Recruitment scams that prey on job seekers are becoming more prevalent. Unfortunately, these fraudsters are very good at following recruitment trends, often mirroring the language and goals of real recruiting teams— all in an effort to dupe their victims into handing over personal data and money.
By the nature of how these scams work, it’s up to candidates to be vigilant and research an organization before sending out their personal information. This also leaves companies in a conundrum— what if candidates are reluctant to engage with your recruitment efforts for fear of falling victim to a scam? Would it be immediately evident to them that your advertised opportunity and recruitment communications are legitimate?
If you get few responses to job postings or a high drop-off in your hiring process, it could very well be because some of your company’s recruitment interactions come across as scammer activity. Read this guide and ensure you set yourself apart from the scammers.
What is a Recruitment Scam?
Recruiting scams are malicious schemes that trick prospective candidates into giving a scammer what they want. Typically, employment scammers want money, personal information, and digital access that belong to their victims.
More often than not, recruitment scams are staged as remote job opportunities. The breach often happens during the candidate screening and application phases of a hiring funnel where a job seeker would have to divulge personal information. This includes information typically needed to be considered for a position, including their date of birth, social security number, contact details, etc. All of these are details a prospective employer may want for a background check. Unfortunately, job seekers make themselves vulnerable to fraudsters by sharing this personal data unwittingly.
Some scams go as far as “hiring” a candidate with a formally accepted offer. In one example we’ve seen there was even a fake process of onboarding. The fraudster then tells their new “hire” to transfer money. Often this is to source the work-from-home amenities they need. These items must be “purchased” via a link provided by the recruiter under the false pretense that the victim will be reimbursed later.
Fake check scams work by the victim depositing a check (or other means of payment) in order to be considered for the position. This is often followed by news that they must also pay an apparent “outstanding difference”.
Candidates have caught onto this and become more cautious, and the statistics say they’re right to be selective:
Between 2017 and March 2020, 73% of people who reported losing money to an employment scam said they didn’t have enough money to cover their monthly bills at the time, which is why they became victimized. The opportunity to earn money that would solve their financial needs made them quick to comply.
The same data found that, although women reported being exposed to employment scams more often (69.1% of the time), men fell for them more often (17.5% of the time). As a result, men reported an average of $1,300 in losses from scams. In other data, the average loss is nearly $3,000 per victim, according to the FBI.
A high susceptibility rating stems directly from the scammer’s behaviors and how sophisticated they are at imitating recruiters, as well as a candidate’s susceptibility to being duped.
- In the vast majority of employment scams (80%) employment scams reported on by the BBB, contact was initiated by the scammer. The most frequent communication methods used were email and text.
- 70% of people who engaged in employment scams were issued an official offer letter.
- 51% of victims were required to submit a resume.
- 48% of reported scams required the victim to participate in a phone interview.
- Those 18-24 years of age are at especially high risk for victimization from an employment scam, but it is one of the top three most prevalent ways people between the ages of 18 and 64 get duped.
- Of all victims of employment scams, 36% said they received a fake check.
- 34% of employment scam victims shared a copy of their driver’s license with the fraudster, and 26%t provided their Social Security or Social Insurance numbers before they caught on to the trap.
- The FTC has reported 18-59-year-olds were more than 98% likely to fall for recruitment fraud compared to older adults, and over 448% more likely to fall for a fake job opportunity.
- Ultimately, 32% of victims performed work for which they were never paid.
The most destructive versions of employment scams come from fake job offers and fake work-from-home opportunities. These opportunities involve fake recruiters pressuring the victim to accept work so that the fraudster may obtain their details for the purpose of identity theft.
The statistics above have influenced modern life dramatically. Those who live and work online are at the forefront of these interactions and, as a result, take the brunt of it. It makes sense that individuals in the midst of a job search are highly selective in their responses and interactions— they must be to protect themselves and their families.
Subsequently, recruiters need to be understanding of their skepticism, and (most importantly) differentiate themselves from scammers to be recognized as legitimate.
Proper recruitment marketing relies on the candidate’s experience of the recruitment process or funnel, including the interview process, communications, assessments, and more. To stand out from the weeds, you’ll need to give some thought to how you come across in the job market.
5 Reasons Why Your Recruiting Efforts Might Look Like a Scam
Candidates who mistake a legitimate recruiter for a scammer do so because the recruiter has done something worthy of caution.
Naturally, recruiters should avoid these immediate red flags. Examples of tell-tale signs that raise suspicion are:
1. Grammatical Errors
Job seekers are right to be on high alert if the recruiter uses poor grammar or has many errors in written communications. While this could be an honest mistake made by a real recruiter, poor grammar is very common in online fraud. Below is a prime example of poorly written and purposefully vague correspondence received from a fake recruiter.
2. Unnecessary Urgency to Accept
A recruiter who applies too much pressure to accept a job offer may startle the candidate into believing they have ulterior motives.
In truth, the recruiter may be eager to meet hiring KPIs or claim a commission for the hire. This pressure to sign an offer is however highly alarming from the candidate’s perspective.
3. Poor Knowledge of The Position
Candidates will have questions about the company and the position, as well as a fair expectation that a real recruiter will be able to answer these questions clearly.
If the recruiter has only vague knowledge about the position, company, and industry, it would look suspicious. Outsourcing recruiting inevitably means that the recruiter has limited information about the position, but this can easily be addressed by either providing source material they can use as a reference, or putting the candidate in touch with someone in the company’s human resources department.
4. Ghosting Your Job Applicants
Ghosting happens when a recruiter has inconsistent or non-existent communication with a candidate that has entered the hiring funnel. While it is very common for companies to ignore unsuccessful applications, it is also the behavior of a scammer that realizes the candidate is not a target worth pursuing.
