Sunday, December 5, 2021

Six clues to check if my Job opportunity is FAKE?

A source of income is a prerequisite to sustain a family or livelihood. There is no dearth of job seekers as young adults continuously enter the workforce. Bagging the first job after graduation or a downsizing is challenging. The scramble by anxious job aspirants for limited opportunities is actively exploited by fraudsters posing as company officials or job consultants. Fraudsters target unsuspecting job aspirants looking for lucrative jobs overseas or jobs which offer greater job security, such as with the Government. Job scams affect companies or sectors with large scale recruitment such as banks, Information Technologies, Call Centers, Retail and Government.

The modus operandi of the scam runs deep from first contact, to fake interviews, fake training, and finally a fake offer letter.  Along the way a sum of money is taken on one or more pretexts. The fraudster gets in touch, when a prospective job seeker responds to spam emails or a fake job advertisement. Once the job seeker, makes contact the fraudsters pose as company officials or job consultants using fake ids and spoofed letter heads. The documents appear legitimate and may include a job description, salary, and benefit details. During the entire process personal data such as identity verification, certificates, past employment letters and bank statements are sought allegedly to process the job offer and obtain visas. The jobseeker finds out about the scam only when they turn up at the company premises on the joining date or they fail to receive a joining intimation. By then the fraudster is long gone. The job seekers only resort is to intimate the company and file a complaint with the cyber police to try and recover the amount. For the police, acting on several such minor complaints is a tedious task, and the prospective employer rarely can pursue any investigation on its own as the company is not party to the fraud. The net effect is that scammer makes money and the scammed job aspirant bears the loss.

The only way to stay safe is to avoid the scam in the first place, by recognizing red flags which help smell a rat in the process.  

Listed below are six such flags for job recruitment scams:

1. Recognize a jobseeker’s vulnerability:  A pressing need for a stable job is the precise vulnerability fraudsters exploit in job recruitment scams. The desire to not lose a good opportunity lowers the victim’s guards and is used by fraudsters to create a sense of urgency to force victims to make quick decisions without adequate research or consultation. It vital to realize that frauds are played on multiple people using a well-oiled template designed to win trust. It’s a big business and the victim is not a random target. For many, so pressing is the need for a good job, that even if warned that the job opportunity probably was a fraud, the advice would be a brushed off with the self-assurance that a response to an email would not hurt. In effect, it the step that sets the fraud rolling.

2. Verify, Verify and Verify Again: Before you respond to the email, there are vital clues in the initial correspondence to verify its authenticity. 

a. Source of the email or job posting:  Check if the email was from the company or a reputed job portal? To do so, match the received email domain ( with the email domain from the portal or company. if it’s the same, then the mail is probably genuine, if not a misspelled email id is a sure sign that it’s a phishing site set-up for a recruitment scam.   If the email comes from an unidentified source either because the consultant was not known or the client wants to keep the job confidential, a website search helps to verify the consultants background and reputation. Studying the site would probably give you an insight into how reliable the company is.

b. Check if the job exists: In some cases, it’s easy to check if the job you are applying for exists.  Some companies especially the Government advertises all their vacancies on their website. 

c. Check for the company’s recruitment procedure: The career pages of the company website often explains the recruitment procedure. Most companies which are targets for recruitment scams have a warning put up on their website. If the procedure you are asked to follow deviates from the one on the website, you know it’s a scam.

d. Confirm Recruiter email address:  Confirm if the recruiter has a genuine company email id which would be, where “the company” is the prospective employer. If not, it’s probably a scam.

3. Never pay for a job: A request for payment for training or visa processing or any other services is a sure shot red flag that the job is fictious.  Many a time the ask for money is repetitive – small amounts for application, training, uniform, and the appointment letter. Most companies clearly state on their website that they do not request payment for selection. One could confirm directly with the company if they request payment for any step in their selection process before a payment is made.

4. Review what documents are requested: There are types of document that are not usually requested during the interview process. These include bank statement, tax documents, credit card details and other financial statements. 

5. No job without interview: Every job selection process will have an interview whether offline or online.  If the job does not have an interview, then it’s probably fake or there is something illegal in the offer process. if called for an interview, the id tags, interview location, and questions you ask may give provide a sense of the genuineness of the process. 

6. Verify the offer letter: Try to check if the offer letter is genuine. Some companies offer the facility of verifying the offer letter online on their career portal, using information provided in the letter.  Other clues to fake offer letters are receiving offer letters on WhatsApp or any social networking sites and poor grammar. Offer letters from large companies are normally very well written and grammatically correct and sent from official company email ids.  

Picking up these Red Flags may help prevent you from losing money, time, and personal information while in search of a job. Don’t shy away from asking questions!

Stay smart, Stay Safe.

Friday, December 18, 2020

How to avoid seven types of tweets and posts that can get you jailed or fired?

Instances of people being fired from their job or jailed because of offensive, inappropriate or indiscreet tweets are plentiful! 

Once a tweet or post is online, it is not possible to control who views it. Even without many follower’s tweets go viral.  Intelligence and Police forces constantly analyze tweets and posts in the public domain to pick up information on potential suicides, terror threats and drugs. 

Thinking before you post can save a lot of personal distress. Avoiding the seven types of posts and tweets illustrated below will improve your online image and prevent actions such as being fired, jailed, defamed or from lost opportunity and friends.

