Recently, the owner of Design 2 Keys LLC, Steven Miguel, began receiving calls regarding help-wanted ads that were supposedly posted on his business’s website. However, no such ads existed and Miguel was not hiring at the time.
Initially, the calls were ignored by Miguel, a former project manager for Walt Disney World who started his Winter Garden construction project business nearly 2 years ago. But after the calls persisted, it became apparent that there was a problem. Eventually, it was discovered that a global identity theft scam was involved which utilized stolen corporate data.
The scam was aimed at the increasing number of job seekers who have been affected by recent economic downturns and layoffs. The complex scam involved fraudulent websites, fake employment applications, emails sent in bulk and bank fraud. All of these were designed to steal the victim’s personal data and money. In this particular case, the Design 2 Keys corporate information and name was stolen in order to create a bogus website that offered jobs to applicants. The applicants were then required to submit personal data as part of an “interview process”.
This wide-ranging scam extended to international connections in Russia, Poland and Germany. There were even telephone and fax numbers listed in Washington State, according to authorities who have tracked the fake websites, domain names and email accounts. So far, the only valid address has been located in Moscow under a possible alias that was named in a related lawsuit.
The unemployment rate in the U.S. rose to 6.4% by the end of 2021, which was higher than it’s been in quite a number of years. With the downturn in economy and workers losing their jobs, identity theft criminals are taking advantage of this bleak situation. For the identity theft scammers, a decreased economy and higher unemployment rate only means more targets for them to prey upon.
Unemployment and employment identity theft scams are not new to the criminal world. In actuality, they’ve been around as long as identity theft, itself. However, they increase in popularity as the economy falters. The scams, themselves, target two types of individuals – those seeking employment and those who are already employed.
Those who are employed can fall prey to unscrupulous employers or other employees who misuse their access to personal data. This occurs more often than the average person realizes. A typical scenario involves a disgruntled employee who has been recently fired. They may steal personal information, that they had access to, and sell that information to criminals. The information is then used to apply for benefits or re-sold to illegal aliens. For the unemployed, the scams can exist in the form of bogus job offers that only seek to compromise personal information.
With most identity theft scams, an individual can be protected by following standard personal information safety practices. These include:
• Guarding your social security number from those who say they need to run a “background check” prior to setting up an interview. In any case, this is illegal. A genuine employer is only allowed to do a background check after you have already been interviewed.
• Never give out banking or other financial information. Credit checks only require your name address and social security number.
• Pay attention when communicating with potential employers online. Make sure you avoid sending information to personal email addresses.
• Make sure that you are on a legitimate company website when filling out employment applications. Better still, find out if you can send your application information directly to the company’s physical location.
• One of the most common scams involves simple work-at-home jobs that appear to pay big. In this case, they’ll ask you to give them your direct deposit banking information. Unfortunately, this gives the scammers direct access to your bank account.
It’s difficult enough when you lose your job. But adding identity theft to the mix makes it much worse. Therefore, you need to use the utmost caution when applying for a new job – especially online.