With more digital technology in the business world than ever, it’s no surprise that malicious actors will do whatever they can to scam someone. Unfortunately, one major target for scammers is a company’s HR department. 

Most hiring starts online, where it’s easy to impersonate someone else or create an entirely fake profile. While it’s common to see fake profiles on social media platforms like Facebook or dating apps like Tinder, it’s now becoming a serious issue for HR professionals.

Why Fake Job Applicant Scams are on the Rise

One reason why fake applicant scams are becoming more common is because of the remote work environment many companies have in the post-pandemic era. Hiring managers and other HR experts prioritize remote interviews and phone calls, allowing flexibility for job applicants. Scam artists are essentially exploiting the remote work trend by applying to jobs with ill intentions. 

When a scammer is hired, they can wreak havoc on the company they’re “working” for. They can launch cyber attacks or steal sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII). 

Research suggests that breaches caused by remote workers averaged $1.07 million higher than those that did not occur on remote devices.

The number of fake job applicants is increasing, making your recruiting efforts much more labor-intensive than they already are. In addition to sifting through hundreds or thousands of candidates for open roles, you now have to beware of fake profiles applying to those jobs.

How to Spot a Fake Job Applicant

The scams are increasing so much that the FBI released a public service announcement with information and tips on spotting these fake applicants. Scammers are going as far as using deepfake technology. 

The FBI’s PSA defines deepfakes as any altered video, image or recording manipulated to misrepresent someone saying or doing something they don’t actually say or do. A popular example of deepfake technology is the viral videos of “fake” Tom Cruise acting silly on the widely used app TikTok.

As a professional in the HR and recruitment industry, you must be aware of the rise in fake job applicants and how to identify them. This way, you can save your company time, effort and money by preventing potential cyber-attacks. 

1. Resume Reads Like a Manual

If a candidate’s resume reads more like a manual or states the job description word for word, it could be a scammer. While many candidates, including those who are who they say they are, understand that resumes must pass through new applicant tracking systems (ATSs), scammers will try to oversell themselves on their resumes. 

Having a few buzzwords or keywords in a resume is never bad, but having too many could be a sign that the candidate is fake. Be sure to check resumes thoroughly and trust your gut.

2. LinkedIn Profile is Empty or Says “Self-Employed” Without Details

If there’s little to no information on the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, it could be a scammer. Most real, true candidates looking for open roles will fill in their LinkedIn profiles to ensure they include all of their educational achievements and professional experience. 

Additionally, if a profile says the individual is “self-employed,” with no other context, they could be fake. Freelancing is common, so it’s fair to say freelancers could be applying to your jobs. However, take some time to dig a bit deeper — see if the individual has their own company, has any prior experience or if they have connections on their LinkedIn profile.

3. Sends Long Emails or Messages with Errors

Another sign that an applicant is a scammer is if they send long emails or messages with grammatical or spelling errors. If you have an email, you’ve probably received a spam email telling you you’ve won a prize or need to send money to a specific address. 

These fake emails are similar to the messages you receive on LinkedIn or other online job boards. Give all correspondence a spelling and grammar check before replying, as this is a clear sign that the applicant is fake. One or two typos might not seem like a big deal, but most qualified candidates will check their spelling and grammar before sending messages to a hiring manager or recruiter.

4. Incorrect Dates for Graduation or Work History

Fake candidates may put in years of education or professional experience that never really happened to try and trick recruiters. They may claim to have a university degree or have worked for a company for years. While double-checking the dates and years on someone’s resume might take a long time, it’s crucial to spot a fake applicant. 

Consider checking the dates of employment or time spent at a university to see if the candidate is telling the truth. You can also try contacting the college or university your candidate claims to have earned a degree from with a quick phone call. 

Protect Your Company From Potential Scams

There is no question that recruiting high-performing candidates is a struggle in today’s labor market. In addition to finding the perfect candidate for your open roles, you now have to be vigilant and protect your company’s integrity by weeding out fake job applicants. Consider the tips above to identify phony job candidates so you can keep your recruiting efforts focused on real individuals.

Zac Amos

Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he covers business technology, cybersecurity, and other trending tech topics. For more of his work, follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.