In a brief video advisory posted on Thursday, 13 October, the Ministry of Home Affairs cautioned citizens against falling for fake online job offers and highlighted ways to spot such fishy deals online.
"Do you know that thousands of people are becoming a victim of online job fraud?" the ministry's Twitter thread began.
While online job scams have been around in India for some time now, recent incidents have shown that they've grown in sophistication and impact. Keeping this in mind, what are the indicators issued by the ministry? What pointers has it missed? How do online job fraudsters operate? And what should you do if you've been duped?
How do you know if a job that's offered online is fake?
The Ministry of Home Affairs outlined the following ways to identify a fake job offer:
1. The appointment letter is quickly sent to you after a preliminary conversation
2. The job requirements or job description in the offer letter that you receive is vague
3. Emails received by the prospective employer are written unprofessionally
4. The victim is asked to provide confidential information
5. The victim is asked to pay as part of the job offer
How else can you tell if an online job offer is fake?
Scrutinise the sender address: For starters, make sure that the sender's name matches with the email address. Check to see if the email domain includes the company's name or if it just features as '@gmail.com' or '@yahoo.com'. Do a spellcheck of the email domain to determine its legitimacy. For instance, its 'godaddy.com' and not 'go-daddy-file.website'.
Check the logo: Scammers often alter the design of the company's logo, like changing its background colour or font, and include it in their email to appear legitimate.
Poor spelling and grammar: A dead giveaway that the email you received containing a job offer is fake, is when the language used is grammatically incorrect and there are too many typos to count.
What are some other ways to authenticate emails?
Check the header: Information in the header of an email reveals its true route. The headers section should be checked for discrepancies as it generally tells you about the servers that the email passed through before reaching the recipient, along with timestamps.
Inspect the Reply-To and Return-Path fields: While the address under Reply-To is the address to which your reply will be sent, the Return-Path is the address which collects bounced mails or in other words, mails that fail to be delivered to the recipient.
Since emailing targets is the most common method used for phishing by scammers, they can be authenticated using these protocols:
Sender Policy Framework (SPF): This authentication standard essentially maintains a list of approved IP addresses and weeds out any emails from a server with an IP address that's not on the list.
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): DKIM records show if the contents of the email have been fabricated on its way to the recipient.
What is the modus operandi of online job scammers?
According to the Delhi Police's Cyber Crime Unit, these types of scammers often prey on young and educated folks who are on the lookout for jobs on sites such as naukri.com and shine.com, among others.
They are able to pose as legitimate recruiters of reputed companies by retrieving data (such as phone number, email, educational qualifications, and previous employment records) that's included in uploaded résumés. This data is then used to draft customised emails by assuring job opportunities.
In a booklet released in March this year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said, "Fraudsters create fake job search websites and when the job seekers share secure credentials of their bank account / credit card / debit card on these websites during registration, their accounts are compromised."
The fraud can go as far as conducting fake interviews with the victim who is then asked to pay for a laptop, training programme, or in the name of registration fees, the RBI added.
How to report scammers offering fake jobs online? What are the steps?
At the end of its advisory, the Ministry of Home Affairs urged victims to file a complaint by visiting cybercrime.gov.in. On the web page, click on the 'File a complaint' tab. After accepting the terms and conditions, you will be asked to mention the name of your state and your mobile number for OTP verification. After completing the verification, you will have to fill out general information about yourself such as date of birth, gender, email id, and so on.
On the next page, you can provide details regarding the incident, suspect, and complainant.
Do you need to submit evidence if you're reporting an incident?
While it is not mandatory to do so, the Delhi Police's Cyber Crime Unit has advised complainants to provide evidence like screenshots with clearly visible URLs of the dubious websites, bank transaction statements, and "full header only from the first receiver’s email account."
"Save the soft copy of all above mentioned documents in soft form and provide them to the Investigating Officer on a CD-R and also give hard copy," the police further suggests on its website.
How big of a problem is online job fraud in India?
Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs shared a similar advisory on fake job offers being circulated via social media. The ministry's word of caution was prompted by the government's rescue of 32 Indians from Myanmar, who had been lured there with the promise of IT jobs, as per Hindustan Times.
“Instances of fake job rackets offering lucrative jobs to entice Indian youths for the posts of ‘Digital Sales and Marketing Executives’ in Thailand by dubious IT firms involved in call-centre scam and cryptocurrency fraud have come to our notice recently by our Missions in Bangkok and Myanmar,” the MEA advisory stated.
Around 60 others are still believed to be stranded in the same region, the news report added.
As far as numbers go, there is no specific data that is available on the number of victims of online job fraud across India, which states it is most prevalent in, the number of complaints that are received, and how many of them lead to arrests as well as convictions.