Scammers are moving in to the employment market, targeting job seekers. This nasty problem is getting worse, according to UK and US experts. Worse, the scammers are also using social media very effectively, including reputable sites like LinkedIn.
The sheer number of job scams that I’ve seen for myself is staggering. There’s apparently not much people won’t do to rip off other people, and insecure, earnestly searching job hunters are definitely routine targets for scammers.
Types of scam
Typically, a job offer will lead to a phishing site. It looks OK, and you can even chat with these wonderful, non-existent people. You can also provide them with a lot of obviously very necessary personal information, particularly bank accounts, etc. This is “social engineering”. It can also lead to identity theft as well as losing your money.
Money laundering “jobs”
There’s one particular type of job scam I’ve actually experienced myself which is nothing less than deadly: Actual money laundering. This interesting horror story involved a scammer contacting me through an employment site. They offered me a generous amount of money to process payments through a separate bank account. They wanted the new bank account details, of course.
…They were also based in Romania, (I had to track them down to find that out) and wanted to use Western Union to transfer money, not a secure online service.
I didn’t believe it, obviously. The person I was in contact with was highly evasive about some questions, didn’t answer them at all, and sent me a weird mix of very articulate and very inarticulate emails.
I reported them and forwarded their emails to the police. I told them where to go, and fortunately didn’t lose anything but some peace of mind and my temper.
I wasn’t exactly grateful for being targeted like that. At that time, I was going through a section of very bumpy road in my life, and I didn’t need more trouble. If I’d been involved in that scam, I could have done a few years in jail as an accessory to money laundering, which the police confirmed it was.
I couldn’t have claimed not to have been involved in the money laundering, because it would have been fully documented on the bank statements. That’s another, less obvious, but very real part of job scams. The scammers take no risks, you take many.
That incident was cutting-edge scamming at the time. Now it’s a plague.
LinkedIn and social media in general
The new version of this scam uses LinkedIn to make contacts. These are B2B/professional contacts, on face value. After all, that’s what LinkedIn is all about.
LinkedIn, sadly, makes a lot of sense as a target for scammers. The LinkedIn user base is huge, often professional, and perhaps a bit overconfident. LinkedIn’s job search is also highly reputable, and often has good real jobs.
LinkedIn is aware of the problem, and has support information available. See LinkedIn Answers for help and how-tos. Support and the LinkedIn forum are also quite responsive.
The same basic situation applies to other social media, particularly, of course, to Facebook. These social sites are wide open to fraudulent contacts and advertisers. The general safeguard is to be very wary of contacts you don’t know and block them. Be wary on principle, at the very least, of anyone contacting you out of the blue with vague money making proposals.
Things you can do to avoid scams
Now the good news- You can find these scammers yourself online, quite easily.
- Search names- The same name will show up on a range of similar “exclusive offers to selected people”.
- No name or lots of other people who obviously aren’t that person? If a name doesn’t show up on a search, that person probably really doesn’t exist. You’ve found one of the two people on Earth without any search information related to their names.
- Search text- Google allows you to search 32 words, for verbatim text. Select a sentence or two from your contact. You may find thousands of identical entries, meaning scam. Don’t be surprised if you find scam warnings on the search results, sometimes dozens of them.
- Copyscape is also good for searching links- You may find a range of similar pages, same deal, etc. If you do, your “job” is being broadcast all over the world.
- Scam search- A simple search of “name + scam” is also very effective, as I’ve discovered many times.
- Aliases- Strangely, the same name, or variant thereof, is often used, with similar text or proposals. Take the hint.
The ground rules for avoiding scams
- Find out why a total stranger is offering you a surprisingly lucrative job.
- Check everything and everyone involved in any job offer or business proposal.
- Real people and real businesses doing real business are the only criteria for real jobs. There should be a lot of proof of bona fides.
Above all- Believe nothing, until you see proof of a real job offer.