As professional social engineers, we would like to think that we are better than average at protecting our personal information and spotting dubious scams. However, recently there is an interesting and sneaky way in which scammers are exploiting people when they least expect it.
The Help Wanted Scam
When you spot a “Help Wanted” ad, keep in mind that you could potentially be giving an identity thief the help he wants. Thieves have scammed victims by creating the illusion that they are potential employers with positions to fill. Often providing little or no reason to suspect any shady happenings, applicants eager to get a job willingly submit their personal information and in some cases undergo “background checks,” making them even more vulnerable.
Filling out a job application is not something that most people are guarded about. There is generally a certain level of trust that job-seekers expect when they are putting themselves out there like that. Thieves know this and exploit this trust as well as the applicant’s expectation of reciprocity (if I give you my information and time then maybe you will give me a job).
Most job applications contain a wealth of personal details. Full names, dates of births, emails, physical addresses, referrals, previous job history, and even sometimes your social security or government ID number.
These scams can happen online and in-person, so it’s smart to pay attention in both settings. Awareness of such potential outcomes is the first line of defense against scammers, as we always say, Security Through Education. Beyond that, always be smart when divulging your personal information. Carefully consider who is asking for it and why. We often think the worst thing that could happen with an application is that it could be thrown in the trash but, for identity thieves, it’s gold.