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FBI issues warning about lucrative fake job scams

What’s the difference between a real job and a fake one found on the internet? The fake ones are suspiciously easy to get interviews for.

What’s the difference between a real job and the horde of fake ones found on the internet?
It’s even more basic than the fact that one is fake – fake jobs are suspiciously easy to get interviews for.
These hiring scams sound like child’s play. Post fake employment opportunities on legitimate job sites, which link to spoofed sites impersonating known brands, which in turn leads to an email offering a teleconference ‘interview’ from an imaginary HR department.
Next comes the job offer, but only after collecting the applicant’s social security number, a scan of their driving license and – the important bit – a credit-card fee to cover the recruitment, training, or background checks they are told will be reimbursed by their new employer.
That never happens because there is no employer to pay them back, and of course, no job.
These scams date back to the earliest days of the internet but seem to be getting, if not more common, then a lot more ambitious.
This week the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) put out its latest warning about the fake job problem about which it has received numerous complaints over the past year.
What’s surprising is that financial losses now run to almost $3,000 per victim, plus the loss of personally identifiable information (PII) which can be abused for years.

But why do people keep falling for them?

It’s a matter of speculation but one possibility is the widespread notion that the internet has created plenty of quick-and-dirty jobs that only get advertised on unusual channels.

Everyone will have encountered these job ads at some point, which in their crudest form go something like:

Earn $$$ working from home.

Unfortunately, if some of these were once legitimate, many are now just the front door to trouble for anyone brave or desperate enough to apply.
Others can be more sophisticated, with the UN having to warn that fake positions were being advertised under its name, sometimes quite plausibly.
The IC3 offers a checklist to separate legitimate job adverts from scams, which can be boiled down to:

  • If a job interview is offered only via videoconference, be suspicious.
  • Employment agencies and their claimed representatives should always be thoroughly researched first.
  • Check that a job has been advertised on the company’s website and not only on a job board.
  • Emails should come from known domains rather than third-party lookalikes.
  • Never pay for anything upfront and never hand over a credit card number under any circumstances or agree to a bank transfer (background checks involving fees are only necessary for a small number of jobs that will always involve face-to-face interviews).
  • The pay rates sound too high for unskilled work (i.e. customer response work at $50 per hour).

It’s troubling that pretty much the same advice was handed out by government agencies a decade ago and yet the IC3 is still receiving reports of citizens who’ve fallen for such scams.
At some point, law enforcement and government agencies will have to accept that having to repeat the same advice over and over is a clear sign that the warnings aren’t getting through.

What to do if you’re the victim of a hiring scam

The FBI recommends taking the following actions:

  • Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at or your local FBI field office, which can be found online at
  • 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.

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