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Job scams
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Security & privacy

Job scam warning: How to spot clever tricks to steal your money and info

Scamming is a multi-billion dollar business. Yes, that’s right. It’s a business. Scammers set up networks, rent out warehouses to make fake call centers and never stop innovating how they attempt to scam you for money and information.

Job board scams have become more prevalent since remote work numbers have increased recently. Many job boards don’t verify every listing on their directory (it would require too much staffing and manual review).

When you’re looking for a remote job, this is how to protect yourself and your sensitive information.

Scammers have been copying legitimate listings, word for word

The first step is to identify. It isn’t easy because scammers copy and paste the same job descriptions from legit companies.

Google doesn’t index job listings properly, so there’s no check and balance for duplicate content. It’s not uncommon for companies to put out multiple job listings (on the same job board) for a single position. It keeps them on the top of results when applicants use the search filter “recent.”

Many job boards, such as Indeed, do their best to verify companies. Per their FAQ, it states, “Document Request: In order to vet accounts and ensure employers using Indeed’s products and services are screened properly…”

However,  there’s nothing stopping scammers from using addresses for currently vacant homes from Zillow and setting up a company for that address since it can’t be directly associated with them. It’s not difficult to create a legal entity and fool job boards.

They request text-based interviews

There was a slight hiccup of a trend where companies would perform text-based interviews. The reason? Less anxiety for the interviewee and more time to answer questions thoroughly.

However, this quickly backfired as scammers began taking note. The anonymity associated with text-based interviews is a security risk for the interviewee since you can’t verify the person you’re talking to on the other end of the conversation. There’s no need for a text-based interview if it’s for a legitimate position.

They shut down job listings quickly

It’s not uncommon to see 100-500 applications for a job within the first two hours of it being posted. That’s a large pool of people who are sometimes desperate for work. That’s enough for a scammer to shut down the job listing and use the information they’ve captured.

Most of the time, remote work has a pipeline of individuals in the hiring department. They take their time to comb through responses before reaching out. Even if it’s frustrating, interview and application periods can sometimes take weeks.

So how can you defend yourself against it all?

Job listings are clones. They use company logos and make themselves seem legitimate. So how can you defend yourself? We’ll show you how to read between the lines.

Pay attention to their email URL

You can have a seemingly endless amount of website extensions these days. If you were to work for a company with the website abc123.com but received an email from john@acb123.work, you did not receive a legitimate email from that company.

You can check by inspecting its contact page. Generally, company contact pages will list email addresses and any additional addresses you may receive legitimate mail. However, it’s expensive to maintain many website URLs you don’t need, so companies often don’t. It’s much easier to list their legitimate email.

You can also use this tool to see when a domain was registered. If john@abc123.work contacts you, type in the email URL (abc123.work) and find out when it was registered.

Typically, scammers register site handles within 28 days of attempting to scam others. A new URL (and one that isn’t registered in the primary country where the company conducts business) is a red flag.

Don’t give out information over email or text-based messaging until after an interview

Is there a chance that the person you see on a video interview is trying to scam you? Possibly, but it’s much lower because scammers don’t want to be identified. You can record anything these days, so they don’t want their face associated with scams. It makes their job more complicated in the future.

After an interview, you’ll either feel at ease or have internal alarm bells fire off. You can feel when a remote interview doesn’t seem right. Listen to your gut.

Check LinkedIn and employer websites

Let’s say you were contacted by John Smith for a job offer. You can tell the email handle isn’t quite right, so you check the company’s LinkedIn which lists its employees.

There’s no John Smith to be found. There’s also no picture of John or mention of him on the company site that lists their employees. When you ask John Smith, he says, “Not all employees are listed” or “I’m new.”

He’s not new. He’s a fraud.

Contact the direct company email address listed on its website to verify the identity

There’s nothing wrong with contacting the company you think you’re applying for. Find the email address or phone number on its website and contact them to verify the recruiter’s identity.

At worst, you’ll get confirmation that they are, in fact, an employee. The company will then know you take security seriously, which is a commodity in today’s day and age.

Best-case scenario? You’ve helped protect the integrity of that company and brokered communication with them. Perhaps they’re looking for a person with your specific skills and this was the introduction that you needed.

Leave nothing to chance

Online job scams are becoming more common. Until more can be done to verify the validity of these listings (without making companies jump through hoops just to list an opportunity), they will continue to happen. Be on the lookout.

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