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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Social media: A new way to lure job seekers

Asim (30- year-old), was fortunate enough to find a job at a prestigious UAE-based company using an online platform. Fascinated by their friend’s success, Saad (31-year-old) and Ali (27-year-old) decided to follow suit, not realizing that luck might not smile on them the way it did on their friend. While trying to find jobs online, both narrowly escaped falling into the trap of fraudsters who could have deprived them of their hard-earned money on the pretext of promising them lucrative jobs upon migration (Name changed).

Social media has become an integral part of our lives – from business to work, and professional to personal life. Our devices are interlinked as we can operate any of our devices or services through a phone. i.e., cars, phones, watches, bank accounts, and home appliances.

Although social media is pivotal in disseminating information, mishandling social media sites can have dire consequences. Since the production and dissemination of information have scaled up, it has become a problem for one cannot often distinguish the character of the information that one is consuming. Due to technological advancement, people are able to gather information and advice in real-time throughout the migration journey and make direct connections online with recruitment agencies and companies. As well as explore their favorite countries while sitting in the comfort of their homes.

However, every connection makes people vulnerable. Here the agents/scammers play an influential role in manipulating individuals by displaying the luxurious life of migrants and making them realize that they can only live this life by migrating abroad. Agents claim to be foreign recruitment agencies as well as visa processing consultants, who trap individuals with fake promises of providing them with highly paid jobs and getting them to settle abroad. For recruitment and all legal formalities, they demand a considerable amount from individuals.

The advancement of technology is a vast opportunity for criminals, hackers, and job scammers to target individuals, companies and the government. Before technology took over our lives, luring people at such a scale or precision was not easy.

But now scammers are using social media sites (especially Facebook and WhatsApp) to disseminate fake job openings at a mass scale to attract the gullible to get scammed.
Among the nearly 5 billion people using social media worldwide, over 71 million of them are Pakistanis of every ilk and countenance. Pakistan has also witnessed a growth in social media users over time. 36.5% of the total population used the internet, i.e., 82.90 million internets with 71 million users on YouTube, followed by Facebook with 43.55 million users and 7.60 million users on LinkedIn.

There are several fake jobs on Facebook pages and groups, interlinked with WhatsApp groups, targeting job seekers by spoofing company websites and posting fake job openings. They conduct false interviews with unsuspecting applicant victims, and then request Personally Identifiable Information (PI) and/or money from these individuals.

Ali and Saad also fell victim to fraudsters who make them apply for jobs, which were nothing but fake jobs. They began research through social media platforms and joined different Facebook and WhatsApp groups where they applied for the relevant jobs. “After a few days, we got an acceptance email from the company’s representative. The representative asked us to conduct an interview through a WhatsApp voice call”

“I was assuming there will be a foreigner who would speak with me, but I got to know that the person was Pakistani and speaking in Urdu from Multan, City,” said Ali. The person pretended to be a manager of a recruitment company, and asked Ali and Saad to arrange an amount of 300,000 PKR (USD 1357.47) so that legal formalities can be made, i.e., visa processing and preparing other legal documents.

“After connecting with him on WhatsApp, he was continuously communicating with me on WhatsApp voice notes,” said Ali

“We were so excited after having a discussion with the manager without knowing that all that glitters is not gold,” said Saad

They got the job offer as “Store In charge” and “Packing manager” in Carrefour (Scammers pose as representatives of Carrefour UAE-a chain of hypermarkets, and groceries stores). They both decided to take a loan from a local moneylender, who made an offer of a loan with an annual interest of 36%. Ali was upset about gathering this big amount and he discussed the matter with Asim (His colleague,) who told him about Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) to get the verification done before going further.

“Fortunately, talking with the representative of MRC was an eye-opener for me, I shared everything with MRC Counsellor, from searching to applying for a job, to getting a job offer. Their team verified everything and alerted us the job letter is fake and the agent is not a licensed holder. The offer I get it from the fraudulent agent was all trap to get money. The counsellor guided me on how can I verify and check the legitimacy of the recruitment agencies before applying for jobs. MRC save us from falling prey to such scam,” said Ali

Saad, talking about the incident “It’s very disturbing, I urge people to be vigilant before applying and searching online jobs abroad, if you find any opportunity, before sharing your details, STOP and verify it from the government authorities or MRC”

Figure 2 Fake job offer letter received by Ali and Saad

While discussing with a representative from Migrant Resource Centre, Nadia Kashif, Coordinator of MRC highlighted that “We receive lots of queries to verify the authenticity of online jobs. Our team of counsellors have investigated many such offers to inform the public about them. Online criminal networks are smart and innovative and have modernized their operations and tactics trapping individuals using social media. There is a dire need for mass awareness to educate end-users at home or the workplace.  At MRC we are raising awareness through social media and community sessions, on how to be vigilant against such scams and how to report them to the relevant authorities to arrest the phenomena”.

Fake job scammers have existed for a long but technology has made it easy and cheap. Cybercriminals first spoof a company’s website by creating a domain name similar to the legitimate company, then they post the job opportunities on social media sites, websites, and online job boards to direct job seekers towards the sites where people can apply and share their personal information. For grabbing victims’ attention, they offer an extremely high salary. All they need is the personal information and money, which they can use for any number of nefarious purposes, including accessing the victims’ social media accounts and bank accounts, opening new financial accounts, or using the victim’s identity for another deception scam (such as obtaining fake driver’s licenses or passports)

To ensure the safety of Pakistani citizens online and to ensure the security of the digital systems, various necessary measures were initiated by federal and provincial authorities under the enactments such as the Electronic Transaction Ordinance (ETO) 2022 (covering only electronic financial transactions and records), Investigation for Fair Trial Act (IFTA) – 2013, Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act – 1996 and Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 which cover some but not all aspects of information and Cyber Security.

National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (NR3C)- FIA is the law enforcement agency, working dedicatedly to identify and curb this technological abuse. The centre has expertise in Digital Forensics, Technical Investigation, Information System Security Audits, Penetration Testing and Training. They have a complaint cell as well as helpline 9911 where people can complain and report such incidents.

Government Launches National Job Portal

There is a dire need to strengthen existing legislative and institutional frameworks and create mass awareness of relevant risks, preventive measures, and effective responses to cyber threats in all public and private entities.

Mariya Sohail
Latest posts by Mariya Sohail (see all)
Mariya Sohail
Mariya Sohail
Mariya Sohail is working as a counsellor at Migrant Resource Centre, Pakistan a project of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
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