Have you received (or maybe fallen prey to) the “Fake HR Recruiter Scams” that have been going around? Read on if you want to know how the scammers ultimately benefit from these ploys.
If you’ve been around the translation & interpreting profession and listed yourself in a directory of an association like CITA or the ATA (American Translators Association) for more than a few months, then you’ve probably received an HR recruitment scam email. As independent businesspersons, one of the challenges we often face is weeding out scam offers from bonafide potential clients. I usually resort to the tried and true adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.“
One scam that is rather easy to get excited about (and thus to fall for) involves HR recruitment. It goes something like this: I receive an email saying that the sender found my profile in the directory of the CITA or ATA, or some other public directory (like ProZ.com, Translators Cafe, etc.), and they have approved me for an interview. They offer some rather lucrative rate (I’ve seen $85 or even $100 per hour) for part-time work, and they want to schedule an interview, usually via Telegram or Google Hangouts.
One of the real red flags in this scheme is where the email comes from. A major publishing house or pharmaceutical company is NOT going to have their HR recruiter send an email from a gmail or yahoo account. No way. Another clue that this email is a scam could be poor grammar and awkward word choice in English, since many of these scams originate from countries where English is not a native language.
What is the point?
When these scammers actually conduct the interview, they will often ask you to install a specific utility on your computer. These utilities can run the gamut of known malware: keyloggers, spyware, or even ransomware, which locks up a computer and requires you to pay a ransom amount in order to receive an unlock code.
Another garden variety type of scam is when the scammer asks you to install software that lets them log into your computer remotely. This particular scam is not really common in the HR recruitment sphere, but it is very common with what are called “fake refund” scams, or “tech support” scams. Beware, and if you are not familiar with these scenarios, please look them up or talk with a trusted computer consultant or colleague.
Returning to the HR Scam, I’ve always wondered, “What does the scammer get out of this, if I don’t install their software? And do they actually start to pay me?” Well, this is where it gets interesting…
I’ve recently found a post on LinkedIn where an individual who was out of work fell for one of these recruitment pitches. About 2 days after being “hired” and having been given busy work, he was asked to buy 200 units of a particular crypto currency and to transfer it to the company’s portal. If you know anything about the crypto world, you realize that its transactions are untraceable and irreversible. Once you pass it on, you are not getting it back. Of course many people are aware of this, so simultaneously, the “company” sent the new employee a link to select a brand new MacBook laptop and other accessories, instructing him to go on a shopping spree on the company dime. Well, of course, shortly after placing the order for the electronics, and while he was still debating the rationale behind the Crypto purchase request, the “employee” personally received an invoice for the laptop and accessories for over $3000.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So in the end, the employee did not purchase the crypto currency, he never received the laptop, and he did not receive any salary. A waste of time for him, and ultimately for the scammers. However once the framework for this type of scam is set up, scammers can ping thousands or even tens of thousands of people a day, and if just a 1% of them end up buying the USD 200 of Bitcoin, that can amount to a hefty return on investment over time for the scammers.
Have you learned of a particularly deceptive type of online scam? Feel free to share it in the comments below. And always remember that if you have suspicions, you should talk about the potential offer with a friend, family member or trusted colleague, do research online, or just walk away. You likely will not be missing out on anything lucrative!