    Aug 14, 2016 at 0:06
  • "Small businesses are often careful with money out of necessity but, if they're not investing in core infrastructure, they're going to fail anyway." - It could also be the business had multiple incidences with new employees never showing up with their equipment. In such a case, I would ask for payment up front but it would make more sense to "loan" one out until their first paycheck.
    – Dan
    Aug 15, 2016 at 17:16

Though I agree that this is fishy, there are some (limited!) circumstances where this may not be unreasonable.

Perhaps they have reasonable cause

I have been in charge of IT for a small company, and several times people who left the company did not hand in their equipment as completely as they should have. For instance, they return the laptop but not the charger.

This was typically not done out of ill intent, but because they did not have any incentives they were also not in a hurry to comply to requests from 'the it guy of the company where they don't work anymore'. Sure, the company management could have put pressure on them, but who will bother for 50 bucks of equipment.

How to act

So, if you want to act in good faith, but also don't want to take a risk, there is a simple solution as even a simple laptop should be worth 100 bucks:

Make sure to get the laptop before giving them any money

Here are some natural ways to achieve this, in descending order of preference:

  1. Sure, I will bring it with me when I pick up the laptop (I can work on my own computer till I have it).
  2. No problem, I understand. Just take it out of my first paycheck (even easier if you have a signing bonus)
  3. If all else fails: Alright, I will transfer it, when will the equipment arrive? (And then actually hold the transfer untill you have it)

If they keep insisting that they get the money before giving you the laptop, that is a red flag for scam. Break through it with the above hints or run away!

If they state that they need the money to pay for the laptop, that is a red flag for the company in many ways. Run away even faster!


If you deal with this situation succesfully, the first thing I would discuss (before actually using the laptop) is who will cover the costs if the laptop breaks/needs maintenance/support/software.


In the UK, the employer is legally responsible for the cost of any equipment required for work. Remote working is still a little different, and there's no legal requirement for an employer to specifically provide equipment for remote working. However, if they require you to use their equipment (i.e. your wife can't just use her own laptop for remote work) then they are required to bear the cost of providing it.

I agree that the company profile along with the asking for money are both big red flags. If they've only been going for a year and only have £600 on the balance sheet, where exactly did these "other" employees who have stolen equipment come from?


This is extremely fishy. First of all, the employer is required under UK law to provide the equipment needed to do the job. Secondly, 99GBP isn't going to be enough to cover any electronics sent to do the job and thirdly, why wouldn't it just come out of the employee's final paycheck if they did run off with the goods?

Also, they've been operating for a year, have a turnover of 600GBP, yet are able to not only employ people, but employ enough people that stolen equipment is an issue?

Nah, there's more red flags here than in China.


It’s a scam.

Usually they would send a fake check for deposit. Which once you do, then you would pay them back to get the equipment after depositng. What happens then is that the bank would Process the check anyway.. but after two days this bad check would bounce.. but your actual funds would have been used to cover the loss. The promised equipment will never show up due to COVID related supply chain issues. Ultimately, after days of trying… you will never hear from them again, and the line would always be busy.

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    Nobody in the UK would accept a "check" (or even a cheque). Feb 26, 2022 at 16:00

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