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Red Flags To Help Identify Online Job Scams In An Era Of Artificial Intelligence And Deepfakes 

Widespread layoffs fueled by the pandemic and turbulent economic conditions have been affecting workers everywhere, only leading to more of them desperate to find employment or take up part-time work while searching for something more stable. 

Challenging conditions have made finding a job even harder than during or right after the pandemic. Instead of being met with a competitive job market, and the potential of new opportunities, thousands of job seekers are facing dozens, if not hundreds of fake job scams, some written up by Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In the wake of the AI technology boom, fraudsters are now taking advantage of desperate former employees looking for new job opportunities. Over the recent months, thousands of fake online jobs have been posted on high-profile employment websites, including LinkedIn and Indeed. 

The rise of fake jobs scams is not only costing many people hundreds and thousands of dollars in losses – up more than 250% during the first half of 2023, according to the Better Business Bureau –  but the emotional and mental effects these scams have on people can leave lasting scars, and cause some to feel demoralized by the outcomes. 

What is a fake AI job scam? 

As one would imagine, fake AI job scams are mostly written and created by generative AI tools. These digital platforms allow scammers to create job postings that are almost similar to an applicant’s experience and use information scraped from online profiles, either on social media, LinkedIn, or Indeed.

An AI jobs scam combines fake job listing information with a person’s personal information. By doing this, scammers can make these listings feel more convincing, and use this as a way to easily rope in unsuspecting victims. Usually, these job listings will include some sort of link or page that will request victims to insert personal information. 

Another potential scam involves a fake job being published online, usually, this ad is taken from real employers. Scammers will then make alterations to these job listings but will keep the original company’s details. By doing this, they can use a company’s reputation to lure in more candidates and make fake jobs seem more legitimate than what they really are. 

Scammers will usually scrape publicly available information, and further automate the process by generating fake job ads or job descriptions using generative AI tools, something that can now easily be done with applications such as ChatGPT or Grammarly. 

By using this angle, scammers can easily hook unsuspected, and often desperate job seekers into clicking malicious links provided on job applications, further requiring them to provide more information, or potentially requesting them to pay for HR clearance certificates, visa applications, and security checks before being able to pass onto the next step of the hiring process. 

What scams to look out for when applying for a new job 

In a world where both employees and employers are looking to take better advantage of remote working, and in a time where more employees than ever are looking to get hired, identifying potential job scams posted by fraudsters and ads created using artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important to help keep yourself and others safe. 

Limited company or recruiter information is available

One of the earliest warning signs that an online job advertisement might be not what it seems is finding limited information regarding the company, recruiter, or any other employees. By searching for the company or any affiliated persons online, you should usually find information made publicly available. 

The less information there is on a company, or even the position they offered you, the more you should become wary that this might be a potential scam. Make sure to practice diligence when interacting with any company or recruiter, and broaden your search to social media, employment websites, and even any public records you can get your hands on. 

Recruiters contact you via phone calls or messaging apps 

Another tactic that many scammers use is contacting unsuspecting candidates through social media, chat rooms, text messages, or phone calls. While this might not always be deceiving, and there are instances where a recruiter reaches out to you first for a possible job opportunity, keep in mind that communication should usually be conducted via email where you can have a permanent digital record of all your communication. 

More than this, consider the contact information they provide you with. A recruiter will usually have an official company email or contact number from which they are reaching out to you. On top of this, if the person you’re in contact with refuses to move the conversation to email or outside of a text-based chat, consider the repercussions of further engaging with the conversation. 

Vague job description and requirements 

Some of the top 2024 online scams to avoid include tactics such as AI-powered voice cloning, government account takeover scams, and deep fakes generated by fraudsters. When in contact with a potential employer, pay close attention to the job description and physical requirements of the position. 

In most instances, scammers will usually state that you’re the perfect candidate after finding your resume online, and align the job specifications with the persona they have established in the hopes of targeting. Any company that has a potential job opportunity will usually have a lengthy job description and specific position requirements any candidate needs to fulfill. If this information cannot be provided, or there is a lack of information, consider disengaging further contact with the person. 

Requires any form of payment 

Employment scams will usually require a potential candidate to pay to progress throughout the application process. In some instances, fraudsters will likely request an upfront payment to unlock the next step or stage of the application process, either in the form of an HR clearance certificate.

Another payment scam might be in the form of requesting applicants to deposit money into a digital or crypto wallet to activate the account. There are even some scammers requesting candidates to pay for non-existent office equipment or employee record activation.

Employers requesting a new hire to pay for anything upfront is highly unlikely. Yes, there are instances where employees may be required to pay for certain job-related activities, however, this is usually stipulated in an employment contract, and these amounts will either be reimbursed at a later stage or deducted from a person’s income over a designated time. 