1. Posting personal tweets on corporate accounts

OOPs! I got fired because I sent a personal crib on my corporate account instead of my group of buddies.  Quick thumbs are to blame but the damage cannot be redeemed. Once online on your company’s corporate accounts, it’s their reputation that’s at stake. What is posted on a corporate account represents the companies view and recovering from the mistake is usually a sack because that is what stakeholders expect. Even if you boss sympathized with you, your sack could not be prevented. Had you posted on your personal account representing your official position, it would have a similar outcome.

2. Posting offensive Jokes 

We must keep in mind that what you post online is taken at face value, it is not interpreted in the same way as the people who know you would. Online, you reach an audience with widely differing ideologies and perspectives. Your version of the joke may be interpreted as being racist or sexist. A close analogy is to pick on a childhood memory where you did something that you thought was fun, but your parent or teachers chided you for it. They had a different perspective. Even in the adult world, there is lots to learn from the perspectives of others much like our childhood days. The net result is usually self-defamation, loss of friends and opportunity.  Jokes on co-workers may results in HR warnings or action.

3. Using Threat Words - Bomb, Kill, Suicide, Rape

Words like these irrespective of intent would be interpreted as a call to action by police or anyone who viewed your post or tweet for that matter. I can assure you that even if the actions were a prank the arm of the law is not lenient. Many times, because of ideological reason we may use these words in a figurative way against a person of authority, “Kill the President” for instance which may result in severe consequences

4. Making Threats

When you make a threat online, it can be used as evidence in a court of law. Threats can be made in a fit of rage, with actual intent or even to delay a social function or plane. Once a threat is made with intent, however prankful or in a fit of emotion, it will be dealt with very severely by law.

5. Content which contains violence, porn, or is racist or sexist in nature

Companies are not tolerant of executives who post such type of content, if it does not get you fired it would hurt your job search prospects or rise in the organization. Companies expect their employees to be good corporate citizens, in the same way as we are expected to keep our political and religious views personal, and function in a neutral or secular way in the office. Obviously, pedophilic content will mean a jail sentence

6. Silly or Careless Comments

Many people generate their own version of events, spread half truth or deliberate lies. Posting these online can get you in serious harm. When these tweets or posts are made against people of authority, the law enforcement agencies quickly act on their complaints. Visits to the police station and the legal action that follows would be a harassment that would best be avoided. Most often the sentence results in a red-faced public apology. Sometimes, what we believe to be true is fake news or a narrative spread deliberately for political or business interests, we should keep this in mind when we compose online messages

7. Retweeting or Liking

Yes, retweeting or liking some types of post may be viewed as support to a campaign of hate or disinformation. In times of COVID, or civil unrest, malicious rumors are often circulated to stir the pot or for political interests. We must ensure that in these times we maintain calm and avoid spreading these rumors

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Twitter, Facebook, Zoom, LinkedIn, Instagram, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, Hotmail are they safe to use?

 This was a question that deeply interested me for two primary reasons. The first was that even if they were unsafe, people would continue to use them because not to, meant that societal and business connections would be hampered. Afterall, most of the world’s population have signed up on these social media and collaboration platforms creating a gigantic network and data repository.  The second is simpler, its hard to tell if these platforms are unsafe until there is a public news outbreak, and at that time exit possibilities are limited. 

The reality hit me, when a few large security companies continued to use a collaboration platform where several vulnerabilities had been publicly identified. Ideally one would think such an act would be counterproductive to their type of business and they should have shifted to a competitor.

Let us closely examine the dilemma. We have to sign up blindly to a popular platform assuming it to be safe and to keep private personal data. 

With all the news on security and privacy breaches, it is obvious that there is no platform that is 100% safe. Even platforms that spend billions are not. The big players however are committed to improving their customer trust and protecting their brand and investments, but the need for profits and the speed to bring new features may hamper their efforts to improve security and privacy. The commercial relationship between a user and a free to use platform is still evolving. Money can only be made through the analysis or sale of its content. That content has been crowdsourced without the clear specification of how it will be used or processed. Sadly, there is no fixed line between what’s right or wrong, it’s a tug of war between the platforms business interest, regulators, governments and its user community. All four must happily coexist to ensure the success of the ecosystem.

Each user of the platform has to secure their interests using means at their disposal. Written below are five tips that could help improve security and privacy:

a) Set Security and Privacy Settings Appropriately: All  platforms have privacy and security settings. Reviewing these settings and tailoring them to your requirement  ensures personal information is retained within an approved set of people. Security and Privacy settings are important to ensure that your account is not hijacked, personal data is not visible to the public, to set limits for its use and to avoid ad spam.

b) Keep a look out for security alerts: Simply, GOOGLE the “platform name + breach” and the results will clearly show that large platforms are not immune to severe security problems. The bigger they are the bigger the target they become. Once a breach has been detected, the platform would send out an email intimation of the breach, listing the data stolen, its potential impact and mitigation measures. Stolen data may be misused to send phishing or spam emails. Do read and implement the recommendations

c) Keep a look out for privacy alerts: Platform companies have been sued by regulators or face government hearing because of the data they collect, use and share. While, most of the information is post fact, once penalized they do put in measures to ensure better compliance in the future.

d) Think before you Post: Ensure that you assess the personal value of what you post online and the risk or consequence for its loss. Do not post anything that may have consequences that you cannot accept. Remember what goes online stays online. 

e) Join platforms with a reputation to lose: Platforms with a reputation to lose will fight to preserve it by making business changes, working with regulators and investing to improve safeguards. Having been penalized or breached does not make a platform good or bad, its the post actions that tell the tale.

I trust these tips will help make your experience online safer.