Protecting Yourself from Video and Chat Interview Scams

Although the convenience of interviewing for a job via online chat or video is making the practice more common, this rising popularity has opened the door to hackers and scam artists, who are employing increasingly sophisticated tactics to steal your identity and your money.

For instance, a candidate for a developer role inadvertently gave North Korean hackers access to Chile’s ATM network when he clicked on a malicious link and infected his computer with malware while prepping for a bogus Skype interview.

Here’s what the scammers are up to, along with some ways to protect yourself: 

Verify Identities

To avoid raising suspicions, scammers often disguise themselves as real hiring managers and recruiters from actual companies when they reach out, explained Doug Fodeman, co-founder and content director of the TheDailyScam.com and school technology director.

“To make sure you’re not dealing with an imposter, don’t hit reply or agree to participate in any sort of online interview until you verify the identity of anyone who contacts you online or via email,” Fodeman advised.

Take the extra step of finding a valid email address for the hiring manager; create a brand new message to confirm the interview. Alternatively, you can call HR to verify that you are indeed scheduled to interview on a specific day via Skype or another platform.

Also, a legitimate hiring manager will never conduct an interview using only text-chat in Skype or Google Hangout; that’s your first clue that an interviewer is not who they claim to be.

Don’t use social media to verify someone’s identity, either. Scammers sometimes set up fictitious social media accounts, warned Gerri Walsh, senior vice president of Investor Education at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). So when you check their LinkedIn profile or Facebook page, it might look real, and you may even have some of the same connections in common. The reality, though, is you’re dealing with an imposter.

Be Careful About Installing Apps or Plugins

The fraudsters go to great lengths to appear legit. For instance, they usually include a copy of a legitimate job posting and company logo to sucker you into participating in an online interview. They may even invent URLs that connect unsuspecting candidates to a realistic-looking fake of a legitimate company’s website, sham job application and consent forms for background checks.

“The URL may contain the company’s name or substitute a .com for .org domain extension, so it is easy to be fooled unless you look carefully,” Walsh noted.

In fact, the problem has become so pervasive that many companies have posted recruitment fraud warnings on their websites, which include a list of legitimate URLs. Here’s an example from CH2MHill.

Certainly you should try to verify the trustworthiness of any website or interviewing platform before you engage, but sophisticated hackers are often able to disguise where they are coming from, Fodeman said.

Therefore, never open attachments or click on links in emails from unverified sources. Insist on using your personal Skype or Zoom account for interviews and only download apps or install plugins or add-ons that come directly from verified providers of video interviewing platforms and solutions.

Slow Down

Most scammers urge candidates to move quickly in securing a job opportunity. For instance, a bogus interviewer may ask you to divulge personal information, such as street address, or date of birth and social security number, before the interview or right after it begins. Or he may advance the process to the offer stage after a brief discussion. Once you accept, he or she will ask for payroll information, or request you download a file that purportedly connects you to new hire paperwork.

Don’t let a scammer rush you into something that you’ll regret. The minute something doesn’t seem right, either end the interview or explain that you need a few days to think things over while you determine whether the opportunity is legit.

Remember, a genuine employer will never ask you to pay for a drug test or background check, and they certainly won’t ask you to fill out direct deposit paperwork or provide bank information until you start the job. “The more you keep humanity in the hiring process by meeting with people in-person and calling them on the phone, the less likely you are to fall for an online interviewing scam,” Fodeman concluded.