Unrealistic position benefits 

Many companies have started updating their employee policies in recent years with things such as better pay, more schedule flexibility, and better employee-based benefits such as medical or retirement contributions, or in-office perks. Unfortunately, scammers have started using unrealistic benefits as a way to target more victims. 

Unrealistic perks may include things like short working hours, limited experience requirements, fast and easy payouts, receiving a first-time bonus, extreme autonomy, fast and easy work that requires limited attention, or being paid with crypto or company shares. 

Think to yourself, whether your previous job or any of those you’ve already applied to allows these sorts of perks. Yes, in a time where you are feeling desperate, and willing to do anything, scammers will dangle these sorts of things in front of your eyes to distract you from the bigger, more malicious scenario that is taking place. 

Other employee references are missing 

As part of your online research, make sure that you look up any other potential employees who may be affiliated with or currently working with the company. While many of these scammers are usually sophisticated in their approach, it’s usually their deployment that lacks substantial support to help them appear more professional. 

Make sure to include current employees in your research or even the person you may be in contact with. The scammer will most likely use an alias or pseudonym to disguise their identity. Search on platforms such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or Indeed for reviews of previous employees. If you come across anyone who seems legitimate, make an effort to reach out to them first to help provide you with more answers regarding your suspicions. 

Initial contact requires you to share personal information

Scammers will most likely require you to provide a lot of personal information before even starting the application process. Usually, this may include things such as names, last names, addresses, and any digital information that they can use to learn more about you. 

The more information a scammer has, the better. This allows them to further tailor the position to suit your requirements and qualifications. You might find that a scammer suddenly changes their story once you’ve provided them with more information, or their communication becomes less frequent. 

Make sure that when applying for any work online you provide only the necessary information, and minimize sharing any sensitive data with companies during the initial application process. Employers typically have to uphold an internal employee code of conduct and abide by regulations regarding the collecting and safekeeping of any employee information. 

Pay close attention to their use of language

In the past, before generative AI and other writing tools were so widely available, you could easily identify a potential job scam just by the language, sentence structure, and spelling of certain words. However, this has changed a lot, and now scammers are becoming more sophisticated, using writing tools to do all the work for them and craft the perfect message that they can copy and paste during each interaction. 

Experts have found that some scammers may continue to engage with victims themselves, typically through text messages. These messages will be shrouded in confusion and inaccurate sentences, usually with the presence of some grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. 

While this alone isn’t enough to prove that a job is a potential scam, pay close attention to the language they are using. They may either use a combination of both AI-generated sentences, which will sound unnatural and out of touch, or they may communicate themselves using a broken, less professional, and generic version of the language to hook in their victims. 

Provides an immediate job offer

It’s highly unlikely that any company would immediately hire or share a job offer with a candidate before holding a formal interview or requiring the applicant to complete either a task or undergo a vetting procedure. 

If any so-called recruiter reaches out and immediately offers a job opportunity, without a real description about the company or position, consider thinking twice before moving forward with the process. 

Keep in mind that not all companies may share the same type of hiring procedures. Yes, some may have a less complicated process, while others are more demanding, nonetheless, it’s important to consider that it’s unlikely for an employer or recruiter to immediately provide you with a job offer or contract without getting to know you first. 

Promises pay for simple tasks 

In recent years there’s been surging uptake in text-based job offers being sent to millions of people across the world. One investigation by EuroNews Next found that the text-based job scam industry is now costing victims more than $108 million each year. ‘

This scam involves a scammer reaching out via text message, the first red flag you should be aware of. They will then provide a short description of a “simple task” that usually involves things such as reading reviews of companies on Google Maps, and then taking screenshots and sending them back to them. 

These scammers usually pose as high-profile companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, or even Meta. Usually after completing the “simple task” the scammer will promise to send over payment for your work, but this is usually where the process becomes more complicated, typically involving you to deposit or wire transfer money to them or a bank account before you’re able to receive your payment. 

It’s unlikely that an employer or recruiter will require you to complete any task, let alone a “simple task” in return for money before conducting a formal interview or communicating via virtual or phone call.

Make sure not to click on any links that they provide during these exchanges, and that block the number from your device, limiting them from contacting you again. 

Protect Yourself and Others From Fake Job Scams 

As technology becomes more sophisticated, the likeliness of fake jobs being published online is likely to increase in the coming years. Knowing how to spot any fake job scam, let alone one created using artificial intelligence will help keep you safe, and protect others from falling victim to fraudsters now costing desperate job seekers millions of dollars of losses each year. 

Stay vigilant, and when you’re uncertain about something, make sure that you conduct thorough research regarding the company and any employees. You can reach out to a professional, or ask on your social media whether any other people may have encountered a similar interaction and how did they respond. 

Most importantly, trust your gut feeling. When something feels or sounds too good to be true, then that’s most likely the case. Be vigilant, and take caution when communicating or engaging with anyone online, even a suspecting recruiter or potential employer. 

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