FBI Warns Cyber Criminals Are Using Fake Job Listings to Target Applicants’ Personally Identifiable Information
Scammers advertise jobs the same way legitimate employers do—online (in ads, on job sites, college employment sites, and social media), in newspapers, and sometimes on TV and radio. They promise you a job, but what they want is your money and your personal information.
Fake Job or Employment Scams occur when criminal actors deceive victims into believing they have a job or a potential job. Criminals leverage their position as “employers” to persuade victims to provide them with personally identifiable information (PII), become unwitting money mules, or to send them money.
Fake Job Scams have existed for a long time but technology has made this scam easier and more lucrative. Cyber criminals now pose as legitimate employers by spoofing company websites and posting fake job openings on popular online job boards. They conduct false interviews with unsuspecting applicant victims, then request PII and/or money from these individuals. The PII can be used for any number of nefarious purposes, including taking over the victims’ accounts, opening new financial accounts, or using the victims’ identity for another deception scam (such as obtaining fake driver’s licenses or passports).
Criminals first spoof a legitimate company’s website by creating a domain name similar in appearance to a legitimate company. Then they post fake job openings on popular job boards that direct applicants to the spoofed sites. Applicants can apply on the spoofed company websites or directly on the job boards. Applicants are contacted by email to conduct an interview using a teleconference application. According to victims, cyber criminals impersonate personnel from different departments, including recruiters, talent acquisition, human resources, and department managers.
Cyber criminals executing this scam request the same information as legitimate employers, making it difficult to identify a hiring scam until it is too late. Some indications of this scam may include:
- Interviews are not conducted in-person or through a secure video call.
- Interviews are conducted via teleconference applications that use email addresses instead of phone numbers.
- Potential employers contact victims through non-company email domains and teleconference applications.
- Potential employers require employees to purchase start-up equipment from the company.
- Potential employers require employees to pay upfront for background investigations or screenings.
- Potential employers request credit card information.
- Potential employers send an employment contract to physically sign asking for PII
- Job postings appear on job boards, but not on the companies’ websites.
- Recruiters or managers do not have profiles on the job board, or the profiles do not seem to fit their roles.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $59 million. In 2020, Texas reported 1,720 victims reported $4.5 million in losses. There were 69 victims in El Paso totaling $721,600 in losses. As of March 5, 2021, 2,349 victims had already reported $5 million in losses nationwide, 244 victims in the state of Texas with a loss of $1.5 million. In El Paso, there were eight victims reporting $31,928 in losses. Midland/Odessa reported 10 incidents in 2020 totaling $71,500 and zero complaints in 2021. The average reported loss was nearly $3,000 per victim, in addition to damage to the victims’ credit scores.
How to Protect Yourself
- Conduct a web search of the hiring company using the company name only. Results that return multiple websites for the same company (abccompany.com and abccompanyllc.com) may indicate fraudulent job listings.
- Legitimate companies will ask for PII and bank account information for payroll purposes AFTER hiring employees. This information is safer to give in-person. If in-person contact is not possible, a video call with the potential employer can confirm identity, especially if the company has a directory against which to compare employee photos.
- Never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.
- Never provide credit card information to an employer.
- Never provide bank account information to employers without verifying their identity.
- Do not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
- Never share your Social Security number or other PII that can be used to access your accounts with someone who does not need to know this information.
- Before entering PII online, make sure the website is secure by looking at the address bar. The address should begin with “https://”, not “http://”.
- However: criminals can also use “https://” to give victims a false sense of security. A decision to proceed should not be based solely upon the use of “https://”.
If you are a victim of an employment scam, the FBI recommends taking the following actions:
- Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or the FBI El Paso Office at (915) 832-5000.
- Report the activity to the website in which the job posting was listed.
- Report the activity to the company the cyber criminals impersonated.
- Contact your financial institution immediately upon discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity and direct them to stop or reverse the transactions.
- Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.
If you believe you, or someone you know, is a victim of an employment scam, please contact the FBI El Paso Field Office at (915) 832-5000 or visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.