Job scammers use real company names and online conferences to trick victims: Internet Scambusters #621
Job scams are an everyday risk for people searching online for work -- especially those using the classified ads site Craigslist.
Despite public warnings and efforts to head off the crooks, they keep coming back with new tactics to dupe their victims, as we explain in this week's issue.
We also have a warning for Craigslist advertisers about bogus pages that scammers have set up to try to steal their sign-on details.
Now, here we go...
Protect Yourself from Latest Job Scams
Any day of the week, you can do a quick Google news search on the term "Craigslist jobs scam" and you'll see scores of reports from just the recent past.
Over the course of a year, they multiply into the hundreds or even thousands of phony employment ads as scammers cast their nets to haul in their job-hunting victims.
Craigslist, probably the biggest and best-known online classified ad service, goes to quite a bit of trouble itself to spot fake job ads as well as issuing a warning to its users about the risks of scams.
But they can't check every one of the thousands of new ads that go online each day so it's down to individuals to be vigilant against the tricksters.
Over the years, we've covered lots of these job scams -- mostly aimed at getting victims to pay upfront for everything from supposed credit checks to training materials, targeting them with advance fee scams, or fooling them into handing over personal information for ID theft.
For example, see these earlier reports:
More recently, crooks have become much more sophisticated in dressing up their ads and follow-up messages to seem more convincing.
They've also adopted new scam tactics to trick victims into helping them earn money for nothing.
Let's take a close look at these two new approaches.
Seems Like the Real Thing
Because we and other anti-scam organizations advise our subscribers to check out the companies behind job listings, con artists have now taken to disguising themselves as genuine companies.
They use the names of these firms and their real contact details in their ads and follow-up emails so that people who check them out online will make a mental connection between the ad and the real company.
But most victims never bother to actually verify that the genuine firm is offering the jobs that have been advertised or that they listed them on Craigslist.
The simple lesson here is to look for the advertised jobs on the firm's website. If you don't see them, phone the company's HR department and ask them about vacancies.
Of course, this assumes that the site belongs to the real firm and is not just a scam website dressed up to mimic them.
In that case, do a search on the company name both to find out if it has been used in a scam and to get their real phone number to check out if they are looking for new hires.
A Nice Little Earner
One of the legitimate ways of earning money on the Internet is by providing links to other sites and products on your website, which you get paid for when other people click them and buy products.
These are called affiliate links. Perhaps the most common example is the affiliate links to books and other products sold by Amazon.
You see them on many websites and when you click through and buy the book or product, the site that hosted the link gets a small sales commission from Amazon.
Scammers have seized on this, not to sell books but to get job seekers to sign up for web conferencing services.
The trick works like this:
A person applies for a job usually advertised on Craigslist and is told they've been shortlisted.
Before final selection, however, they're told they must attend an online teach-in, after which they may have to take a test.
The scammer provides a link for the online conference service where the victim is invited to sign-up for a free 14-day trial.
Now the conference service is perfectly legitimate and has no direct connection with the scammer, so it probably knows nothing about the supposed teach-in.
What it does do though is pay the scammer an affiliate fee of $3 for each person that signs up for the trial, with a further bonus if the victim becomes a paid subscriber.
This is just the most blatant example of affiliate-type scams. In other instances, job hunters go through a never-ending series of links, often crammed with advertisements, in their quest to find work, earning a small fee for the scammer for each click.
These tricks may cost you nothing beyond a serious waste of your time but by being alert to them you might be able to save yourself a lot of frustration.
How to Avoid Job Scams
Before we sign off, here are five simple tips to help you steer clear of phony jobs on Craigslist and elsewhere:
- In the real world, high pay and "no experience necessary" don't go together so anyone mentioning them both in the same ad is probably a fake.
- A job offer, or even a shortlisting, without an interview is usually a scam.
- Genuine employers don't ask you to pay upfront for training, software, kits and materials, credit checks, drugs tests, or other forms of vetting.
- If you can't verify contact details independently of the ad, it's probably a scam.
- If the job involves receiving and forwarding payments or goods to another address, it's likely to be part of fraudulent activities such as shipping stolen goods -- another well-known job scam.
Alert of the Week
Staying on the Craigslist theme, if you ever place an ad with them that includes your email address, watch out for a bogus message sent to that address supposedly from Craigslist themselves.
It claims there's a problem with your ad and asks you to click a link to correct it. But the link takes you to a phony Craigslist page that aims to steal your sign-on details, which are then used for other scams.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.