Jan 30, 2024 - Technology

Job scams skyrocket

Illustration of a facade of a briefcase being propped up with a piece of wood.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fake job offers are now one of the most prolific and fastest-growing scams in the U.S.

The big picture: Generative AI and the growth of more informal work communication have given scammers new and increasingly sophisticated ways to target people looking for work, particularly those who have recently been laid off.

How it works: Scammers will often claim to have a job opportunity, but the job isn't real — they're simply after users' financial information.

  • Some ask for bank account numbers; others claim that the new "employee" needs to pay for equipment or training. Some even have real tasks for the victim to perform, but they'll be laundering money.

By the numbers: The FTC is on track to record around 105,000 "business and job opportunity" scams in 2023, costing victims around $450 million.

  • That's more than a five-fold increase over the past five years.
  • The FBI's internet complaints center separately recorded around 15,000 victims of employment scam crimes, who reported losing more than $52 million.

How it works: The simplest schemes are often "promising work from home opportunities because a lot of people got used to working from home during COVID. They promise roles that don't require a lot of skill: maybe giving Google reviews, or data entry," Abhishek Karnik, senior director for anti-malware at McAfee, told Axios.

Between the lines: People also use more stilted language on professional sites.

  • That can be a gold mine for scammers who aren't native English speakers and might use overly formal phrases in their messages, Christopher Budd, head of the X-Ops team at cybersecurity firm Sophos, told Axios.
  • "It's easier for people to impersonate people — or at least be harder to detect — because we all have more of a fake persona sometimes on LinkedIn," Budd said.

What they're saying: LinkedIn says it now catches more than 99% of fake accounts — which numbered around 60 million in 2022 — but that still left around 196,000 accounts to be removed after user complaints.

Experts suggest taking extra steps to verify job opportunities and offers — verify the individual and organization doing the hiring, and get feedback on their offer from someone you trust

  • Never pay for a job or for equipment for a job that hasn't started, and resist urgent demands for sensitive information.
  • Be aware that job correspondence can also be a way to deliver a different scam to your device — malware, via an attachment or link.

Be smart: Scammers target specific vulnerabilities — the more you share about your personal circumstances, the more options they have for targeting you.

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