Fraudsters use job hunters' own resumes against them in new employment scam

BySimone Chavoor KGO logo
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Fraudsters use job hunters' own resumes against them in new scam
Job scams take many forms -- now fraudsters are using job hunters' own resumes against them.

COTATI, Calif. (KGO) -- Searching for a new job is stressful. Adding to the pressure is the need to look out for scammers. The bad guys prey on those already in a tough position, using a potential job to try and steal money or personal information. Now fraudsters are using job hunters' own resumes against them.

Pam Mikowicz of Cotati is a semi-retired nurse. Looking to earn some extra cash, she did what nearly all job-seekers do: put her resume online. But when a recruiter reached out with a great offer, things just didn't add up.

"After I stopped the interview, I just started having this gut feeling that there's something wrong with this," Mikowicz said.

There were lots of red flags: the interview was done over text chat, the recruiter offered to hire her quickly, and Mikowicz could not find a matching job listing on the company's website.

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But the recruiter offered to send a check she could use to buy software and was eager to send over a W4 to get her personal information -- more red flags.

"I said, yes, I had received it, but I was feeling uncomfortable because I didn't know if this was a legitimate job offer or if it was a scam. And I said, 'You should understand that there's a lot of scams out there.' And of course, they're like, 'Oh, yeah.' And I said, well, there are a few red flags that I noticed. So I'm not giving you any more information till I can verify that this is real. The contact was stopped. That was it," she said.

The Federal Trade Commission this week issued a warning about job scams, urging job-seekers to be careful when presented with a too-good-to-be-true opportunity. The FTC says hiring scams were in the top 10 reported frauds in 2022.

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Victims lost $367 million to "business and job opportunity scams" -- almost 76% more than in 2021. What's more, employment scam victims lose more money than other fraud victims. 50% of victims lost $2,000 or more -- as opposed to $650 for all other fraud types combined.

With so many companies relying on algorithms to sort through resumes, a new kind of scam has emerged. The Better Business Bureau issued an alert for "resume formatting scams."

That's where a phony "headhunter" reaches out and asks a job seeker to apply for an open role. But when the victim tries to upload their resume, they get an error saying that there is a formatting issue. The "headhunter" suggests a website where you can get your resume formatted properly. Just fill in your personal information and pay a small fee -- both of which go straight to the scammer.

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"That's one of the first things we tell everyone looking for a job, is that you don't pay anything when you're looking for a job. Even though a lot of times they say, 'It's for legal documents, it's for training resources, you're going to get that money back when you're hired or you're going to get this amount plus some as a bonus when you're hired,'" says Alma Galvan of the Better Business Bureau.

The first rule in spotting any scam...

"I would say, if it looks like it's too good to be true, it is too good to be true," Mikowicz said.

Research any recruiter or company that looks even a little suspicious -- and keep in mind that the identities of legitimate recruiters or companies can be compromised or faked. Visit the company's known, official website to cross-check job listings and current employees.

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Applicants should also guard their private data carefully, only giving it out after checking up on the company, and only when absolutely necessary.

"Again, take the time to do your research, two to three minutes. Check out the website and see if the job posting that you see matches what they have on their website. And, you know, just be aware that it could happen to anyone. It's not just you and to not be ashamed or afraid to report such things," Galvan said.

If you fall victim to a job scam, be sure to report it to law enforcement, the FTC, and the BBB. And it also never hurts to reach out to the real company that's being spoofed to let them know scammers are using their name.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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