Edmontonians duped out of $240,000 by online employment scams this year

Scammers are using bogus job offers to prey on their victims, warns Linda Herczeg, an Edmonton police detective in the economic crimes section.

'They stop at nothing,' says Edmonton police detective

Edmonton police are reminding people to be extra wary of online job offers. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Police are warning Edmontonians about a spike in online employment fraud.

Scammers are using bogus job offers and seemingly authentic paperwork and website links to prey on their victims, warns Linda Herczeg, an Edmonton police detective in the economic crimes section.

What appears to be a dream job offer could leave you vulnerable to identity fraud or outright theft, Herczeg said told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Thursday. 

This year, there were 93 incidents of online employment fraud were reported to Edmonton police by July 15, with a total impact to victims of more than $240,000.  By comparison,in 2018 there were 37 incidents of employment scams with a total loss of $90,686.82.

"The use of the internet to do any type of frauds or scams is increasing exponentially because of the ease of it and because of the ability to social engineer," Herczeg said. 

To help sell the scam, the fraudsters will construct a realistic online presence on popular job search websites such as LinkedIn, Monster or ZipRecruiter.

The scammers create fake company websites or clone real ones, fake banks with websites, and employment documents like tax forms and banking deposit slips. 

'They groom you' 

A scammer will contact their victim with a job offer and initiate an online interview through email, video chat or text message.

Once employment begins, the worker is provided a fake contract and told to begin working from home on a probationary contract. 

"They say, 'We need you to prove that you're worthy of this job' and then they'll send them forms," Herczeg said. 

"They'll ask for all your personal information, banking information, the password for your bank account. And incorporated with that is a picture of their driver's licence, social insurance number and passport and your date of birth.

"All these particulars are the makings of the next part of the scam, where they can start doing identity fraud." 

Workers are then instructed to use their personal accounts to manage financial transactions for the company.

The employee is asked to deposit the money and send it to clients by way of cryptocurrency, iTunes cards, Interact e-Transfer, vouchers purchased through Flexepin, or direct deposit into a third-party bank account. 

The transactions allow scammers to use their victims as "money mules" to launder cash from other fraudulent transactions or steal from them outright, Herczeg said.

"They want them to go and deposit the money into the bank right away," she said

"And if they've interacted on the internet, that link often opens up a Trojan horse, malware or a program that allows them to take over your computer."  

Scammers are using sophisticated tactics to appear legitimate, Herczeg said. Anyone can fall victim. 

"They groom you. They are in constant contact," she said. "They make you feel important, that you're needed.

"They stop at nothing."