What's a Recruiting Scam, and How Does it Work?

Even though recent years have seen tremendous advancements in the field of online security and combatting online fraudsters, cyber-criminals don't seem to have relented. On the contrary – they just find new and more ingenious ways, exploring heretofore unknown or unpopular angles of attack. Case in point – the rising number of fake job offer scams, also known as fake recruiter scams.

At a glance, it may appear that scammers have very little to gain by pretending to be an employer. After all, what fruit can be borne by just telling someone that you own a business that you don't actually own? You can't really come to a mutually beneficial working arrangement with a potential employee if you're not actually an employer. However, that's what an honest person would think. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few things that a con artist can extract from an unsuspecting job seeker, under false pretenses. Things, such as personal information that can be sold, social security numbers that can be used for identity theft purposes, or in some cases - actual cash for what con artists would explain to be costs related to the job application process.

This type of scheme is especially pernicious because they are so difficult to spot. There are usually very few indications that the adds posted by the fraudsters are actually fake – and when those exist, they are usually difficulty spot unless you are aware that they may be there. Perpetrators use information from real companies, legitimate information that can be found online, and other convincing details that can make the fake jobs they offer look absolutely legitimate.

The problem is so severe that Linkedin has had to hire a team to comb through ads in order to counter the actions of recruiter scammers before their deceptive messages can go live on the site. Unfortunately, Linkedin is not the only place said scammers frequent.

How the Recruiter Scam Works

Here's a quick and dirty step by step description of the workings of a classic recruiter scam. Knowing its mechanism is crucial to avoid falling prey to it.

  1. The scammer puts out a tempting job offer. This may or may not be completely indistinguishable from a real job offer by the company they are impersonating.
  2. Potential victims contact the scammer with regard to the fake job offer.
  3. The scammer starts "working" the victim, trying to convince them that the job application is real. Since this is actually a ruse, they tend to try to manipulate their prey into committing to the idea of the job emotionally – get them excited about the prospect of working at the company, and all the benefits that could bring them.
  4. At this point, the trap would become obvious for someone who's aware of the existence of such scams. When questioned on details of the job offered or company practices, the fraudster will likely come up short. Additionally, they are more likely to be trying to convince the applicant to join than they are to rigorously test the applicant's ability – which is what most companies tend to actually do.
  5. Once the fraudsters have convinced the applicant that the position will belong to the said applicant, they proceed with urgency to attempt to extract the information they want to scam out of the victim, to begin with. They will usually ask for more private information than is usually necessary, such as the last four digits of an applicant's credit card, or their social security number.
  6. Some scammers actually ask for a monetary transaction, justifying it as "processing fees" or "recruiter payment."
  7. Victims send documents and money, then never hear from the fake recruiter again.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed by Fake Recruiters

  1. Be aware that such threats exist.
  2. Be on the lookout for odd things in your communication. This is a piece of good advice on online communication in general. Check for discrepancies with the sender, the source of the message, or the formatting of the communication itself – if any of those seem odd, something is most likely amiss.
  3. Verify the identity of the recruiter with the company they claim to represent through a channel that's completely independent to the said recruiter. For instance, if they claim to represent Amazon, ask Amazon support for more information on the matter.
  4. Take e moment to check the recruiter's own profile. Be on your guard if the recruiter's LinkedIn profile has few connections or doesn't have complete information that you believe to be essential to their work.
  5. Do not divulge any more information than you need to. Recruiters don't ever need your social security number, credit card number, additional fees, etc. Especially not upfront, over the web.

August 22, 2019

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