12/01/2021 Jeni Kramer

Scams on the rise: Fraudulent job ads skyrocket during the pandemic

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, an astounding number of Americans are leaving their jobs. As the Great Resignation reigns on, a whopping 3% of the country’s workers quit their jobs in September, according to the U.S. Department of Labor–that’s the highest number since the agency began tracking the ‘quits rate’ in December of 2000. Many of the workers leaving their posts are doing so in pursuit of roles that better suit their lives or career goals. 

In addition to workers voluntarily beginning a job search, you also have a large number of individuals laid-off during the pandemic that are still looking for work. The combination of these two groups has created a historic churn in the labor market, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by opportunists.

During this time of tumult in the labor market, job scams have risen exponentially. The most recent to gain traction has come in the form of an infamous internet ad seeking airport shuttle drivers. Offering jaw dropping weekly pay (that quick math reveals totals more than $100k annually) for less than 40 hours per week, the ad has been spotted everywhere from Facebook to LinkedIn.

But you know the old saying: if a job sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a cybercriminal’s attempt to steal your personal information in order to commit fraud, according to recent warnings from the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and other reputable cybersecurity firms. 

All kidding aside, it’s easy to see how our current climate makes the ideal incubator for such scams to germinate and thrive. Right now, the process for finding and landing a job is more online-based and automated than ever. Many positions proceed from application to first day without actually meeting anyone face to face. With fewer of these “human touch points” it’s much more difficult to sense whether something is amiss. 

It’s also important to remember, we are currently in the midst of a job market that is still heavily weighted in favor of the job seeker. So, while in the example above, a six figure salary for a shuttle driver position may seem incredible, you’d be hard pressed to immediately write it off as “too good to be true.” In fact, last March LexisNexis surfaced nearly 2,900 job ads offering unusually generous pay, using suspicious email domains and requiring applicants to verify identity upfront. By July, the number had jumped to 18,400. And this month, it skyrocketed to a jaw dropping 36,350. 

The United States Secret Service, which also investigates financial crimes, confirmed they have seen a “marked increase” in scam job listings as well. The latest scam postings overall, seem to be seeking people’s personal data, with the intent of filing bogus unemployment insurance claims. Because the pandemic spurred a deluge of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, authorities were forced to increase security for identity verification. Now the majority of applicants for unemployment benefits must verify additional details by phone, increasing the need for cybercriminals to provide more personal information than was previously necessary. And so, job scams evolve as a means of obtaining more robust information. In an alert issued last month, the Better Business Bureau said Indeed, LinkedIn and Facebook topped their list of online job search platforms where users reported being duped by fraudulent job ads.

We’ve long touted the benefits of applying for jobs directly through company websites. Going direct can give your application an edge over other candidates, as well lead you to a wealth of valuable information that will prime you for potential interviews. But in light of the uptick in job scams, we can’t emphasize enough security as a top reason to go direct. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center actually recommends verifying companies and job postings found on job boards directly via the company’s own website if you have any suspicion that they may be fraudulent. If you find job postings that appear on job boards, but not on the companies’ websites, or if you are not able to easily verify that a company exists by conducting a web search using their name, you may have a scam listing on your hands. 

In an increasingly online world, your personal information can feel more vulnerable than ever. It’s scary out there, and these scams can slip by even the savvy job searcher. But here’s the good news: you’re always safe when you search for jobs on Getwork! We’re different from other job sites in that we only source jobs directly from employer websites, so you can rest assured you’re getting nothing but the highest-quality, most accurate listings right from their source—no spam and no scams.