Job scammers are a whole lot smarter than they used to be.
In the past — and to some extent, still today — you could easily spot a fake job when the supposed employer offers you work without ever checking you out.
And their “jobs” usually offered unexpectedly high pay. They often used poor English too.
Those crooks may still be about, but more sophisticated scammers are targeting smart job seekers with highly convincing tactics that include good use of English and mock online interviews where they seem to ask all the right questions.
One favored target group is people with technical and social media skills, who happen to be a restless bunch in the employee population, constantly looking for new opportunities.
Many of them post their CVs online but even if they’re not actively job-hunting, they’re often on the lookout for new opportunities. Sometimes, too, they quit existing jobs without a new one lined up, knowing something in their line of business will show up.
Whatever the reason, the scammers know how to dangle the right bait to whet their appetites.
In one recent case, for example, a guy with all the right credentials received an email asking if he was interested in interviewing for a job managing Facebook and other social media activities for a major law company.
Astutely, he checked out the author of the email, viewing her profile on the professional social network LinkedIn, which showed her as currently working for the law firm, backed by a track record that seemed to fit with her profile.
She said she wanted to conduct the interview online via Google Hangouts, a communications service for one-on-one text or video chats.
This is an unusual approach but not necessarily a red flag, so he agreed.
What followed was a one-hour “interview,” in which he was asked to provide all types of details about his past employment and experience — all good, relevant questions.
For example, he was asked how he would manage a social media budget for the company and whether he had ever written blogs. The “interviewer” responded positively to his replies and asked yet more questions.
The pay was in line with market rates for the job they were discussing.
You can see how she was building up his confidence so she could deliver the pay-off line, which was to ask when he could start, if selected, and — here it comes — the name of his bank.
The scammer said she needed to know the bank to check if it was one of the supposed employer’s preferred financial institutions.
Who knows where she would have gone from there but the interviewee said he wasn’t comfortable sharing this type of personal information online. At that point, the Hangout connection was immediately dropped.
The job seeker then phoned the law firm, only to discover they’d never heard of the interviewer. The scammer’s LinkedIn profile did, however, contain information based on someone else who worked for the company.
The moral of this story and, presumably, other similar job scams, is that crooks are prepared to invest a fair bit of their own time and to be well prepared for fake interviews.
They know which questions to ask but, as the victim in this case reported, those questions could easily have been copied from elsewhere on the Internet.
Oil and gas workers are another set of skilled people who are currently in the scammers’ sights.
Again, the crooks are hiding behind the names of real energy firms, posting ads and conducting interviews, this time over the phone.
They also ask fairly convincing questions about an applicant’s experience and, in some cases, say they’ll call back after they’ve completed interviewing.
But the scam giveaway is always the same. In this case, they offer victims a job and say they want to pay the first month or two of wages in advance. Hence, they need the victim’s bank account details.
One Houston company whose name is being used by the scammers has actually posted a warning on its website, noting the crooks have been using Facebook and LinkedIn to advertise jobs.
There are lots of red flag signs of a job scam, as we’ve reported in previous issues, but the crooks’ more sophisticated tactics could get them past the wariest of job seekers.
However, the golden rule to avoid a job scam still applies:
Never provide personal, financial information to a supposed employer until you’ve actually started working for them. In fact, drop the connection as soon as the question comes up.
Alert of the Week: Staying with the jobs scam theme, the FBI has recently issued a warning to college students who are being targeted in an advance fee con trick.
The scam starts with online ads for admin positions. Applicants are quickly accepted and receive a check to supposedly cover supplies they’ll need for the job.
They’re supposed to bank this and then wire part of the money to the supplier. The check, of course, subsequently turns out to be fake and the student is left with the debt.
Read the full FBI alert here.