A new scam is circulating through free email carriers these days. With unemployment rates as high as 14% in some states, the out of work professional becomes perfect bait for a new identity theft scheme that becomes the perfect nightmare.
As one economic consultant stated in a recent article, Despite a national unemployment rate of 8.9%, more people are out of work today than at this time in 2010. This sets a stage for scam artists to con people out of personal information when they are think they are getting a job rather than becoming a victim of identity theft or a phishing scam.
Recently, I received three scams and out of curiosity allowed myself to interview for a position, to see what it was. Within the first few minutes the red flags waved and I knew it was a scam. But to share the experience I followed through for a while to see just what would happen.
Job Offer / Dear Applicant
The subject of the email reads JOB OFFER or DEAR APPLICANT. The offers appear genuine. Coming from corporations like Pfizer or AEG, they refer to your resume and cover letter submission for a posted job. If a link appears, clicking it leads to a real website for a recruiting site or job board listing corporations looking for new hires. It all looks legitimate.
The teaser is reading “You’re qualified” for a position, especially if you’ve been unemployed for a prolonged period. HR has reviewed your resume, scheduled an interview, and included your interviewer’s name and email address. You simply set up an email account with “mail.yahoo.com” or “messenger.yahoo.com”, or related services through other free carriers. You’re given an established interview time and all you have to do is show up online at that time. Easy.
Beware the Interview
When your interviewer introduces herself (or himself) at the assigned time, a picture appears alongside the chat box with the interviewer’s name. As an HR Consultant with a national corporation, you’re told that the company is offering remote positions to help reduce the high unemployment throughout the company. A noble gesture for a company life Pfizer. But when the questions came, the red flags started flying.
Should This Question Be Asked?
The first red flag came when the interviewer asked my age and later the year I received my first degree, also age-related. Age-related questions can be considered discriminatory and should raise red flags in your mind. In 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 99,945 complaints; 23.5% related to age-discrimination. Age questions violate various laws; an interviewer should ask such questions only to ensure you can do the job. You can refuse to answer them or you may choose to give only your age. Giving your birthday is a perfect response for identity thieves.
If you want to know what questions are appropriate for an interview, use your search engine for “age related interview questions” and you’ll find several articles available.
Do Your Homework
My interview was for a Data Analyst/Accounting/Customer Service position through Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company. While I interviewed, I brought up Pfizer’s website and browsed the Careers tab. The position for which I supposedly was interviewing didn’t exist, nor did the website give any information about offering opportunities for remote positions to ease unemployment. Another red flag. So I began asking questions too.
The interviewer said a new location was under construction in my area and once completed I would move to the office site. When I asked the specific address, the interviewer ignored my question. Red flag #3.
I would earn $27/hr for training, then $20/hr for the position moving forward. When asked why training pay as higher, I got no response. Red flag #4.
After a few minutes, the interviewer said, “You’re hired,” I would earn $27/hr, receive all benefits, would be paid bi-weekly and could receive my paycheck via Check or Direct Deposit. Red flag #5. Direct Deposit meant giving my financial information via email, a practice never recommended due to security issues.
Red flag #6 came when told I would receive an HP laptop sent to me to complete my new position as an accounting / financial data entry clerk. Prior to receiving the laptop I had to purchase specific software that I must acquire through their private vendor for $350. I would provide my financial information, they would purchase the software and I would get the laptop. When I asked the name of the private vendor, I got no answer.
At this point, I personally called Pfizer’s Contact number from its website. After explaining what I was doing, I was immediately connected to Zack in their Security Department. He laughed when I mentioned the situation. “It’s a scam,” he chuckled. I’d known it earlier, I ended my interview without further conversation.
Reporting such scams can protect you if you’ve inadvertently provided too much data that could lead to identity theft. File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov. IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center. If you did provide too much information, contact your local financial institution and take early steps to prevention. You can read about identity theft from one of my earlier posts, Identity Theft – Keep Your Name to Yourself.
Employers Connect through Email
Today’s employers use email to connect with applicants. However, those emails will reveal the employer’s name, address and the HR contact’s name, email address and other valid information. If in doubt about the legitimacy of the email, contact the company by phone to verify.
Don’t get caught in the scam. Never provide your birthdate, banking information, credit card or debit card information or social security number via email. Always find the website and call the HR department to verify first. Be cautious. Protecting yourself against such job offer scams and identity theft will be the difference between gaining a paycheck and living the nightmare of identity theft as someone uses your personal information for a vacation in Belize.