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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Help Wanted: ID Theft Victims

That online job recruiter may actually be a criminal trying to steal your personal data

You think you may have found your next job. The online recruiter seems to like you, and the salary sounds fantastic. You spoke to the recruiter on the phone, and he's offered to fly you overseas for an interview. In fact, you faxed him a copy of your passport so that he could get you a ticket.

But now you find out his phone and fax have been disconnected, and he doesn't answer his email. You call the company headquarters, and they say they've never heard of him. He and the job opportunity have both disappeared -- along with your passport, and potentially, your identity.

Think such a scam sounds far-fetched? Think again. Researchers at Cyveillance and Monster.com are warning enterprises and prospective employees that this very scenario is happening with greater frequency than ever -- and they're taking steps to stop it.

"It's really a type of phishing, though it probably needs its own name," says Terry Gudaitis, director of cybersecurity at Cyveillance. "We're seeing a growing number of phishers using the names of multinational enterprises and online recruiting sites to scam users into giving up their personal information, just as they do with banks and financial institutions."

Cyveillance, a service that searches the Web for risky or suspicious behavior by employees, prospects, and brand thieves, has been monitoring the exploit for some time, and law enforcement agencies are "very aware" of it, Gudaitis says. Cyveillance yesterday announced that it has signed a contract to help Monster.com detect the misuse of its brand, and to help stop this recruiting fraud.

"In the same way that Microsoft and AOL have helped users to detect and block URLs that are associated with traditional phishing attacks, we're partnering with Monster to find and block these recruiting scams, not just on Monster.com, but on other sites as well," Gudaitis says.

The recruiter scams take many forms, but the phisher usually starts with a spam message or by placing an ad on a job hunting site such as Monster.com, Cyveillance says. The phisher typically represents himself as a recruiter for a well-known multinational firm and requests personal information such as name, address, and Social Security number.

But in some cases, the phisher goes beyond this initial scam and actually speaks to the user on the phone, Gudaitis says. Posing as a human resources representative or a headhunter, the phisher might go as far as to do an initial interview of a prospective employee -- and then invite the victim for an in-person interview at the company's overseas headquarters.

The phisher will then ask the victim to fax a copy of a driver's license or passport -- and then disappear.

"This is a risky approach for the attacker, because they have to give a phone and fax number, then get the information and pick up and move before they're detected," Gudaitis observes. "But a photocopy of a passport is pretty valuable -- in most countries, you can go to an embassy and get a new passport if you have a copy of the old one."

Such attacks also can be more difficult to detect immediately, Gudaitis notes. "In traditional phishing, event A usually results in action B -- you give up your credit card number, and someone else uses it," she says. "But in the case of recruiting fraud, someone might be using your passport halfway around the world, and you might never know it."

Recruiting fraud also has more potential to spread than, say, banking fraud. "Just about every company posts jobs online, either through its own site or through a site like Monster," Gudaitis observes. "So this sort of thing could happen to any company in any industry."

Companies should stay vigilant about the use of their names on the Web, and they should set policies on how they communicate with prospective employees so that attacks which deviate from those policies are easier to detect, advises Todd Bransford, vice president of marketing at Cyveillance. Cyveillance uses Web crawlers and researchers to detect the use of a company's name -- or the names of its favorite recruiting firms -- in recruiting scams.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Cyveillance
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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