There is more to it than that. Failing to inform an applicant that they are not under consideration creates a poor candidate experience which, even if they do not suspect you of recruitment fraud, would discourage them from applying to work at your company again.
5. Evasiveness in Candidate Communications
Candidates have every right to research the company that is advertising the position, the recruiter, and the position itself. If your recruiter does not readily offer or give publicly verifiable information to the candidate, it is only natural that they would be suspicious.
After all, if you have nothing to hide, why would you hide it?
5 Ways to Differentiate Your Recruitment Efforts from Scammers
Providing a good candidate experience is essential for the success of your recruitment strategy regardless of hire. Stand out from scammers by following these guidelines.
1. Use the right channels
Maintain professionalism and legitimacy by making use of channels that scammers don’t readily advertise on. If it is common practice for your industry to recruit via social media, you can and should use this avenue. However, if your candidates will more likely expect to find your vacancies on industry-specific job boards, forums, and career sites, that’s where your main effort should be.
2. Be Specific in Your Sourcing
A huge red flag for job seekers is getting contacted about a position they’re not necessarily suited for or qualified for. You can use sophisticated recruitment tools and talent intelligence tools to find qualified persons within parameters that make sense given the job description to avoid this.
But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cast a wide net to engage a range of talent. The key consideration when approaching an unlikely candidate is that you should clearly explain why you are considering them for the position.
3. Respect Your Candidates’ Data Privacy
Don't ask for personal details before you absolutely need them
Eventually, you will need a new hire's social security number, date of birth, etc. You’ll also need their bank account information for taxes and benefits enrollment, but only after you have an accepted job offer, and sometimes not until their first day.
It's tempting to get all these details on file early on so that you're prepared, but forcing a candidate to give it before they start can unsettle them.
4. Be Conscious of Your Communications
A recruitment funnel would likely use various means of communication with prospective employees. Be ever-mindful of what these communication channels look like to candidates.
- A channel of communication that does not allow fake accounts (for example, Zoom), is reassuring.
- Any email accounts that you use for recruitment communications should match the company website domain. No recruitment communications should be sent via a generic email account such as Gmail or Hotmail.
- Any email the candidate receives should come from an email address that belongs to a real person (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org). Generic email addresses (such as email@example.com) are a definite red flag.
Besides your means of communication, also be mindful of what you say.
- Use a grammar checker before sending any written interaction such as an email or text message. This is especially important when you’re setting up automated hiring communications in an applicant tracking system. If you’re not stringently checking these templates, an error may be replicated countless times without you even realizing it.
- Be forthcoming with information regarding the company, position, and your recruitment team. Evasive answers would only serve to make the candidate more suspicious.
- Respond to communications promptly, in thread, and with real information. Scammers often use generic templates that are purposefully vague so that they can target many victims in a short time. Your legitimate recruitment team doesn’t have these concerns and has access to information regarding the position and the company that sets you apart from scammers— use this information to set candidates at ease.
5. Be Searchable and Easily Discoverable
A legitimate recruitment effort should never be clouded in mystery. Think about what your candidates would do to confirm the legitimacy of an employment opportunity. Where would the candidate search for your company information, or verify that the recruiter they're speaking to is really an employee? Would what they find meet their expectations?
You can relieve any sense of doubt by giving them publicly verifiable information about your company and your recruiting representative in every interaction. This proves to the candidate that a recruiter is a real person, associated with your company, and therefore offering a real position.
To be easily discoverable, you can end emails with your company name, logo, details of your physical location, and the recruiter’s direct phone number so that the candidate can reach out to them to confirm the opportunity.
For even more peace of mind, add a link to the recruiter’s LinkedIn profile to their email footer. The candidate can use this to verify that the recruiter is affiliated with or employed at your company. If the recruiter is an employee, be sure to add their details to your website and careers page as well.
6. Be Patient and Compassionate
If a recruiter pushes for hire too hard, they’ll scare away the candidate before they’ve opened the contract.
A no-pressure hire includes a counterintuitive aspect— don’t be overly efficient. For example, don’t send a job offer immediately after an online interview. After meeting the candidate, you may be convinced they are the perfect fit and over-eager to confirm employment. It is however unlikely that they expect to hear from you immediately
Receiving an offer minutes after the interview is therefore a red flag from their perspective. Waiting allows human resources and all parties to thoroughly consider the prospects of making the hire. Much more importantly, it also differentiates professionals, who are not in a rush, from scammers, who require more immediate satiation.
7. Deduct Purchases from the New Hire’s First Earnings
A lot of recruitment scams ask new "hires" to pay for uniforms or equipment upfront. To avoid making your new hire nervous, rather supply what they need and deduct what's payable by them from their first paycheck.
8. If You've Been Impersonated by a Scammer, Say So
You may become aware that scammers are "recruiting" in your company's name, or a brand name that is intentionally similar to yours. Make a point of putting the information you have on your career site and LinkedIn page so that job seekers are aware.
Goldman Sachs has fallen victim to this and readily published information on their website so that candidates can know how to differentiate their real recruitment communications from predatory scammers.
Candidates avoid recruitment scams by practicing good cyber hygiene; they understand the risks when they apply for positions.
Recruitment scams on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Craigslist are the most lucrative for malicious actors promoting fake jobs. It is part of the role of a recruiter to signal themselves as being a legitimate option to interested candidates.
Recruitment trends have significantly evolved alongside the creation and spread of employment scammers. As a result, recruiters must develop stronger skills in communication, information technology, and compassion to find permanent hires.