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You’ve heard about scammers impersonating government agencies, global retailers, and even members of your family. The latest variation on the scheme targets business professionals, luring them in with what appear to be attractive job offers from well-known companies. You’ll be amazed at how low these bottom-feeding fraudsters will go to make those bogus “dream jobs” seem legit. Will you and your personnel pros lend a hand by warning others about this scam?
It often starts with a message from a person claiming to be an executive recruiter representing a big-name business. Their foot-in-the-door approach sounds plausible: “We saw your portfolio online and were impressed” or “According to your LinkedIn profile, you have just the experience we’re looking for” or “We asked others in your industry for recommendations and your name kept popping up.”
Next comes an “interview” via text or teleconference going over all things a prospective candidate would expect – responsibilities, promotion potential, salary, benefits, etc. The “offer” is usually sent as a letter on corporate stationery. Someone supposedly affiliated with HR may set up an onboarding teleconference to welcome the “new hire” and get necessary personnel information. Or the person may get an Employee Handbook or IT memo, specifying the computer, smartphone, and other tech devices they’ll need to access the company’s network.
That’s the set-up, but what’s really going on? Fraudsters search social media sites to get background information about prospective targets. Of course, many legitimate companies have moved their recruiting efforts online, so scammers conduct text conversations and web-based interviews, too. What about that teleconference with the company’s logo on the screen or those official-looking documents? They’re cut-and-paste fakes.
What’s in it for the scammer? Their ingenuity is amazing – and appalling. In those onboarding sessions, the “HR staffer” may ask for the person’s Social Security number, bank account information, and other sensitive data to facilitate, say, W-2s or the direct deposit of paychecks. They’re really out to commit identity theft and possibly hijack the candidate’s finances.
Other scammers put the focus on the high-end equipment the person will need for the job. That form of the fraud often involves a song-and-dance about the new hire having to buy pricey equipment up front from the company’s preferred supplier with the assurance they’ll be reimbursed in their first paycheck. To add detail to the story, the “HR staffer” often includes specific brands and model numbers that are supposedly compatible with the company’s network. The new hire fronts the purchase, but no equipment ever shows up. That’s because there’s no job, there’s no paycheck, and the thousands of dollars the person sent to the “vendor” is gone forever.
In other cases, the new hire will get a generous check as a “signing bonus” or to cover equipment costs. That usually includes instructions to deposit the check, but then send a portion of the total to a different office. But by the time the person’s bank flags the deposited check as phony, the forwarded money is in the hands of the fraudsters, who have conveniently vanished.
We’ve seen samples of their handiwork, and these crooks can be convincing. If you, a colleague, or a job seeker you know is approached out of the blue about an attractive job opportunity, the best protection is to contact the company directly using a phone number you know to be legitimate – in other words, not one you got from the person who approached you. Confirm that you really are under consideration for a job and that the person in communication with you is affiliated with the company.
Conducting that kind of double-check may have an added benefit. If the opportunity is on the up-and-up, wouldn’t you be impressed with a candidate who has the street smarts and savvy to investigate first?