Recruitment Fraud, and How to Protect Yourself (And Your Brand)

Not All Jobs Are Legitimate

Gone are the days when one could simply walk into a workplace with a resume and a firm handshake, and you’d have a job half an hour later. Looking for a career on job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, and more is prevalent in today’s era, especially post-COVID. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2015, “a majority of Americans (54 percent) have researched jobs on the Internet, and nearly as many (45 percent) have applied for a job online.” That survey was conducted on a sample of 2,001 adults; when it comes to recent job seekers, those numbers skyrocket to 90% and 84%, respectively. However, any experienced user of the Internet could tell you that fraud and scams are a real threat and that job seekers should stay vigilant and protect themselves against scams. Seeking jobs is no different; I, myself, have applied to jobs on reputable websites and received emails a few days later asking for me to follow a strange link to a shady website to pay to check my credit score, and then I could have an interview. This process is known as recruitment fraud – no legitimate employer will make you pay money in order to have an interview! The following questions will inform you on recruitment scams and how to stay safe from them. If you are an employer, this information will help you protect your company’s brand.

What are recruiting scams?

According to NAS Recruitment, “Recruitment fraud is an intricate, intentional scam devised by impostors posing as recruiters or representatives of a company or business, promoting fake job opportunities to job seekers.” Recruitment fraud can benefit the scammers financially – even if you do not pay them any money. The scammers can still engage in identity theft if you give them your personal information, such as your Social Security number, your Driver’s License number, your date of birth, etc.

What are the signs of a recruiting scam?

There are many warning signs for a recruiting scam. Here are 8 examples of red flags, but this is not an exhaustive list – you should always be vigilant, and if something seems suspicious but is not on this list, you should still treat it with caution and refrain from clicking on any suspicious links.

  1. Email. Scam recruiters will use free email services, such as Gmail and Yahoo, instead of using a company email. An email like RecruiterGE@gmail.com should be scrutinized heavily. One fraudulent email that I received came from the email address, “(name)@gmxmail.us”, which was a red flag.
  2. Personal Information. If you are asked to share your personal information by email rather than using a secure website such as DocuSign, you’ve encountered a red flag.
  3. Sending money. If a potential employer requests you to send them money to cover a “recruiting fee,” “processing fee,” or a background or credit score check, you are likely being scammed. 
  4. Travel costs. A fraudulent offer may ask you to book travel through a certain travel agency with the promise to reimburse travel costs, according to Boeing.
  5. Job offer sounds too good to be true. If a job sounds too good to be true – a high salary for an entry-level work-from-home job, for example – it might be. Check on websites like Glassdoor to see the average wages for the job, and take notice if it is much higher than average.
  6. Conducts interviews only using text and chat platforms. If a recruiter does not have a phone screen or video chat with you, and only interviews you through text or chat platforms before offering you a job, proceed with caution.
  7. Poor grammar and odd phrasing. Communication that includes many grammar mistakes or off phrasing is unlikely for a US-based company.
  8. Recruiter isn’t listed on the company website. It is possible that a scam recruiter may appear to be representing a legitimate company, but if they do not appear on the company’s website, you may want to look into them more closely. If their LinkedIn account was created recently and has zero to a few connections, or if their company photo does not match the individual that you interviewed with, the recruiter may be impersonating a legitimate recruiter.

How do legitimate companies recruit?

Real companies will never make you pay at any time during the recruitment process. They will also use official company email domains. If or when they ask for personal information, it will be through official and reputable websites such as DocuSign or HireRight. 

When real companies want to set up a phone screen or interview, they will usually provide the recruiter’s phone number. You can call this number to confirm the recruiter is who they say they are; if you cannot get through on the number, it could be from a fake number or a burner phone.

When a real company wants to set up a video interview, they should use a Zoom meeting, a Microsoft Teams, a Skype, or a Google Meet associated with a company email address. 

How do I confirm a job or recruiter is legitimate?

To confirm that a job is legitimate, a good first step is going onto the company’s website and seeing if the listing is posted there. Although some companies may not have all of their open positions listed on the website, it’s a good starting point. When a recruiter contacts you, it is a positive sign if they include the job description or a link to it on their website with their information. 

When a recruiter contacts you, you should check the company’s website to see if their name and contact information is listed, often under a tab that will say something like “Our Team” or “Meet Us!” If you do not see them listed on the website, it can be a good idea to contact somebody from the company to confirm if they really work there. Companies will often have an email address listed to contact about career opportunities.

As an as employer, how do I report fraud and protect potential applicants?

As an employer, you can start with these 7 items to help protect your business and potential applicants.

  1. Warn applicants. As an employer, you can start by having a section of your web page dedicated to warning potential applicants about recruitment fraud and stating that you will never ask for banking information, money, or other similar items up front. 
  2. Have a clear process. Outline your exact application process, including the websites used, so that applicants can verify they’re using the legitimate site and not a website set up to mimic it. Tell them the exact URL they should look for and the suffix of your official corporate e-mail.
  3. Communicate your process. Tell applicants what to look out for and what steps you will follow in the application process. Explain that they should be wary if these steps are not followed.
  4. Use a company email domain. Only use official corporate e-mail addresses to communicate with prospective applicants. Communicating with them through personal e-mails via Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail is a red flag for applicants.
  5. Have a reporting option. Have a means for applicants to alert you to possible recruitment fraud occurring in your company name. This method might be an e-mail address that is monitored for this purpose. Investigate any questions or any tips that are reported.
  6. Monitor job postings. Set up a Google alert with your company’s name and words typically used in a job description. Have someone monitor the results to ensure that only legitimate results show up.
  7. Report fraud to officials. You can file reports at ReportFraud.ftc.gov, your State Attorney General, and at your local police department. If you’re an employer and your logo or trademarked property has been used in a recruitment scam, you can report it to the Intellectual Property (IP) Program of the Financial Institution Fraud Unit of the FBI.
(Post authored by Andrew Webb and Ginger Miley.)

What to do next:  If you are an employer and looking to hire better, reach out via the form below. We’d enjoy having a conversation to see where you are, what your goals are and how we can help you. 

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