Senior journalist Nidhi Razdan made a shocking revelation on January 15 when she admitted that she was ‘tricked’ by online scamsters into believing that Harvard University had offered her a job. But she is not alone.
Every day, dozens of Indians across India are cheated by digital fraudsters offering lucrative job prospects in dream companies and institutions. It is a fraud that any of us could fall prey in our professional lives.
The modus operandi is simple. A scamster either clones a corporate email address to send a potential employment offer email to the target. Unaware professionals who click on these mails presume that the mails are genuine.
That is what appears to have happened in the case of Razdan. She explained in her statement on Twitter that she was a victim of a ‘coordinated and sophisticated’ phishing attack. She said that the perpetrators used forgery and misrepresentation to get access to her personal data.
Phishing is when a person(s) disguise as genuine entities to get access to sensitive personal data of individuals. This information is used to cheat people in exchange of financial gains or to commit serious crimes.
This incident could be an eye-opener for job aspirants or corporate executives who are eyeing a job switch. Moneycontrol gives you some tips on how to avoid falling prey to such potential scams:
Always verify with authorised personnel
Whenever you receive an email about a job opportunity from an unknown email address or those marked ‘spam’, be aware that these could be fraudsters. Do not respond to this email communication if you are suspicious of its origin.
Say, if it is from XYZ company. Visit the official company website to check what its common email addresses are in the ‘contact us’ section. The common formats used are the email@example.com/in/org. Call up the numbers provided to verify or send an email seeking clarification.
A big red flag is the sender using their personal email address to send a job offer or obscure domain names. For example, instead of Sarah@xyzcompany.com, it could be firstname.lastname@example.org and so on.
If the job role is still genuine, there would always be a verified official email address and a phone number provided to the candidate in the communication. Instead of sending an email which could take hours (or even days) to get a response, pick up the phone and make calls.
Some job roles could be confidential and hence not advertised openly. But regular roles in the area of IT services, administration, sales and marketing are advertised by companies on multiple job platforms for better visibility. Cross check this information on the regular job portals to see if the said company is indeed recruiting and if the contact information matches.
Sometimes even clicking on links provided in fake emails is adequate for scamsters to get access to your personal devices and steal information. Stay clear of these links. It is better to apply for a job role at the company’s official site or via platforms like Naukri, LinkedIn, Indeed or Monster among others.
Look for anomalies in job offer, description
If a job looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Obvious fake job offers are the ones claiming that you are chosen as the CEO of Google or chief of a central bank after ‘a random lottery’.
But the not-so-obvious-ones are where the HR official’s name is quoted in the email stating that you have been shortlisted for the position. If it is a big brand, this is time for caution since candidates are typically not shortlisted without one to two rounds of interviews.
If you have indeed given interviews and are waiting for a call-back, emails only from verified company ids should be accepted as proof.
For example, a big brand like the Tata Group in India won’t send you job offers from obscure ids like email@example.com. One simple Google search will show you that the Tata group only uses tata.com domain address in their official communication.
Again, call up the company HR whom you interviewed with, to verify the information offered in the job offer email.
If you are unable to verify the domain name via a simple search on the internet, look for the domain manually. For example, if the email sender has listed xyz company id as xyzindia.com, you can go online to see what exists on this .com website page.
If it is the company website, you will be directed to its home page. If not, the web-page will show a message saying ‘this domain name is on sale’. This is a clear warning sign that the job offer is fake.
Candidates also often fall for international postings and fancy job titles. There is a warning sign if you are too underqualified for a job post offered to you or for a role that is non-existent in a company.
Say, if a pharma company is hiring a researcher they would require a degree in medicine with some work experience. Now if you are a History graduate and have been sent a job offer by email, this is a sign that there is either some error or the offer is fake.
Similarly, if a jewellery brand has sent a job offer for an API scientist who actually has no role in the gems/jewellery industry, you should know that the mail is fake.
One other scam which entry-level job-seekers fall for is the money-for-employment mails. You may get a mail from XYZ company saying you have been shortlisted for a position for which you would have to deposit Rs 5,000-15,000 into a listed bank account.
Don’t fall for this scam by sending money for job roles. No company seeks ‘fees’ for providing employment.
Seek physical meetings for interviews
Though online interviews are the preferred mode of hiring in the era of Coronavirus, it is necessary that you don’t fall prey to scamsters pretending to be recruiters.
Seek credentials of the interviewers prior to a video interview. If it is a known brand, it wouldn’t be difficult to check for the profile of the person and his/designation and picture on social networking sites like LinkedIn. If the interviewer appears to be someone else, this is a fraudster and is impersonating someone as part of a phishing attack.
If it is an audio interview, it will be difficult to guess the real identity of the person. In that case, wait for official confirmation from verified domain ids for accepting the job offers.
But if feasible, do seek a physical meeting with the interviewers. This way their identities can be verified and scamsters usually drop out of this process.
Before signing the final offer letter, re-verify once again
If everything goes smoothly and you have finally received the offer letter, congratulations. But the process isn’t over yet. Before signing any offer letter, you need to re-verify the email address provided and also with official company contacts.
Company logos and letterheads are very easy to clone, so don’t take that as proof. Whether it is an Indian or international brand, re-verify in case you notice the offer letter coming in from suspicious private email addresses.
Wait for confirmation before resigning from current job
You got the dream role in your dream company. The offer letter is in. Great, but don’t be in a hurry to quit from your current job. If you have written to the prospective employer seeking their confirmation on the offer letter (for suspicious ids), wait till they respond.
All companies understand that joinees need to serve a few weeks of notice period and hence send job offer letters in advance. If it is an international company, remember that it could take them upto 3-4 days to respond.
Once you receive a final go-ahead, it is all clear. You are free to resign from your current role and begin your journey to your dream employer.
The entire process to verify may sound cumbersome and probably silly to some. But it is better to wait for confirmation than fall prey to a scam that could ruin your professional career.