Real or Fake: How Employers Can Protect Themselves from Fraud Applicants
Workspan Daily
August 05, 2022
Protect against deep fakes
Key Takeaways

  • Crime on the rise. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans were scammed out of $68 million due to fake business and job opportunities in the first quarter of 2022.  
  • Sophisticated scamming. Criminals have become much more advanced, using deepfake technology and stolen personally identifiable information to deceive employers.  
  • Create a safeguard. The most important thing is for employers to be aware of potential scams and be alert and careful throughout the recruitment process. 
  • Be cautious. Employers should not release any confidential or sensitive business information to a candidate until as late in the recruitment process as reasonably possible. If something must be disclosed, it should be done under a non-disclosure agreement only.  
  • Secure the company. If scammer is reported, employers should promptly undertake a thorough investigation to ensure its business information is protected. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans were scammed out of $68 million due to fake business and job opportunities in the first quarter of 2022.  

Employment-related scams have been a persistent problem but rose in 2020 as criminals took advantage of people who lost work due to COVID, Rhonda Perkins, an attorney and chief of staff for the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, told CNBC. In the first quarter of 2022, people reported more than 20,700 incidents of business and job opportunity scams, with nearly a third of those resulting in a financial loss. 

While job seekers should stay vigilant against these scams, employers should also protect themselves from fraud applicants. Now that remote work and virtual interviews are more prevalent, criminals are using more sophisticated ways to deceive employers. The FBI recently issued a warning of an increase in complaints reporting the use of deepfakes and stolen personally identifiable information (PII) to apply for a variety of remote work and work-at-home positions. 

“Complaints report the use of voice spoofing, or potentially voice deepfakes, during online interviews of the potential applicants. In these interviews, the actions and lip movement of the person seen interviewed on-camera do not completely coordinate with the audio of the person speaking. At times, actions such as coughing, sneezing, or other auditory actions are not aligned with what is presented visually,” the FBI stated. “IC3 complaints also depict the use of stolen PII to apply for these remote positions. Victims have reported the use of their identities and pre-employment background checks discovered PII given by some of the applicants belonged to another individual.” 

The most important thing is for employers to be aware of potential scams and be alert and careful throughout the recruitment process, said David Weldon, of counsel at Barnes & Thornburg. 

“Scams most commonly target remote positions that are IT-related, so employers need to be particularly vigilant in recruiting for those positions,” he said. “Employers should educate the employees who have primary responsibility for their recruitment activities and instruct them that if something feels ‘off,’ they should proceed cautiously.” 

In today’s environment where there is a supply issue, job scamming has an impact, said Myrna Maysonet, partner at Greenspoon Marder LLP. 

“Legitimate employers are losing out on actual candidates...so there is a labor need that is not being timely met,” Maysonet said. “Also, some of these scams may have a lasting emotional and financial impact on applicants and employees that could take them out of the job market. They also hurt the reputation and goodwill of the employers because many scams mimic legitimate employer’s logos and other information as part of their con.” 

Furthermore, phishing scams and other similar methods will have an immediate impact on the operation and financial well-being of the company, said Maysonet.  

“Cyberwar is not some fictional concept; it affects all companies and businesses.” 

According to Weldon, there are an increasing number of reputable vendors that offer some form of training to help employers identify and avoid potential scams.  

“Some vendors are also developing specific software and other technology to help identify threats, which may be a good option for larger employers who engage in a significant amount of recruitment activity,” he said. 

Many employers use other tools, said Maysonet, as allowed by state and federal law to verify identify and other information including social media and background checks.  

“Also depending on the position, conduct an in-person interview and do your due diligence,” she said. “Most of the scams require quick and isolated contact as they cannot withstand scrutiny; therefore, they will abandon anything that would require a lot of work or a long-term commitment.” 

Investing in IT security should also be a priority, she said. “It is crucial to have in-house, if possible, or if not with a reputable vendor that will check processes and update your operation routinely. All employees should also receive training in this respect as well.” 

In addition, Weldon said it was generally advisable for employers not to release any confidential or sensitive business information to a candidate until as late in the recruitment process as reasonably possible. Even then, employers should consider having the candidate sign a non-disclosure agreement that has been prepared by legal counsel, which serves to protect the employer’s information and interests if a candidate were to improperly disclose or rely on the information. 

Another possible solution is to ditch the online resume portal and return to more face-to-face job interviews. 

“Each employer needs to determine what recruitment process works best for its business,” Weldon said. “Generally speaking, however, I do expect that many employers will seek to increase the extent to which they have face-to-face interviews with candidates.” 

On the other hand, Maysonet thinks it will be very difficult to go back to the paper format.  

“I think that the reduction of cost and benefits of online applications greatly outweigh any potential of fraud,” she said. “There will always be face-to-face interviews for the foreseeable future. There will always be positions that require an actual in-person interview. Additionally, a lot of companies require collaborative work environments which will also necessitate personal interaction, and the employer would want to gauge those issues in-person.” 

But if a scammer does slip through, Weldon said the employer should promptly undertake a thorough investigation to ensure its business information is protected. As part of that investigation, the employer should seek to identify any measures that can be implemented to avoid a similar situation from occurring in the future. 

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