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Looking for a Job? Here's why you Need to Watch out for Fake Offers Through Employment Scams

Fake job scams are increasing in the United States, particularly preying on individuals who have been laid off recently.
Cover Image Source: Job Scams | Pexels | Photo by Vojtech Okenka
Cover Image Source: Job Scams | Pexels | Photo by Vojtech Okenka

Generative AI and a surge in informal work communication have changed the job market, but that also means that applicants are now facing a growing threat from scammers exploiting the resultant instability. The rise of fake job offers has become one of the most widespread and rapidly increasing scams in the United States, particularly preying on those who have been laid off recently.

Representative Image | Getty Images | Photo by David McNew
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by David McNew

These scams are pulled off using different mechanisms, but the ultimate goal of every fraudulent scheme remains the same, which is to squeeze out financial information from unsuspecting victims. Some scammers request bank account numbers, while others insist that the newly hired individual must pay for equipment or training that doesn't exist. In more sophisticated schemes, scammers may assign tasks that look real to victims, but unknowingly drag them into illegal activities such as money laundering.

Image Source: Pexels | Karolina Grabowska
Image Source: Pexels | Karolina Grabowska

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) documented approximately 105,000 "business and job opportunity" scams in 2023, amounting to losses of around $450 million – a staggering five-fold increase over the past five years. Furthermore, the FBI's Internet Complaints Center reported over 15,000 victims of employment scam crimes, collectively losing more than $52 million.

One common tactic employed by scammers is the promise of work-from-home opportunities, capitalizing on the trend that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. These scams often offer roles requiring minimal skills, such as writing Google reviews or data entry. To appear more legitimate, some scammers even utilize AI-generated headshots, making it difficult for individuals to distinguish between real and synthetic faces.

Image Source : Photo by Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels

Job boards, which are widely used for job hunting, inadvertently contribute to the issue. Their rigid formatting makes it challenging to identify suspicious email addresses or other red flags. On top of that, scammers exploit the increasing dependence on payment apps, which often have lax default privacy settings, making it easy for victims to unknowingly send money with a single click.

With people adopting more formal language on platforms like LinkedIn, scammers, particularly those not native English speakers, find it easier to impersonate professionals. Head of the X-Ops team at cybersecurity firm Sophos, states that it's easier for people to pull off impersonation because LinkedIn is flooded with people having a fake persona.

LinkedIn claims to have a robust system in place to detect fake accounts, having caught over 99% of them in 2022. However, with around 196,000 accounts removed after user complaints, it is evident that challenges persist.

Image Source: Photo by Airam Dato-on | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Airam Dato-on | Pexels

To protect themselves, job seekers need to take extra precautions when evaluating job opportunities. Verifying the legitimacy of both the individual and the organization offering the job is essential. Seeking feedback from trusted sources can provide valuable insights into the credibility of the offer. Experts suggest never paying for a job or equipment upfront, especially if the job has not started.

In a world where scammers target specific vulnerabilities, individuals must be mindful of the information they share about their circumstances. By staying vigilant, job seekers can protect themselves from falling victim to the rising tide of job scams in the digital job market.