Job-Seekers: Have you fallen victim to recruitment scams?

Recruitment scams finding job seekers

Along with a renewed focus on employers spotting fraudulent candidates, employer imposters have been trying to dupe job-seekers for some time now through quite elaborate job recruitment scams.

Even back in 2018, SHRM had been reporting on recruiting scams where individuals fraudulently posing as a specific company would target unsuspecting online users with exciting new job opportunities. These scams came in various forms like fake job postings, fake company profiles and direct messages to online users offering them the opportunity to apply for a great new role!

The catch? The would-be candidate would have to fork over some kind of personal identifiable information (PII), or worse yet, an upfront payment for equipment or supplies to continue through the job application process—for the fake job that didn’t exist.

One remedy to these scams often falls on the company being impersonated – if they’re even alerted to the fraudulent job offer. The legitimate companies counter recruitment scams with visible online posts as well as messages explaining the scam, and re-directing candidates to the appropriate channels for future jobs. Helpful, yes, but only if the job-seekers see this information.

It’s not isolated to company web sites either. Well-known job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn continue to put measures in place to filter out and flag suspicious job postings, yet cybercriminals continue to find ways to circumvent the checkpoints.

How far do recruitment scammers go?

As cybercriminals get more sophisticated, especially when the fake job offer involves a technical role, things can get even more complicated. Take cryptocurrency for instance. As it was all the rage, many people wanted ‘in’ to this emerging industry. Cybercriminals saw an opportunity.

In an ABC Eyewitness News account, Daniel LaSane recalls his recent run-in with a fake cryptocurrency employer. After a short process of interviews and accepting the job offer, LaSane was instructed to broker bitcoin transactions on behalf of the company’s so-called ‘clients.’

“LaSane’s first assignment included getting a $4,100 deposit in his bank account, and then he says he was instructed what to do with it… The money hits the account, take that out, purchase bitcoin with it [for the client],” LaSane said. Everything seems fine, until days later the bank notifies LaSane the transactions are all fraud, and he now owes the money back. In total, he is out $10,000 and he is not alone.”

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that in 2022, job-seekers lost about $68 million to cybercriminals peddling fake jobs. It’s no surprise, according to Rhonda Perkins, an attorney and chief of staff for the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, as it was especially easy to target job-seekers by slapping shiny “Work-From-Home” stickers on fake jobs. Cybercriminals could be very creative. Fake remote jobs like ‘merchandise re-seller’ or ‘re-shipping’ jobs often left the newly hired workers holding the bag of expenses paid out and never recouped – sometimes because they were stolen goods in the first place.

Job-seekers must protect themselves from recruitment scams

In 2021, the FBI weighed in on the uptick in recruitment scams as well, and offered some detailed tips and best practices to avoid falling victim to fake job solicitations.

First, as a job-seeker it is important to look for nuances that indicate something smells fishy! For instance:

  • Did the recruiting email come from an email address that did not include the company name in the domain?
  • Did the message only have an email link for a video interview, and no phone number?
  • Did they quickly ask for credit card info, or pre-payment for equipment?
  • Could you find the recruiter’s profile on the company LinkedIn page?

Are your spider senses tingling? It’s a safe bet that you need to do some more digging on the validity of this job offer:

  • Call/contact the company using information you find through your own web search.
  • Don’t give out any PII early in a process until you are sure you have verified all parties.
  • Specifically, according to the FBI, “Before entering PII online, make sure the website is secure by looking at the address bar. The address should begin with “https://”, not “http://”.”

If you’ve been targeted by recruitment scams, what to do next?

If you think you have been a victim of a recruitment scam, be sure to report to the appropriate authorities. The same FBI warning above says that according to its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), “16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $59 million.”

They continue to keep track and instruct people to report to the Complaint Center at  www.ic3.gov. You can also follow up with a report to the Federal Trade Commission as well, whose organization noted that $86 million was lost due to fake business and job opportunities in the second quarter of 2022. Plus, you can report the post to the job board you found the listing at, as well as the actual company the scammer was impersonating.

One victim who was almost tricked by a fake marketing job also shared her story in a viral TikTok to educate job-seekers and alert people to the scam.

In this story, the marketer went through all the steps to land the new job. It was so convincing  as the fake recruiter used LinkedIn’s “Easy to Apply” tool, replicated the real company website,  and used sophisticated interviewing apps (something the marketer had to download, however, which should raise flags).

Then came the classic fake check scam, something authorities say is a common way for cybercriminals to get candidates to purchase equipment like laptops and home office tools upfront, and then forward them a reimbursement check that will never clear.

Thankfully the marketer recognized the scam before she was out any money. She is credited with publicizing a story that resembles others’ experiences; the reaction to her viral TikTok demonstrates that recruitment scams are widespread.

Be on alert

Now as layoffs continue, cybercriminals will pounce on opportunities to defraud job seekers looking for their next opportunity. They come in all forms – as impersonators of companies or acting as staffing agency representatives requesting fees for job placement. Note, there are a number of ways to vet a tech staffing agency to know if they are the right resource for you – and one red flag is that consultants do not pay agency fees.

The best way to protect yourself is to be vigilant and do your research. As you search for jobs, follow tips for spotting recruiting scams along the way and you will quickly begin to recognize the reputable tech staffing companies in the industry that have great opportunities to offer.

 

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