Scammers are posing as fake recruiters, conducting staged interviews - and hiring - as part of an ID theft scheme. Here's how to avoid getting swindled.
- A recent MBA graduate went viral on LinkedIn after she was targeted in an online job hiring scam.
- "This is an elaborate, calculated, and targeted crime," she wrote in the post.
When Narisa Kiattaweesup checked her email earlier this month, she was pleased to see an invitation to interview for a product design manager position at software company Splunk.
Her delight turned to horror, however, when she discovered the following week that she was the target of an elaborate identity theft scam.
In a viral LinkedIn post, Kiattaweesup wrote that she was "fast-tracked to an interview" because the skills on her AngelList profile aligned with the position. After promptly receiving an offer, she was asked for personal information including a copy of her driver's license, a direct deposit form, and authorization for a background check.
The recent MBA graduate wrote that she started to feel "uneasy" after she was asked to use company funds linked to her personal bank account to buy an iPhone and Apple Watch for a home office. Then she was told to ship those to the company for software updates.
After consulting friends and family members, they urged her to reach out to Splunk's HR department, which confirmed that the communications were not from the company and that it was a scam. Kiattaweesup immediately canceled the shipment and her card.
"The most horrifying thing is how I receive this through my school email," she wrote. "They were targeting students like me. A part of me felt like I should have known better. The other part of me knows this is not one of those silly scams."
A spokesperson for Splunk told Insider it is "aware of this industry-wide trending recruitment scam" and is not involved in the fradulent behavior.
"We can confirm that the communications referenced in the LinkedIn posts were not sent by or on behalf of Splunk," the spokesperson said. "Splunk is diligently working with our talent acquisition, legal and security teams and external parties to help prevent this from happening in the future."
Kiattaweesup is one of a number of victims targeted for identify theft scams via job sites like LinkedIn and AngelList. In recent months, new grads and young job seekers have been particularly vulnerable to such scams, thanks largely to the rise of remote working and fake accounts on job networking sites.
Here are some tips and red flags to avoid getting scammed while on the job hunt.
Be cautious of on-the-spot virtual interviews
Kiattaweesup wrote that twice she was tricked into thinking she was speaking with actual Splunk employees, including Chief Information Officer Alexander Fridman. However, she later learned they were scammers.
According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), job seekers should "be wary of any request to do an online video job interview immediately, without any prior contact by the hiring organization."
"A legitimate online interview is generally preceded by initial outreach, as well as information such as interview time, names and titles of those who may be on the call, among other things," FINRA states on its website. "A lack of advance preparation could be a red flag."
Double check grammar and punctuation
Stay on the lookout for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation in any correspondence. While an occasional typo may not be cause for concern, multiple errors or inconsistencies should raise a red flag.
FINRA suggests being cautious of "odd or poorly written text, including typos or unusual wording, on the online platform page or in other communication."
Be wary of requests for equipment purchases and reshipping
While reshipping jobs are in their own scam category, any request to purchase and ship out products should raise a red flag, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
"The products are often high-priced goods, like name-brand electronics, bought using stolen credit cards," the FTC warns on its website. "Reshipping goods is never a real job. That's simply being part of a scam."
Double check email headers and URLs
Scammers often make subtle changes to a company's website URL or emails to trick potential targets, according to the job search site, Flex Jobs.
"For example, a real company website might have the address, companyname.com. But, when you're looking at the fake website, the address is company-name.com. It's a subtle change, but it could indicate you're not on the company's real website," Flex Jobs states.
In Kiattaweesup's case, the initial email was sent from email@example.com, when the company actually uses ".com" addresses.
Be skeptical of requests for personal information
Personal information, like Social Security and bank account numbers, should never be shared via email or on the phone. Most legitimate companies will provide protected portals or other encrypted forms to share this information.
Bank information should always be provided after you're hired, according to FINRA.
"And even then, you should contact the company directly to confirm that the position and requested forms are valid before providing any personal information," FINRA states.
Do a deep-dive on the company and its hiring managers
Beyond a basic internet search for the company and the hiring manager, the FTC recommends queries for each alongside the words "scam," "review," or "complaint."
Prospective job seekers also can call the company's human resources department directly to confirm the job opportunity.
Ask to meet in-person if possible
In today's era of remote work, it's easier than ever for scammers to target vulnerable victims online. In Kiattaweesup's case, she was contacted about a remote role, in which online interviews and discussions are now commonplace.
The University of Colorado recommends requesting to meet in-person if possible, to better ensure the validity of the company and the opportunity itself. Further, the University recommends never consenting to a background check without meeting the employer first.
Consult with friends and family members
If something seems fishy, the FTC recommends talking it over with a trusted individual, as Kiattaweesup did. Recent graduates may be new to the hiring process, and an outside source can help discern if an offer seems legitimate or not.
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