Recent layoffs at various tech companies ejected over 70,000 people into the job search market. Many of those are highly skilled individuals and even entire teams. Equally many have been put in difficult situation dealing with fresh mortgages, medical bills, work visas and the like.

With the influx of tech job seekers, we are seeing a large increase in employment and recruitment related scams.

Apparently no low is too low for some swindlers.

News and official press releases talk about reduced headcounts and eliminated roles in tech sector. In reality we are talking about thousands of human beings. Human beings who are often desperate for a helping hand – enough to forego caution and let scammers take advantage of them.

While I do not have an extensive list of various types of scams currently being deployed, I wanted to share a few that were attempted at me recently. I hope it may help others stay vigilant and safe while they navigate their future opportunities.

Profile Scrubber

You receive an email offering you an interview, a job or a project – vaguely in the ballpark of your area of expertise. The letter mentions some of your past work you advertised on your LinkedIn profile.

While all the facts check out, the whole communication may strike you as insincere.

  • Perhaps it lists a project you published years ago that nobody would really care about anymore?
  • Perhaps the examples given don’t really match the proposed role?
  • Or maybe the whole thing feels just a bit too much like a form, and not a letter?

Could you take the email you just received, change a few fields (name, position, project 1, project 2) and still have text body that makes sense?

Chances are the email was not sent by a recruiter, but instead by a profile scrubber bot. It pulls key data from thousands of accounts and generates Mad-Libs style emails mass sent to people matching scammer’s target.

Not every real offer will sound personal and thought through. Not every fake one will feel like a copy-pasted message. Regardless, if the tone feels too much off, put a red flag up. Perhaps don’t disregard the message right away, but if you decide to proceed – do so with caution.

Job Re-Posting

This is a similar case of content scrubbing. This time the bot will copy existing job descriptions, posted by legitimate companies. It will then match them with targets, based on the keywords found in their profiles.

More often than not it results in strange matches that don’t really make sense. It picks wrong keywords or parts of your CV to classify you – a mistake easy to make for a bot or AI, but one a real human would not commit.

Matching a children’s book illustrator with a job as a concept artist on a zombie franchise, or XR artist with management role at a VR manufacturer.

Some of them are pretty obvious, others harder to spot – but again, if something does not feel right, red flag up, proceed with caution.

One-Two Punch

This method became very popular in the last two months. You will receive a communication (most likely an email) offering you a gig or a position. The wording will be very generic and either fall into the two scrubbing categories above, or be completely generalized. It may contain no reference to your skills and achievements, at all.

An hour, two hours or twenty-four hours later you receive a follow-up from a person claiming to be the manager of the first sender. They are “just checking in” to see if the thing went through. (That 1, 2, 24hr spacing is often precise to the minute).

I get at least one (pair) of these a week – each on a different topic, but all sharing the very same generic, unspecific, written-by-the-bot style. Once you learn the pattern, these become trivial to spot.

Urgent Gig

Typically sent via Instagram, TikTok, Behance or other social media – these messages invite you to an urgent project. The pay is usually way above running rate, and it sounds like you could complete it for some quick cash in no time at all.

Do I even need to say it? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unless coming from a well-established producer at a known company, these nearly universally scream: I am trying to get you to work for free, and see what else I can get.

Red flag. Don’t even bother with caution – just spam it.

Watch Out for These

When times get lean, many people will want to believe a spark of great luck. They will forget about the dangers and leap into the presented opportunities. They will also open themselves up to get their time wasted, energy drained, self-esteem damaged, money and identity stolen.

No matter how desperate, always look at these:

  1. Who is contacting you? Have they identified and introduced themselves properly? Can their identity be verified?
  2. Are they contacting you using a business or personal account? No professional recruiter will mail you from their @gmail or @aol account, or from an Instagram profile created a month ago.
  3. Is there anything tricky about their email address? [email protected] is definitely not a correct email to trust.
  4. Does the company they represent actually exist? Have you heard of them before? Don’t forget, it takes only minutes to setup a fake website.
  5. Are they a known scammer? Why not google their name, email address, domain or a part of the email text. If it’s fake, chances are you will come across people warning you about it.
  6. Are they pushing you to act fast? Playing on people’s FOMO (fear of missing out) is one of the most commonly used tactics. A mind in rush won’t stop and think.
  7. Are they asking for too many personal details? From bank account details to social security number, home address and other personal info – typically it’s none of recruiter’s business to know these things. Watch out if you feel like you’re being phished.

All in all, try to remember – online scammers are the scum of humanity and they will target anyone they think they can exploit. They will not hesitate to bring ruin upon you, for they are criminals and nothing else.

When engaging with strangers on the internet, always exercise caution and good judgement. Don’t rush into things you may regret – but don’t let the fear paralyze you either. Simply think twice before you act and look for red flags.

Online scammers are not hoodie-wearing silhouettes projecting matrix code out of their augmented eyes in the rain. They are either heartless bots, or humans who will appear friendly and helpful for exactly as long as they need to exploit you.

Stay safe, stay vigilant, avoid the fakes and in no time at all you will land that gig you are looking for!

Header image by QubaXR × MidJourney

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