Scammers Phishing For IDs
PETALING JAYA: Confidence artists are putting up fraudulent job postings on websites, mailing lists and other Internet forums to obtain personal information from job seekers.
Those who submit their resumes may later find that scammers have used their personal information for identity theft or other fraudulent purposes.
One In.Tech reader sent in a notice posted to a mailing list she subscribes to — ostensibly from a US-based global welfare organisation looking to sponsor academics for an international youth conference.
Applicants were asked to submit their complete resume, passport information and employer details, according to Chong, who requested that only her surname be used to protect her privacy.
“I e-mailed them to get more information but they did not respond. I tried to reach them again a week later, but also did not get a reply,” she said.
Fortunately, Chong did not divulge any of her personal details to the “welfare organisation”.
However, a number of other subscribers responded to the posting and sent in their resumes and other information.
The supposed organisation did not respond to any of the others either.
Their suspicions aroused, the subscribers decided to investigate the so-called welfare organisation.
As it turned out, the organisation did not stand up to scrutiny — most of the information provided turned out to be fake or non-existent.
Those who submitted resumes say they are now concerned their personal details will be used for fraudulent purposes or to perpetrate future scams.
There are no reliable figures for this region, but identity theft is already one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) there.
In January, the FTC released its list of Top 10 Consumer Complaint Categories in 2003. Topping the list for the fourth year in a row was identity theft, which accounted for 42% of the 516,740 complaints lodged in the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database.
Identity thieves often employ “social engineering” techniques, a term that describes non-technical methods used to gain access to accounts, passwords, and privileged information.
Soliciting resumes is one such method, and so is “phishing”, the use of spoof e-mail and fake websites to obtain logins and password.
Once a scammer has usurped a person’s digital identity, he can apply to change details in an IC or driver’s licence, apply for a handphone account, redirect pension cheques, apply for a car loan, or rent a house under that person’s name.
If the scammer can obtain access to banking or credit card information, he can also purchase items and services, transfer funds from accounts, create new accounts, or even declare bankruptcy.
People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years, and their hard-earned money, cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of their good name and credit record, the FTC said.
The FTC website also lists reports from identity theft victims who have lost job opportunities, been refused loans for education, housing and cars, or even been arrested for crimes they did not commit.
Though Internet-based scams are becoming increasingly common, identity thieves still utilise low-tech methods to get the information they need.
These include techniques such as stealing wallets and purses which contain identification and credit cards, bribing employees with access to ID records, and “dumpster diving” — the practice of examining garbage to extract confidential data from discarded receipts, forms, letters and other paper records.
Spotting Fraudulent Job Postings
1. Research prospective employers to ensure that they are legitimate and be cautious about providing any personal information over the phone or online.
2. Be suspicious when a “prospective employer” uses an e-mail address which does not correspond with the company name, or if they use free e-mail accounts, such as Yahoomail or Hotmail.
3. Beware of job postings which require job seekers to pay any funds prior to employment.
4. Beware of job postings with bad spelling, grammar mistakes, and awkward sentence structures.
5. Be cautious when dealing with individuals or companies from outside your own country.
6. Do not provide credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or other ID card information to any “prospective employer” even if they claim that it is for a “routine background check”.
General Tips For Preventing Identity Theft
1. Do not provide more information than necessary in application forms or websites.
2. Scrutinise monthly bank account statements and credit card bills for unauthorised charges.
3. Shred all old bank and credit statements, as well as junk mail and any other documents which may contain personal information. Consider buying a paper shredder to thwart “dumpster divers”.
Article contributed by Chan Lee Meng
Source: The Star, InTech Section (March 31, 2004)