From The Wall Street Journal, Workplace Report, dated January 18, 2022. Authored by Stephanie Forshee, a New York-based freelance writer.
Video-editing company Kapwing Inc. co-founder Julia Enthoven began to receive emails last summer from people who were thrilled to have landed dream jobs at her company. The catch: Those jobs didn’t exist.
The candidates were victims of job recruitment fraud perpetrated by cybercriminals who posted fake job ads, interviewed candidates while posing as recruiters and made job offers—all to gain personal financial information.
“It makes me really sad that video editors are the targets because those are people who we want to support and we want to give back to,” Ms. Enthoven said.
In the era of many workplace tasks being done remotely, including recruitment, job scams that target laid-off workers are on the rise, said Kati Daffan, assistant director of the division of marketing practices at the Federal Trade Commission. Companies and human-resources departments are especially vulnerable to such impersonation. In recent months, job seekers faced offers from scammers posing as recruiters from a range of employers, including Wells Fargo & Co., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Levi Strauss & Co.
“This is a pervasive problem,” Ms. Daffan said. “Unfortunately, if it hasn’t happened to a particular company, it could at some point.”
The FTC received more than 53,000 job scam reports in the first three quarters of 2022. Roughly $249 million was lost during that same time period, according to the FTC data. And at least one victim handed over their date of birth, address and bank name, according to a complaint filed with the FTC.
In the scam at San Francisco-based Kapwing, the fraudster purported to be Ms. Enthoven and reached out to applicants offering them $90-per-hour video editor positions that didn’t exist. “There were definitely people who were excited about the opportunity,” Ms. Enthoven said, adding that such scams put job candidates “in a vulnerable place.” Many of the candidates the scammer contacted said they began to grow suspicious and reached out to Kapwing executives.
Ms. Enthoven described the experience in a blog post and shared it on social media, including LinkedIn and Twitter. The mass outreach was intended to warn job candidates and deter scammers.
In another job scam, fraudsters targeted SmartBug Media Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based marketing agency. Jen Spencer, its chief executive, warned job applicants in a LinkedIn post.
In some cases, impersonators used the real names of SmartBug employees. They set up interviews that lasted up to two hours. The scammers would then extend “fake” job offers, tell the individuals they needed to buy equipment, such as a work laptop, and send a copy of a blank check for payroll purposes. The goal was to steal personal financial information. Ms. Spencer heard from victims who had quit their jobs only to learn that the opportunity at SmartBug wasn’t real.
Victims of fake-check scams on average lost $2,300, based on 2020 data, Ms. Daffan said.
Ms. Spencer said her team directed people to SmartBug’s careers page to match victims with real current openings. The company also considered installing monitoring software that would cost $35,000 annually and that would alert the company if domains with similar web addresses are created. But the cost was too much for the small business, and she decided against the service.
And as The Wall Street Journal reported last week, laid-off tech workers have increasingly been baited by job scammers seeking financial and personal information. But the scams reach far beyond the tech industry. Aerospace company Boeing Co. and drugstore chain Walgreens Co., for instance, have blanket statements about warning signs for employment and recruitment scams.
Wells Fargo, Costco and Boeing declined to comment. Levi Strauss didn’t respond to a request for comment, while Walgreens said: “We have not seen any impact on our hiring and the disclaimer is there for awareness for potential job seekers.”
Many of these companies have used social media to spread awareness about the issue. Levi Strauss’s HR professionals warned on LinkedIn that they were dealing with incidents of employment scams last summer, and encouraged applicants to report these scams to the FTC or Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the Better Business Bureau, many fake jobs are posted on job sites such as Indeed.com, which has received 32% of known scams, and LinkedIn, with 7%.
“Indeed removes tens of millions of job listings each month that do not meet our quality guidelines,” the company said. “In addition, Indeed will not do business with an employer if their job listings don’t pass our stringent quality guidelines.”
LinkedIn said it uses both automated and manual defenses to protect members. Both sites say they vet job posters and listings and encourage candidates to report suspicious posts to authorities.
Many job seekers encounter challenges when looking for and applying to jobs, with 36% citing job scams as a major frustration.
A recent survey by job search advice site Job-Hunt and online job site FlexJobs shed some light on the top frustrations job seekers encounter. The study surveyed more than 2,200 people between February and March 2022.
Other major sources of dissatisfaction for job seekers:
- Half of respondents (50%) said not hearing back from employers is the No. 1 job search frustration
- 42% said they are frustrated by jobs offering low salaries
- Nearly 40% said they find it frustrating when a job posting required qualifications or degrees that might not affect the ability to do the job
- 38% said applying for a job can be a lengthy process
- Not finding jobs that they qualify for (32%)
- Formatting application materials for applicant tracking systems (25%)
- Not finding jobs at companies they want to work for (25%)
- Not finding jobs in industries they’re interested in (21%)
- Not being able to identify the hiring manager (15%)