Fake job scams, in which scammers “hire” job seekers in order to gain access to their personal information, are on the rise. Reported numbers for fake job scams nearly tripled between 2020 and 2021 as job seekers became more desperate during the pandemic and most communication moved online.
Over the years these scams have become more elaborate, reaching the point where many scammers will even conduct fake job interviews to fool applicants into believing they are applying to a legitimate job. In June, PasswordManager.com surveyed 663 Americans who have searched for a job within the last two years to see how many have encountered these scams.
Nearly 4 in 10 respondents, all of whom have searched for a job within the last two years, say they’ve encountered job postings that turned out to be a scam. When asked which websites they encountered the fake jobs on, the top three answers respondents gave were Craigslist (47%), Indeed (44%), and Facebook Marketplace (44%).
“Be conscientious when applying for jobs online,” advises Daniel Farber Huang, Subject Matter Expert at PasswordManager. “Increasingly, we are seeing company job postings requesting applicants to not only provide a resume and cover letter, but to also create applicant accounts on their job portals (often requiring you to re-type everything included in the resume – ugh!) and may request information on prior employment and salary history,” he explains.
“Understandably, a job seeker will want to make their application as attractive as possible and is therefore pressured to provide more information rather than less. Until you are formally hired, there are very few reasons to provide a social security number or date of birth. If a background check is required where you are asked for that or other sensitive information, use your judgment on when it’s appropriate to share your data,” he continues.
Respondents were asked to list the industry in which they were looking for a job when they encountered the scam postings. The most commonly-reported industries were retail (24%), healthcare (23%), and service (22%).
In addition, job scammers appear to be targeting applicants across a wide variety of salary ranges and positions.
Of the 4 in 10 recent job seekers who report encountering fake job scams, 84% (or 32% of the total sample) say they applied and/or interviewed for the job without knowing it was a scam. Sixty percent of job seekers who encountered this type of scam also say that a fake recruiter reached out to them with the “job opportunity.”
“A scammer may state that a background check has to be performed and might need your social security number for a credit report,” says Huang. “Be aware that some states limit whether credit histories can be used in hiring decisions. Also, unless the job you are applying to requires the employee to handle sensitive data or manage finances, be wary of a prospective employer’s ‘need’ for that information.
“Even if you are not providing a specific salary number, providing a high-low range of what you’ve earned previously or would like to earn in a new job can help criminals determine how attractive you might be to target by scammers,” he explains.
Fifty percent of recent job seekers who encountered a scam say they saw fake postings supposedly from corporations, while 85% say they saw them from small businesses. Of those who came across scam jobs from someone impersonating a corporation, Amazon was by far the most commonly-reported at 54%.
Forty-eight percent of respondents who applied or interviewed for a scam job (or 15% of the total sample) had personal information stolen and/or were tricked into sending money to the scammer. Twelve percent say they had their social security number stolen, 8% had their banking information stolen, and 33% say other personal information was stolen.
Twelve percent of respondents in this group say they were tricked into sending money. This often takes the form of the scammer asking the applicant to buy office equipment from a site run by the scammer after being “hired,” with the promise of a reimbursement that never materializes.
In addition to tricking people into sending them money, fake job scammers also aim to get ahold of applicants’ sensitive information in order to hack their bank accounts. Thirty percent of respondents who applied and/or interviewed for a scam job (or 9% of the total sample) say they lost money as a result.
The majority of respondents in this group say they lost under $2,000 to scammers, while a small percentage say they had $5,000 or more stolen from them.
“Scammers have gone so far as to conduct phone or video interviews with applicants for fake job postings. Those fake interviews, of course, go amazingly well, leaving the candidate excited about landing a coveted job. Then as part of their processing, the candidate is requested to provide their personal information, including scans of their driver’s license and passport,” Huang continues.
“If you ever have any doubts or even an uncomfortable feeling speaking with a prospective employer who may not feel 100 percent legitimate, I recommend you look the company up online and contact their human resources department using the website-provided general phone number to confirm they are, in fact, the people you are speaking with. You can always say you are calling to verify they received your information, because it was unclear if all your application materials were sent,” he finishes.
This online poll was commissioned by PasswordManager.com and conducted by SurveyMonkey on June 8, 2023. Respondents consist of a national sample of 663 Americans age 18 and older. Respondents went through a primary screening to ensure they had engaged in a job search within the last two years and a secondary screening to ask if they had encountered scam job postings. 250 respondents completed the full survey with an incidence rate of 38%.
Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Learn more about SurveyMonkey’s methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.