We be scamming. Seems yes, but… maybe no?

Never seen this before.

I am unemployed due to COVID-19. Probably something that’s happened to many of you. I’ve also been searching for work continuously, continuously, since loosing my director of IT role. I have not gotten an offer on anything equivalent and have had periods of unemployment where I didn’t get responses for anything I applied to. The low point was when I was so desperate I applied for an hourly position at Dunkin Donuts and they didn’t call me back! I have gotten help desk roles and that position is what recently ended due to coronavirus.

Since I have been continuously searching for employment for years I’ve got accounts on all the major job boards, CareerBuilder, Monster, Beyond, Indeed, and many minor and regional ones too. And of course I use LinkedIn. My profile is here, Alan Boba. Message me if you need someone to manage your technology.

Recently I was very disappointed by the response I got back from an application, “Thank you but we’re not interested in you”. The position was very local to me which would have been great. And the IT Manager job description was one I would have written if asked to write one that was an exact match for my skills. I was really hopeful when I sent the application and very very disappointed when the rejection came. Not even a phone screen.

Next position I applied for on CareerBuilder I was presented with a message as soon as I completed the application, “would you like to instantly apply to these 26 matching jobs?” Typically I review job title and description, check the location and do some other review before applying for a position. This time I just hit “apply”. Right away CareerBuilder came back with a similar “instant apply” message and again I clicked “apply”. This kept happening. I kept clicking. I figured to be clicking until “matching jobs” ran out. They never did. I stopped clicking after instant applying to about 500 or so “matching jobs”.

Wouldn’t you know… next day I was getting invitations to online interviews. I was skeptical and cautious. The biggest and most immediate red flag was that all the “interviews” were with people using @aol.com and @gmail.com email addresses. No business emails. But hey, I didn’t have any real offers to reply to and who knows, maybe I’m just too suspicious and one of these was real.

One of them even said they were part of an agribusiness that was started in Australia and expanding in USA. The business is real and it even has two locations in the western US that were correctly identified in the chats.

I received a check by FedEx, almost $4,000! Ostensibly to buy equipment I would need for my office. A cashiers check though, not a check drawn from a business account. The letter that came with it is on plain paper, not office stationery. It doesn’t say what I should buy and doesn’t have a business name or address. Plus I am again directed to communicate with a non-business email account, @aol.com.

I’ve tried to validate the check’s bank routing number and two of the three routing number websites I’ve found recognize the routing number. I’ve also scanned the check front and back. No watermarks show up in either scan. And the check doesn’t have a stamp on it’s face with “valid for xxx days”. A stamp I’ve seen on every cashier’s and corporate check I ever recall handling.

For now I’m still thinking this is a scam. But I’ll play along because I’ve got the time and I’m unemployed. And who knows, maybe I am just too suspicious.

In case you’re curious and want to see what I’ve received so far, take a look at the letter and check that came in the FedEx package. It does cost money to send via FedEx. So unless a business’ FedEx account has been hijacked the scammers have spent some money to send me the check.

More phishing…

There’s more than one way to hook a fish.

Lets say you’ve become comfortable in your ability to recognize phishing email. You’re able to spot the strange “From” address hidden behind the reassuring “Billing Department” or “Customer Service” label that’s been applied. And even if that looks like it might be legit you know how to hover over links in the email and recognize something that says it came from Amazon should have amazon.com/ as the last part of the web address that comes before that very first single forward slash, “/”.

A business web address should always be https://businessname.com/maybemore or https://www.businessname.com/maybemore or https://businessname.org/maybemore and so on. The critical part of the address that tells you where the link will take you is between the paired // and the very first single /.

What do you do when everything looks legit? The “From:” doesn’t look strange, the subject isn’t alarming.

The message itself doesn’t try and make you panic. You can see the full email address and it looks legit. There’s no business website listed in the message but the part of the email address after the @ looks legit. And if you put the part after the @ into your web browser it does go to a legit website, in this case “equitybrands.com”.

Stop right now! There’s no contact info provided in the message. No corporate website identified. No contact phone or email provided. And there’s no info what this is about. Did you buy something and there’s a payment issue, forget to return something, detail about a pending refund…? There’s just nothing except a big blue “View File” button.

In case you can’t resist taking a peek at the “Payment doc.excel” file I did it for you.

It isn’t a regular Excel file because the last part of the file name would be .xls or .xlsx. Sorry but you do need to know that. Ignoring all this I clicked the “View File” button. It got me to the screen below.

If you haven’t got suspicious yet you should turn and run now.

There’s no identifying information for the company.

Why are you being asked for your email? It came to your email. Why is it asking for that now?

What password do you need to enter? Since your email is asked for it seems like a reasonable password would be your email password. Don’t!! Your email password is to get into YOUR email. Nobody else needs that.

Then there’s a conflicting statement at the bottom of this web page. See just below the “Submit” button? It says “Never submit passwords through Google Forms.” That’s because this phishing message is bringing you to a Google Form to collect your email and password. The criminal can’t prevent Google from showing you that warning on a Google Form but they’re hoping you won’t see it or will ignore it.

In summary, even if everything looks legit, if you’re asked to enter your email and password somewhere and you got there by clicking a link in an email DON’T DO IT!

Email and password are for you to get into your accounts. Don’t give them up at a website you got to by an email link.

Always go to the website your usual way and login. Then check your account to see if anything is needed.

If it isn’t a website you remember having an account at do not, do not, do not provide credentials to login. Call the business and ask what’s up!

Phishing, some examples

A guide to spotting email that is meant to deceive you.

Recently I received a number of phishing emails and shared some with family and friends so they could see examples and hopefully avoid any they might get.

After doing that I decided it would be good to share here too. And I went a bit further and made some (admittedly crude) videos to spotlight some of the indicators that an email is phishing.

The videos are posted on YouTube and I’ve embedded them here.

These were my first attempts at creating videos with effects and titles. Please try not to be critical of the production quality and instead focus on the information provided. You’ll find it useful if you do.

For those of you who might look and say, “They’re too tiny. I can’t see anything.”, after starting the video click in the lower right hand corner of the video window. It will enlarge the video.

This one was meant to get the victim to open an attachment. I may make a post and video of what happens if the attachment is opened. For the time being know that the video has tips to help identify it as phishing so we know better than to try and open the attachment.

This one claims there’s a problem with your Apple ID and has links that connect with a counterfeit Apple website. If you were to click the links and complete the forms you’d be giving away your Apple ID login information. Again there’s titles and effects to help identify the tells that make it apparent this isn’t from Apple.