You've Been Hired! I Mean, Hacked!
What's the latest way scammers are taking advantage of honest people? Well, I'm glad you asked!
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently issued an alert about employment scams. According to this notice, which they received from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, cyber criminals have been posting phony job openings in order to gain consumers' personal information.
For example, let's say you see a job listing on the internet. It promises a high salary, light workload, minimal experience and education necessary, and remote work. Wow, what a perfect gig! You apply, endure a Skype interview, and then send your personal information to the employer so that you can begin working for I Be Hackin' International. Strange name, you think, for a movie review company, but hey! You got the job! And then you hear nothing else from your employer, almost as if they are dodging your calls.
It's a scam, my friends. A scam targeting people who want that perfect career so they can finally quit their shift manager job at Burger King and prove to their parents that they are, in fact, a Real Adult with a Real Job.
And while Burger King isn't necessarily the greatest job in the world, it sure beats a nonexistent job that was actually just a hacker stealing your information and the $7.04 in your bank account. (Joke's on you, hacker! I'm broke!)
So, in an effort for us all to gain a little more "street smarts" on the internet, here are some tips for not getting caught with your pants down by a malicious fake employer:
Search the company before you apply. Never heard of Scam City Outlets? Well, perhaps you should Google the name and figure out the legitimacy of this company. Find a physical address, scan consumer reviews, perhaps get a phone number and call and speak to an employee, asking them about their workplace. If at any point during your research, a red flag goes off--Hey, it's kind of strange that their office is ran out of an Amazon Prime store...--then trust your gut and proceed with care, if you proceed at all.
Do not provide personal information until you get the job. Listen, unless someone's hiring you, you don't really need to give them your social security number, and you especially don't need to give them your bank information. "I'd like to withhold that information for now," is a professional way to say, "Yeeeeah, I don't trust this yet."
Ask a friend or colleague for their opinion. Or, heck, ask your nephew who's always on his phone, "Hey, Jimmy, I'm applying for this job... Does this company sound fishy to you?" I have a friend who got scammed on a dating site, and as he was explaining to me what happened, he realized, "Now that I'm saying this out loud and telling the story, yeah, it clearly sounds like a scam."
If you have to pay for anything, such as a $1 donation, or an application fee, there's a definite possibility that it's a hoax. "Yeah, just give us your bank info... We'll only charge a dollar to it." Actually, I'd rather not. Scam avoided.
Listen, hackers target human vulnerability and our tendency to err. They mimic email formats that big companies use, they prey on our empathy, and they find ways to fool people so that we provide our personal information, which is one of our most valuable possessions these days--our data. So while it's most certainly a hacker's fault if the wool is pulled over our eyes, it's also a little bit our fault for having our back turned.
Which sounds cold and harsh, and it is. But this is just the reality of the internet in 2020. We can have firewalls and cybersecurity programs on our computers, but in the end, if we blindly walk into a trap, they've got us. The firewall doesn't even mean anything.
So, let's be smart this year. If something sounds too good to be true, if an online offer makes some funny tingling spider sense go off in your mind, trust it. And if you need a second opinion, we've got a gang of nerds right here in our Envisage Group office to fall back on.