For the past two years, employment scams have been deemed the riskiest type of scam for individuals ages 18-54, according to the Better Business Bureau. Through this type of fraud, individuals pretend to be recruiters, often asking for personal information and even money to move forward with a job offer. As the coronavirus pandemic creates what the BBB calls the “perfect storm” for scammers, professionals should be more cautious than ever.
Research shows that when individuals are isolated from others, engaging online and financially vulnerable, they are more susceptible to a scam. At the same time, while insurance industry unemployment is still relatively low at 3.9 percent, the overall U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent in April. Scammers are well aware many professionals are having an emotional response to current economic and employment uncertainty and may more easily let their guards down.
As an attorney working in the staffing industry, I’ve heard many stories of would-be employment fraud. In some cases, individuals have posed as hiring managers or recruiters, offering someone a job over the phone or social media and proceeding to ask for personal information to perform a “background check.” In other instances, a fake recruiter may send over a link to a website and ask individuals to fill in their personal information to complete an employment application. Others may ask for money to pay for non-existent training or equipment. No matter the method, there are several ways to help protect yourself and make sure a hiring manager or recruiter is reputable.
Trust your gut.
It’s not likely a credible recruiter will reach out and immediately offer you a job. Typically, there are multiple steps and a defined process prior to receiving a job offer. At a minimum, this may include sharing details of a job, reviewing your resume and setting up an interview. Put your emotions aside and listen to your instincts. If your conversation with a recruiter makes you uncomfortable or you’re asked for information that seems out of the ordinary, don’t be afraid to question it.
Be aware that information is available about you and scammers are getting smarter. They may reference your current and/or former positions and colleagues. They may even use a real recruiter’s name they found on a website or via LinkedIn. It’s ok to be skeptical. Verify their information prior to moving forward. Call the company they claim to be from and confirm the person works there. Call back the number they reached out to you from; scammers are using platforms such as Google voice, which can alter how their phone number appears. If they reached out via email, does their email address match the format of the corresponding company’s website, or are there extra letters or symbols? And, if it does match, is the website and company legitimate? Take extra care to verify a recruiter’s information if they contacted you via social media, where contact information is not readily available.
Look out for common red flags.
Email is the most common form of outreach for employment scams, according to the BBB. If you receive an email with bad grammar and an abnormal number of typos, proceed with caution. This is often a clear giveaway something is not right. Additionally, be wary of anyone who asks for personal information in a call or email, or via an online application. Especially in early interactions, no more information should be needed than what you would include on a resume.
While recruiting continues to move forward and companies are making hires virtually, know that it’s also an ideal environment for fraud. Beware of individuals who reach out with job offers before ever talking with you. If something seems off, listen to your gut; and, never give out personal information such as your social security number or date of birth.