Front Sites Con Job Seekers Into Giving Personal Information

Scam job websites, often known as front sites, are Internet sites that misrepresent themselves to the visitor in order to obtain something of value, to increase traffic, or to foster misinformation on behalf of another party. These types of sites are growing rapidly on the Internet.

Front and scam sites target job seekers who frequently are desperate for employment and are susceptible to front site and scam site deceptions.

AOL recently talked to VetJobs' owner Ted Daywalt, who has done extensive research on front sites to learn more about this practice and how job seekers can avoid being fooled.

How are front sites being used to scam job seekers?

Due to the recession and a paucity of jobs, cons in the employment job site arena are proliferating. Front sites are being used to con job seekers in numerous ways.

A common tactic by a front site is to use a name in the URL to bring the candidate to a site that has absolutely nothing to do with the site name. This is frequently done to draw visitors and increase site traffic for a primary site or to sell advertising.

The most common scam is to get a candidate to register and provide personal information that is then sold by the job board. The offending site tries to get the candidate to provide e-mails when not warranted, SSNs and financial information. If a candidate provides credit card or checking information, their accounts are then emptied.

When VetJobs was conducting research on job boards, to test a site that may be selling candidate information we would post a fictitious resume with an individual e-mail. The e-mail was on the job board site where we posted the resume to see if the e-mail would be sold. We found many sites then sold the information.

Frequently, within two days the e-mail would be sent spam promos. On other job board sites where we did the same thing, there was no spam e-mail sent to the contact e-mail. We disqualified the offending job board sites from our lists unless the site stated they would be sending the candidate promotional information in their Terms of Use statement.

There are several job sites, especially in the entertainment and trucking industries, that ask a candidate to fill out a form and the site will submit the candidate for an audition or trucking job. These are generally scams, especially when they want to charge the candidate.

Some scammers will post a job on an Internet job board where they can post and pay by credit card, a common practice on comprehensive job board sites, and post a scam job posting.

This is commonly done with jobs for financial, banking or security jobs. The scammer asks the candidate in the job posting to click on a URL that takes the candidate to a form to be filled out to expedite a background check and speed up the interviewing process. The form asks for personal information like date of birth, credit card number, bank references and SSNs.

Some Internet job boards are fronts to generate traffic for selling advertisements. A common trick is to use a job board name that would appeal to a candidate seeking a particular type of job, but when the candidate searches for jobs on the site, there may be few or no jobs related to the job board name, but lots of other types of unrelated jobs and advertisements. This is common with sites that are powered by or jobs are provided by job aggregator sites.

How can you tell if a site is a front site?

Candidates should use some common sense when using Internet job board sites and recognize that if a job board site is promising a job, claims to have all the jobs on the Internet, wants to charge the candidate, asks the candidate for personal financial information or SSN, or the opportunity sounds too good to be true, it may be a scam or a front site. The term caveat emptor, buyer beware, definitely applies in these cases.

A way to check out a site is to see whether it provides legitimate contact information. Sites that do not have a telephone number, address or contact e-mail may be suspect.

Explore the pages of the site and see if it is has real content or is it just a lot of advertising.

In order to enhance revenues, some job sites provide listings for job boards that do not have many jobs or a sales force. Feeds are provided by the aggregator sites to job boards and others. On these front sites you will frequently see words to the effect of "Jobs by XXXXX" or "Jobs powered by XXXXX." In a similar manner, many aggregators put up hundreds if not thousands of front sites to give their copied jobs more exposure and try to increase traffic so they can charge more for advertising.

A characteristic of many online scams is the site and/or job posting has bad spelling, grammar mistakes, and awkward sentence structures. If you see this, the site should be suspect.

If there is a request to communicate at a private e-mail address outside of the company e-mail, you might be dealing with a scam. Human resource personnel normally do not use fake email addresses or e-mail addresses outside of their company e-mail.

How can job seekers protect themselves?

1. Ask yourself if it looks legitimate. Many scam or front sites just have a site name and search boxes. If the site lacks content, you might be visiting a scam site. Browse the site to see if it has contact information, an about section or content to help candidates.

2. Guard your financial information closely. Under no circumstances should a candidate provide bank card, credit card, SSN or financial information. If a candidate is registering on a job site and posting a resume, the only information they should provide would be legitimate information needed by an employer to contact the candidate, i.e., name, address, phone number and e-mail.

3. Check to see in what country the job site is located. Some countries with a high rate of fraud sites are: Belarus, Estonia, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.

4. Check if the job site is listed in common databases. Legitimate databases include:

5. Check if complaints have been filed against the job board. Suggested sites to do this are:

Another way to ascertain whether there have been complaints filed against a site is to use an internet search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) and type the following search string: (site name) scam or complaints.

Do you have any stories about how a job seeker got scammed and what the outcome was?

A much publicized example of a job scam occurred several years ago on a well-known job board. "Jim" was searching for a job as a marketing manager and found a position with Arthur Gallagher, a leading international insurance broker. A few days after Jim responded to the job posting a human resources director sent along a promising e-mail saying they were interested in Jim. The note said the salary is negotiable and the clients that Jim would be working with are big. In fact, the clients are so valuable and sensitive that Jim would have to submit to a background check as part of the interview process.

Eager for work, Jim complied and sent off just about every key to his digital identity, including his age, height, weight, Social Security number, bank account numbers, even his mother's maiden name.

It was all just an elaborate identity theft scam designed to prey on the most vulnerable potential victims, the increasing ranks of the unemployed.

Federal and postal job scams are among the biggest rackets in employment preying on consumers who are unemployed or underemployed. Gregory Ashe, a Federal Trade Commission attorney, says that by placing ads for federal jobs, some companies deceptively imply that jobs are available. This deception can continue in the sales pitch job seekers get when they respond to the company job postings for more information.

In addition, he says, the companies often deceive applicants into thinking that purchasing their federal job search materials will improve their employment chances.

Examples the FTC has dealt with included:

  • A woman earning minimum wage at an Indiana grocery store saw an employment ad as a springboard to a better-paying job with good benefits. She spent almost $80 for a worthless packet because of company claims that buying the materials was the only way to get hired.
  • In Georgia, a man responding to a postal job ad agreed to buy a postal exam study booklet and a description of jobs available, only to learn how infrequently the postal exam is actually given. And he never even received the postal job information he had paid almost $160 for.
  • A Texas woman called a company's toll-free number to find out about park ranger jobs in Colorado and ended up buying an information packet for $39. She declined the postal job materials the company pitched her but received them anyway, along with an unauthorized charge on her credit card.

The FTC, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Postal Service caution consumers to watch out for:

  • Classified ads or verbal sales pitches implying an affiliation with the federal government, guaranteeing high test scores or jobs, or stating, "no experience necessary."
  • Ads that offer information about "hidden" or unadvertised federal jobs.
  • Ads that refer to a toll-free phone number. Often, an operator encourages the caller to buy a booklet containing job listings, practice test questions and entrance exam tips.
  • Toll-free numbers that direct consumers to other pay-per-call numbers for more information. Under federal law, any solicitations for these numbers must contain full disclosures about the cost. The solicitations also must make clear any affiliation with the federal government. The caller must have the chance to hang up before incurring charges.

In closing, Daywalt suggests using Internet job boards as a tool in your job search, but be careful of those who want to take advantage of you.

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