Here's How Scammers Can Steal Your Money And Identity When Applying Online For A Job

Keyboard with an 'Apply Now' button
Practically anything and everything can be accomplished online these days, and that obviously includes applying for a job. As it relates to that, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) posted a notice warning that scammers are preying on job applicants resulting in an average loss of $3,000 per victim, as well as hits to their credit score.

The knee-jerk reaction might be to blame the applicants for not doing their due diligence when providing personal information online. And there's some validity to that. It's not entirely their fault, though. According to the FBI, malicious actors carry out their ruse by exploiting security weaknesses on job recruitment sites to impersonate legitimate businesses.

"The lack of strong security verification standards on one recruitment website allowed anyone to post a job on the site, including on official company pages. Those postings would appear alongside legitimate jobs posted by the business, making it difficult for applicants and the spoofed company to discern which job posting was real and which one was fraudulent," the FBI explains.

They also replicate legitimate job posts with altered contact details, and then post them on other networking sites to expand their reach. Those altered details can send applications to spoofed sites, or present them with email addresses and phone numbers controlled by the scammers.

Victims who fall for the scheme end up handing over personal details thinking they're well on their way to getting a job. Scammers also spoof the identities of company employees to make everything appear authentic. But instead of landing a job, those who fall for the scam can have their identities stolen and be wiped out of thousands of dollars.

This can negatively affect legitimate companies, too. If someone is unaware they have been scammed, they may in turn post negative reviews of a company, which could in turn drive talent to other firms.

"The reputational damage to companies could make it difficult to hire qualified personnel, and can erode customer and investor trust in the business, negatively impacting sales and profitability," the FBI says.

Part of the onus falls on job recruitment sites, and another part falls on businesses that post job listings. Likewise, job applicants bear some responsibility too. To that end, the FBI offers up a handful of tips to avoid falling for this kind of scam...
  • Conduct a web search of the hiring company using the company name only. Results that return multiple websites for the same company ( and may indicate fraudulent job listings.
  • Verify job postings found on networking and third-party websites on the hiring company's own website or through legitimate HR representatives at the hiring company.
  • Legitimate companies will ask for PII and bank account information for payroll purposes AFTER hiring employees. This information is safer to give in-person. If in-person contact is not possible, a video call with the potential employer can confirm identity, especially if the company has a directory against which to compare employee photos.
  • Never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.
  • Never provide credit card information to an employer.
  • Never provide bank account information to employers without verifying their identity.
  • Never share your Social Security number or other PII that can be used to access your accounts with someone who does not need to know this information.
  • Before entering PII online, make sure the website is secure by looking at the address bar. The address should begin with "https://", not "http://".
Employers can check out the FBI's public service announcement for additional tips.
Tags:  security, Privacy, FBI