While generative AI is helping job candidates write cover letters and craft resumes, scammers are using it to create fake job descriptions that ultimately can result in identity theft and a drained bank account for those snared by these schemes.
“With the aid of generative AI technology like ChatGPT, scammers find it effortless to fabricate credible job descriptions that are tailored to appear appealing and convincing to potential victims,” said Zulfikar Ramzan, chief scientist and executive vice president of product and development at Aura, a digital safety platform that integrates AI into its software.
“Scammers are becoming exceedingly more believable and skilled.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported 77,612 claims of fraudulent business and job opportunities, resulting in $337.8 million lost during the first three quarters of 2023 by those responding to such schemes. The median loss to an individual was $2,050.
New college graduates, who are members of Generation Z, are among those targeted.
“Although job scams can happen to anyone, Gen Z is three times more likely to get caught up in an online scam compared to Boomers,” Ramzan said. “Now add in the fact that they’re fresh out of college desperately looking for a job. It’s a scammer’s match made in heaven.”
Those looking for remote work also are targeted, as well as individuals who share on social media they have been laid off, according to a “Today” news report.
The FTC and workplace experts have advice to help job seekers identify and avoid these scams.
1. Beware of a job listing on Glassdoor that does not have any accompanying employee reviews or company profile.
“Glassdoor hosts employee-generated reviews, so take heed if the feedback is negative or nonexistent,” Ramzan advised.
Use platforms such as LinkedIn, Google and the company’s official website to confirm the legitimacy of the person who is to interview you. Back away if you are unable to authenticate the company or determine its credibility.
2. Think twice if the employer asks you to download a messaging app and answer questions via text, instead of undergoing a traditional job interview, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
With these scams, there is typically an immediate job offer—maybe even an official-looking contract to sign—and a request to complete a form that asks for personal and banking information. Job candidates are asked to share their Social Security number, ostensibly to set up their so-called direct deposit with the employer, according to Ramzan. Other personal information the scammer may try to obtain is the candidate’s driver’s license, bank account or credit card number. Legitimate employers should not ask for this information until after the candidate has been officially hired and an employment contract signed and processed.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, provide any form of payment during the job application process. Honest employers of mystery shoppers, for example, “won’t ask you to pay for certifications, directories of jobs or job guarantees,” according to the FTC.
4. Consistently monitor your credit report and bank statements for suspicious activity and unusual charges or unrecognized accounts.
The Check Is In the Mail
“Sometimes the company tells you it will send your first paycheck after you work for a month, but the paycheck never arrives,” the FTC says on its site. “And when you try to contact the company, you’ll find that the phone number is often no longer connected and the website is deactivated.”
Another ploy is asking job candidates to pay for equipment such as a monitor, keyboard or similar tech tool that they will supposedly use to complete their training.
“To make it more convincing, scammers will have tasks for the candidate to perform that appear to be part of the job, but in reality, they’re laundering the money,” Ramzan said.
Some scammers will send workers a check to buy supplies for their new home office, then notify them they were over-paid and ask them to send back some of the money.
“However, the check is a fake,” the BBB says on its site, “and any funds you return to your new employer will be long gone.”
The FTC site includes examples of job openings that could be fraudulent, such as those for nannies, caregivers and virtual assistants; government and postal work; and mystery shoppers.
Be wary of:
- Good wages for seemingly simple work, such as package handlers, shipping coordinators or package processing assistants, according to Ramzan. They could be a front for scammers who are committing a felony known as “reshipping”—buying goods with stolen credit cards and sending them to other parts of the country or overseas.
“Reshipping goods is never a real job,” the FTC warned. “That’s simply being part of a scam.”
In a reshipping scam, the employee is asked to receive packages at home, throw away the original packaging and receipts, repackage the products, and reship them to an address provided by the scammer, the FTC noted on its website. Being involved in reshipping the product turns the “employee” into an unknowing accomplice to a felony.
- “Be your own boss” job descriptions. These usually tout the opportunity to start your own online business and can involve a fraudulent business coach or recruiter in a pyramid scheme. Sometimes the job requires purchasing educational materials, selling goods or recruiting new business owners, Ramzan said.
“The goods you buy will prove worthless, or you’ll only make money by inviting others to join your team and work with you,” he said.
Employers also need to take precautions, Ramzan noted, including:
1. Regularly checking the internet for fake job postings or websites pretending to be affiliated with their company.
2. Designating someone to monitor platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor for any signs of fraudulent activity from users purporting to be with their organization, Ramzan suggested.
“With the help of generative AI,” he said, “scammers are becoming highly proficient at crafting job descriptions that appeal to job seekers.”