Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

After speaking to one of our mentors, I thought it would be useful to write about common scams going on in Canada. In particular, several scams are targeting newcomers who are looking for their first job. Please be careful when applying to jobs and interacting with different people you meet online!

Here’s a message I received recently. Read it carefully and think: would I apply to this job?

From: Helena M.
Subject: HR Representative Job

Greetings!
We reviewed your resume. You are an excellent candidate for our position. If you are interested in a job offer, please send your updated resume to this email. HelenaM [at] workmail.com

JOB DETAILS

Job Title: Human Resources Representative
Company: Pearson Inc

Our company is looking for an enthusiastic Human Resources (HR) Representative to implement a variety of human resource programs. The HR department will depend on your assistance in several important functions such as staffing, compensation and benefits, training and development. The ideal candidate will be a competent and resourceful individual with a passion for Human Resources.

We offer an excellent compensation starting at $5,300 per month, with full benefits.

Responsibilities
• Administer compensation and benefit plans
• Assist in talent acquisition and recruitment processes
• Conduct employee onboarding and help plan training & development
• Provide support to employees in various HR related topics
• Promote HR programs to create an efficient and conflict-free workplace
• Assist in development and implementation of human resource policies
• Undertake tasks in performance management
• Gather and analyze data with useful HR metrics
• Maintain employee files and records in electronic and paper form

We are an equal opportunity employer and make hiring decisions based on merit. Recruitment, hiring, training, and job assignments are made without regard to race, color, national origin, age, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, disability, or any other protected classification.

• Proven experience as HR Generalist
• Understanding of general human resources policies and procedures
• Good knowledge of employment/labor laws
• Outstanding knowledge of MS Office; HRIS systems (e.g. PeopleSoft) will be a plus
• Excellent communication and people skills
• Aptitude in problem-solving
• Desire to work as a team with a result driven approach

The ad seems legit enough, right?  It has a decent job description, no noticeable typos or grammar errors, and mentions a well-known company in the corporate education sector. My resume on Indeed and my LinkedIn profile show that I am pursuing a role in Human Resources, so it is appropriate and relevant.

But let’s analyze it more carefully… what are the “red flags” on this message?

  • The email comes from a webmail address, not the company’s domain which should be @pearson.com
  • The email message is unsolicited. It was sent directly to my email, without mentioning where they got my contact information.
  • The message starts with, Greetings! We reviewed your resume. You’re an excellent candidate…, but does not mention where they saw my resume. Also, if they were really interested in me as a candidate, they would at least have addressed me by name.
  • There is no contact information of the sender, Helena M., other than her email address. A real recruiter would have included a signature with her full name, job title, company name and phone number at the bottom of the message.
  • When I went to the company’s real website, I did not see this job posted. I also happen to know someone at the real company, so I contacted this person and mentioned this email. She recommended that I always check the company’s careers site because they advertise all open positions there. I cannot emphasize this enough: it is so important to have a strong network! Knowing people at different companies will give you reliable insights that you may not get otherwise.
  • The salary is way too high for this type of HR role, and listed as monthly. In Canada, salaries are provided as annual amounts for full-time jobs and hourly rates for contract positions. E.g., “$50,000 per year” or “$25 per hour”
  • There’s one more red flag that I spotted, although this knowledge is quite exclusive to human resources. Non-HR people may not notice it. The whole paragraph that says, We are an equal opportunity employer and make hiring decisions based on merit…., is taken from a template according to US employment law. Canadian companies use a slightly different statement in their job ads.

Since it sounded suspicious, I did not respond at all. Would you have responded?

The video below shows a few more red flags:

How to protect yourself from a Scam

  • IGNORE suspicious messages – It might be hard to forego an opportunity when you’re eager to get interviews, but it’s not worth the risk to respond to a fake job ad and get into a dangerous situation.
  • Talk to more experienced people to check the email’s legitimacy – If you’re not sure about an ad or email, forward it to your mentor, an employment counselor, or someone who has been in Canada for a while. They may have tips for you, or may have heard about these cases.
  • Check the company’s website and/or call them – Scams nowadays have become quite sophisticated. This article by CBC describes the case of a guy who responded to communications using the name & website of a legitimate business. It’s always a good practice to double check by calling the actual company.
  • Stop communications with anyone who:
    • offers you a job on the spot and/or pressures you to sign. Real employers and hiring managers would want to get to know their candidates through several interviews instead of offering a job right away.
    • asks for sensitive information before a formal job offer. In Canada, an employer must make a written offer (and the candidate should have accepted it) before requesting personal information such as the Social Insurance Number (SIN), bank account information, or photo ID. Even if they need to do background checks or credit checks, the written offer is provided first.
    • requests money or credit card info during the “hiring” process. Serious companies do not ask candidates to pay them in any way, or give any information about their credit card.
    • asks you to deposit a cheque and wire money. Legit companies do not send you cheques to be deposited on their behalf, or deposit money in your account to wire it back via Western Union. This news article shows the cases of job hunters who fell prey to this common scheme. If you receive a cheque or funds deposited to your account in response to a job, inform your financial institution immediately.
    • asks you to “invest” in them. If a company ask you to pay a training fee or buy their products to re-sell and recruit more sellers, you’re in front of a pyramid scheme. A reputable company will never make you pay to get training!
  • BE AWARE of other scams as well – The Canadian government’s website has information about other forms of deceit, such as tax scams, immigration scams, fake prizes, etc. There’s plenty of wild stuff out there!

What to do if you are the victim of a scam

  • Contact your financial institution and/or credit card company: if you deposited a cheque or received money in a suspicious way, get in touch with your bank or credit card company to revert the process.
  • Report the incident:
  • Gather any evidence related to the scam, such as: correspondence with the scammer (e.g. emails, text messages), bank statements, receipts, websites, etc. Get the emails’ full headers so that the sender’s IP address can be analyzed. Print out hard copies of messages and screen shots.
  • Document the history of the exchanges with the scammer: dates, times, what happened, what actions were taken.
  • Protect your devices if you used your computer or phone to communicate with a scammer. Have them checked by a cybersecurity professional, update your Internet security software, talk to your Internet and phone providers.
  • Consult Legal Aid Services in your province
  • Post it on social media… ok, this is not for everyone, and I respect your stance if you decide not to publicize it. The point here is that the more people knows about the modality of different scams, the more probabilities to help others not to fall for them.

I hope this is somewhat useful and everyone stays safe!!!