Scammers target Washington’s unemployed with fake job listings
The COVID-19 pandemic’s record unemployment saw Washington hit with unemployment scammers. Now, fraudsters are targeting unemployed Washingtonians in a completely new way — through fake job listings.
Puget Sound resident Kristi Simmons, one of Washington’s hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers, applied earlier this month for what she thought was an administrative assistant position at the Meydenbauer Center.
She received an email reply asking for her résumé, which she sent over. While the email did appear to come from the name of person who is actually employed by the Meydenbauer Center, it used a Hotmail address. In this first email exchange, Simmons had just assumed it was an employee who forgot to use his work address instead of his personal one.
However, she got an email back the next day, telling her that she was the only qualified person for the job — even though she hadn’t had so much as an interview yet. What was even more odd was that she was not offered the job she had applied for, but instead offered a personal assistant position at $50/hour for just 10 hours a week.
This alone had Simmons very suspicious, but she was sure it was a scam when she read on and saw that the email asked for many details of personal information that wouldn’t normally be collected that early in the application process — or over email.
“He asked for all of my personal information via email and then he would follow up with me, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, something is not right here,'” Simmons said. “And I was reading through the email looking at his grammar and I’m like, ‘No, this isn’t right.’ Your gut feeling tells you this isn’t right.”
Simmons reached out to the Meydenbauer Center to ask about the job and found that it was indeed a scam.
“It looked what [the scammer] had done was probably taken a job that had been open previously, and maybe just saved that file and later on gone in and put it back on the site,” she said. “It looked legitimate.”
The next day, Simmons applied to another job that appeared to be at a Snohomish County construction company. Once again, she received an email with a supposed job offer asking for private information, and once again confirmed with the legitimate company that it was fake.
Indeed is working with companies to flag fake job listings and remove them from the site. The Meydenbauer Center told KIRO Radio that at the time Simmons contacted them, the false listing had already been removed thanks to an earlier report that had come in.
“We have been working with Indeed customer service to notify them of the issue and try to prevent it again in the future,” said Sara Waltemire, director of Sales and Events for the Meydenbauer.
Waltemire recommended “cross referencing any postings on a third-party job board with a company’s website to make sure they appear in both locations,” as well as checking that “there are other jobs posted from the same account on the job board.” She also advised job applicants pay close attention to an email sender’s domain name to see if it seems fitting for the company. For example, Meydenbauer employees’ email addresses will always end in “@meydenbauer.com.”
Simmons gave the same advice, and added that people should look out for grammar mistakes and offers that seem too good to be true. The biggest red flag for her, however, was the request for sensitive data.
“Be cautious, and don’t click on links in emails,” she warned applicants. “If they want your personal information … no HR person is going to ask for your personal information over email.”
This kind of personal identifiable information can include data like a social security number, bank account number, or home address. While it is necessary to give personal information to an employer for the purpose of payment, Simmons noted that this exchange would not happen until a person is offered the job, and — if it did not happen in person — would take place through a more secure method than a simple email.
When in doubt, Simmons advises contacting the company the posting appears to be from to see if it is in fact trustworthy.
Simmons appreciates what companies are doing to locate and remove false job listings, but she is annoyed with the fraudsters for forcing unemployed people to face an additional complicated hurdle, on top of already being jobless.
“It’s just really frustrating for people who are legitimately wanting to work, having to deal with this,” she said.