Fake Online Job Interviews: Terminate Before It’s Too Late
Some companies and recruiters use online video call technologies such as Skype as a convenient and cost-effective way to interview job applicants. Unfortunately, fraudsters are using them too, and they aren’t looking to offer you a job.
We are issuing this Alert to warn the public that individuals claiming to be involved in the hiring process for legitimate organizations—including FINRA—have turned to Skype and other online video call platforms as a way to phish for your personal information and money. While this alert primarily focuses on the misuse of online video job interview scams, similar tactics—and the tips to avoid falling victim—may also apply to phone interviews, mail and email exchanges, and even face-to-face job interviews.
Signs of a Job Interview Scam
If you are participating in an online video job interview, here are some red flags that may signal a scam:
- On-the-spot interviews or lack of preparation by hiring personnel leading up to the online video session. Be extremely wary of any request to do an online video interview immediately, without any prior contact with you. Also, a legitimate online video job interview is generally preceded by information such as interview time, names and titles of those who may be on the call, among other things, to make sure the call goes smoothly on both sides. A lack of advance preparation could be a red flag.
- Requests for personal information such as your Social Security number (SSN), credit card information or a bank account number. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and employment experts warn that asking for this type of information is a red flag that may signal job fraud. While some states allow employers to request SSNs on job applications, be aware that bank account information, for instance, is generally requested only after you are hired—not during an interview. If a company hires you, it may need banking information so your checks can be directly deposited.
- Asking for payment. The FTC states that “Employers and employment firms shouldn’t ask you to pay for the promise of a job.” Likewise, unless you have been hired and clearly agree to pay for something associated with the job, such as supplies or equipment, do not give out your credit card information. And even then, be sure to vet the company as thoroughly as possible to confirm whether any required purchases are truly necessary.
- Prompts to download documents or files. Files may contain malware that captures keystrokes or mouse movements, or that even takes control of your webcam. FINRA is aware of at least one situation where someone posing as a FINRA hiring manager asked the interview candidate during a Skype session to download a file that purportedly connected to FINRA’s HR department “via our company server.” If a file is sent to you via Skype or some other platform, the safest move is not to open it, and to end the session.
Other red flags include:
- Pressure to commit to a job quickly.
- Language—spoken or written—that suggests a job is “guaranteed” or “waiting for you.”
- Odd or poorly written text on the online video platform page or in other communication.
- Interviews arranged for “previously undisclosed" jobs. All federal job vacancies, for example, are announced to the public on usajobs.gov. Likewise, many organizations, including FINRA, post jobs on their own website, and make the information publicly available.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Here are six tips to avoid falling victim to an online video job interview scam:
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for an online video interview. If you are not certain you applied for the job, don’t engage in a session.
- Call the company’s human resources department to verify that the company does in fact use Skype or other technologies to conduct interviews remotely, and that the company has scheduled an interview for you on the date for which you receive a request.
- Verify through the company that the person leading the online video session is employed by the company, or hired as a recruiter. In the FINRA Skype session noted above, the scammer used the name of a retired FINRA CEO who had not been with the organization for many years.
- Do an internet search to research the company and HR staff member or recruiter responsible for the job posting.
- Terminate the call immediately if you are asked to provide personal or financial information, or to pay a fee that you did not expect.
- Trust your instincts: If anything about the way the job interview materialized was arranged or is being conducted seems suspicious—get off the call.
Where to Turn for Help
If you’ve been targeted by a job scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC.
If you encounter problems with an employment-service firm, contact the appropriate state licensing board (if these firms must be licensed in your state), your state Attorney General, and your local consumer protection agency.