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Forty-eight-year-old Stephen Somers, a freelance artist in Wisconsin, got an unsolicited email in May asking if he was interested in a job designing characters for an online game company. It was like a lucrative project he had completed for a California video game company, and he thought the new opportunity was good karma. “I was trying to find something similar,” says Somers, who lives outside Milwaukee. He thought his prospective new employer might have gotten his email from LinkedIn, a popular networking site, or ArtStation, where artists post portfolios online.
Somers searched his new gig online and found nothing amiss.
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Little did he suspect that the pandemic has meant boom times for crooks dangling fake job offers in front of idled workers, some desperate to make ends meet.
Pounding the keyboard for work
Even before COVID-19, fewer people were pounding the pavement for work — they were more apt to be pounding keyboards — since so much of applying for employment has migrated online. Job scams are a global nightmare, with victim losses in the U.S. and Canada estimated at more than $2 billion annually.
Company logos, identities stolen
Many legitimate businesses have had their identities and logos hijacked by criminals masquerading as employers. It was reported this year that bad actors used a process called “scraping” to obtain the publicly viewable data of more than half a billion LinkedIn users. While the “scrape” did not disgorge sensitive data like Social Security numbers, the haul included user IDs, names, job titles, emails and phone numbers, and some of that information is being sold to hackers to create more convincing phishing attacks, Fortune magazine said. LinkedIn did not respond to a request for comment for this story but features prevention tips online. (See sidebar.)