From “Hired” to “Scammed”: How you can identify fraudsters on your job search
This story was published on January 27th, 2023 as a LinkedIn article. However, this Medium page contains updates on the story as of May 13th, 2023.
Last January, I was elated when I found out my resume was considered for an interview by a mid-to-large company for a fully remote UX/UI Designer position I had applied for. Nothing strange yet, just the usual procedure of laying out what the role entailed, benefits, and perks (including sponsored devices — Woohoo! 🥳).
Then the oddest thing was proposed: a text-only interview with a manager via an end-to-end encryption messaging platform called Wire™. I wish I would say this was the first red flag but honestly, I thought nothing of it. I only knew that it was a “new” experience for me. I sat through over an hour’s worth of an interview, and the manager said they’d reach out to me in the next 24 hours with the status of my application. It took exactly 24 hours to hear from them via email and phone on what their decision was: I had the job!
My whole body was shaking in excitement, and I pretty much called up everyone, including my mother who’s always been the biggest supporter in my journey.
Then the harsh reality sank in…this seemed too good to be true.
My friends were immediately wary about this sudden course of events, and though I experienced a range of extreme emotions in just two hours (from total bliss to brutal disappointment, fear, and relief), I came to the conclusion that their concerns were right.
Here were all the red flags I discovered in the process: 🚩 There was no signature on the company’s HR representative email. No links, no contact info, nothing. Just her name. Smells fishy already. 🚩 The email sender’s domain didn’t necessarily match that of the company’s own domain. 🚩 I didn’t get to hear from or see anyone from the company’s HR department. I only had my text-only interview, plus I got to hear the supposed HR representative’s voice after she announced their decision via email. Even after I searched for her on LinkedIn, I still thought there was something off. 🚩 Along with the job offer letter came a couple of other documents, including a request for my bank account information. 🚩 Probably the biggest red flag of all: Why on Earth was I even offered the job when I didn’t get to talk to anyone from the design team or the hiring manager for the position? It sounds dumb but when you’re in the midst of celebrating you finally land a job, that’s one of the very last things you think…that is, until someone mentions it to you!
The thing that sealed the deal for me was an article on Wire’s blog where they admit that fraudsters use the platform for their own gain. The most frequent scheme? “Fraudsters impersonate large organizations and offer jobs or interviews over messaging platforms such as Wire. Most often the victim is someone who would become a remote working employee.”
The writing was on the wall. I was about to be scammed.
I reached out to this supposed HR representative for more information about this job offer, and she immediately called me back. I said “I want to know if you could provide info on the hiring manager and team members’ LinkedIn pages because I have many concerns about this, especially after reading this article. I just don’t want to be scammed”…
She didn’t even have to say anything because it was all there. She was caught, and that was it.
I honestly did feel foolish when I knew I almost fell for this scam. More than foolish, I felt sad and embarrassed about it, and afterward, I felt relieved that it didn’t go any further…because it could’ve easily gone further.
Here are some recommendations if you feel something’s off during your job search and interview process:
Search on the company’s career site for the job posting instead of strictly relying on LinkedIn’s Easy Apply feature (I have a feeling certain scammers might be around these places too).
Search the name of the company you’re applying for + “scam” on Google. Hopefully you won’t find anything weird.
Look up the names and LinkedIn profiles of the people reaching out to you.
Double-check email domains and make sure those coincide with the domain of the company you’re applying for.
Companies offering sponsored equipment as part of their job openings is one thing (in fact, it’s standard when it comes to large operations)…but having you purchase it with your own money is another!
Do not sign documentation requesting bank account info or your driver’s license. You will regret it later!
Be ultra alert of invitations for interviews that only take place via text and not through Zoom or another videoconferencing platform.
When in doubt, talk it over with your friends, career coaches, or mentors. They’ll often be the best and most reliable sounding board for these eventful situations.
Folks, this is really happening, and even the most experienced job hunters are easy targets for highly-sophisticated fraudsters. We’ve all known the story of Callie Heim who went viral with her experience getting scammed via a fake LinkedIn job posting last year. The stakes are getting even higher with the advent of AI chatbots, which are now being used for bogus postings. If they’re good enough to write cover letters and resumes, you can bet they’re good enough to create fake job opportunities that look damn convincing.
I wanted my experience to be a cautionary tale in the face of the most tumultuous job market the tech industry has ever seen, with layoffs mounting as new openings pop up. This was the motivator for me to go public with the help of NBC Bay Area, and their investigative team led by journalists Alyssa Goard and Chris Chmura.
My sincere hopes with this story are that we can raise awareness on this issue, and that job seekers are extra alert in their search. If you know of anyone who’s currently looking for jobs, please share this article with them. They’ll be happy to know this and we can all spare the whirlwind of emotions this scam can cause us.
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