Looking for Work? Beware of Job Scams
Today, cybercrime is a risk at almost every turn, and job boards are no exception. Why have job scams emerged as a lucrative path for cybercriminals? This article looks at the nefarious objectives behind scams associated with fake jobs and provides some valuable tips to shield you from potential harm if you’re in the job market.
Unmasking the Cybercriminal’s Goals
At its core, the objective of job scams is often financial gain, identity theft, or both. Job seekers, by nature, provide a wealth of personal information during the application process — details that cybercriminals can exploit to commit fraud, initiate targeted phishing attacks, or sell personal information on the dark web. The sensitivity of the data and the trust in the job application process makes this an attractive avenue for bad actors. As AI advances, expect to see even more realistic scams involving fake companies, job profiles, and resumes.
Recognizing Job Scams
While job scams can take many forms, they typically share some common red flags. The job offer might seem too good to be true, promising high pay for minimal work or no experience necessary. The company may have a professional-looking website, but upon closer inspection, there may be inconsistencies, spelling errors, or links that don’t work. It might be a brand-new company with no online footprint or a well-known company; your first clue may be when the hiring manager contacts you through a personal, rather than professional, email address or text.
Sometimes, the scam may ask for payment upfront, training materials, or a background check. Or they may ask for sensitive information too early in the process, such as your social security number or bank account information.
AI-Enabled Job Scams
Artificial Intelligence has given cybercriminals new tools. They can now automate the creation of fake companies, job postings, and even company profiles and websites that include a compelling video of an executive who doesn’t exist. AI-enabled scams can also manipulate hiring processes by sending phishing emails that seem to come from a trusted source, tricking job seekers into downloading malware, or providing personal information.
A Cautionary Tale: The Job Seeker
Consider the case of Sarah, an eager job seeker. She came across a seemingly perfect position advertised on a popular job board. The job promised competitive pay, flexible hours, and remote work — a trifecta that was hard to resist.
Sarah applied, and within a day, she was contacted via text by the supposed company’s HR representative. The representative swiftly progressed the conversation, pushing Sarah to provide personal information such as her full name, address, and social security number for an alleged background check. Sarah received vague responses when she requested more details about the company and the position. Sensing something wasn’t right, she ended the conversation and discovered, through her research, that the company did not exist. Sarah’s experience was a textbook job scam.
A Freelancer’s Misadventure
Freelancers are not immune to these scams. Mike, a freelancer, was approached on LinkedIn Messenger with a lucrative project offer. A potential client wanted Mike to craft an elaborate presentation with a quick deadline and was willing to pay a handsome fee. Mike received an outline for the work and inquired about a contract. The client confirmed the payment terms by email, including an upfront deposit, and asked Mike to send an agreement. It seemed odd to Mike that the client would not provide the document. However, he confirmed a few project details requirements by email and put together a proposal after a quick look at their (stolen) LinkedIn profile. Mike was surprised at how quickly the client signed and returned the proposal.
The client seemed to be in a hurry to deliver the initial deposit and an escrow amount to get the project going, but what raised Mike’s curiosity was that they asked, “What bank do you use?” and if he could deposit the check via ATM. Wondering why a client would ask these questions, Mike called his bank. He learned that the scammer’s game was to get Mike to deposit the payment check into an ATM so that its fraudulent nature would be undetected by the bank for quite some time. Had Mike deposited this check, he would have been liable for the check’s amount once the bank discovered its fraudulent nature. In addition, he could have faced potential fraud charges.
Protecting Yourself from Job Scams
Being aware of the potential scam is the first step in protecting yourself. Be cautious about any job that seems too good to be true. Research the company to verify its existence, and if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.
Never provide sensitive personal or financial information in the early stages of the job process. Legitimate employers will understand your concerns and will not rush or pressure you. Be wary of any request to wire money or pay for training or supplies upfront.
If you are communicating with a potential employer, ensure their contact information aligns with the company they represent. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or entering personal information on websites that don’t have “https” in the URL, which indicates a secure site.
5 Tips to Stay Protected
- Be Vigilant: If the job offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be on the lookout for potential red flags.
- Research the Company: Google is your friend. Check the company’s online presence across multiple trusted sources. Look for reviews and news related to them.
- Never Share Sensitive Information Prematurely: No legitimate job offer should require your social security number or other sensitive information early in the hiring process.
- Look for Professional Communication: Check the email addresses, phone numbers, and other contact details. These should match the company’s official communication channels.
- Trust Your Instincts: Don’t hesitate to step back and validate the information if something feels off.
Remember, your personal information is a valuable commodity for cybercriminals. So, ensure you handle it with care, especially when you are in the vulnerable position of seeking a job or freelance gig. The more informed and cautious you are, the less likely you’ll fall into these cybercriminals’ traps.
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