College students have become the latest victims of employer and Internet fraud, according to John Mangiantini, manager for employer relations and communications at the University of Idaho Career Center.
Two UI students were recently scammed out of thousands of dollars after fraudulent employer postings made their way through the VandalCareerConnection system. The system allows employers in the area to apply to post available jobs. Employees at the UI career center review the post applications and determine if the job gets posted.
“On the intake side we looked and it was a legitimate Moscow company that we know of and they used all the local address that was correct and the phone number that was correct and things like that and they posted and so we went ahead and allowed it to go up and then it turned out to be an imposter that was posing as this local business here in town,” Mangiantini said.
Once the job was posted, several students contacted the “business” about the job opening and were asked by the fraudulent employer to receive and deposit a check into their personal bank account. The students were then asked to return the money in smaller amounts via electronic gift cards or wire transfers. Once the students transferred the money back to the fraudulent employers, the original check issued did not clear or had insufficient funds — leaving the students short thousands of dollars they’d already transferred.
Once the students realized what had happened, it was too late and they could not get their money back from the fraudulent employers who turned out to be offshore criminals that could not be persecuted, according to Mangiantini. He said a third student was also targeted, but realized something seemed abnormal and contacted the career center immediately.
The VandalCareerConnection system allowed career center employees to see who had viewed the fraudulent posts and warn them via their Vandal email that the jobs were not legitimate. Mangiantini said immediate steps were taken to warn all students who had seen the posts and to let the local businesses know they were being used as the front of a scam. The Moscow Police Department was contacted and a Vandal Alert issued to warn students of the potential danger.
“We did contact the employer immediately and let him know that his business was being used as a front to do these things and he’d never heard of it before,” Mangiantini said. “Employers, if they ever see that we’re posting their name up on our job board and they haven’t done it, they should contact us immediately.”
Mangiantini said the career center is taking steps to prevent this sort of attack, but said the people behind the fraudulent posts did their homework and not all cases will be caught. As a result, he said the best way to prevent future incidents is to warn and educate students about the potential scams.
“We don’t know how we’d have stopped that one,” Mangiantini said. “We do look at every single one, we click on their websites … we do everything we can to make sure it’s legitimate. We don’t know how we can completely stop this other than to warn students … that if you’re asked to make a financial transaction as part of a job application process you should run. We’re going to catch the ones that don’t put any work into it. We’re not going to catch the ones that do a little bit of homework.”
Students should be aware of potential scams not just in career center job postings, Craigslist and other Internet classifieds are a popular place for scams on apartment rentals, car sales and more. Identity theft is also a common practice for such scams, Mangiantini said.
“Students should never give any piece of identifying information out until they’re filling out the W-4 … and they’re sitting in front of somebody,” Mangiantini said. “It should be legitimate. They should be sitting in the company’s building or something like that.”
He said it is becoming more common for college students to become the target of such crimes because they are gullible and newly on their own with a lack of understanding about what legitimate hiring processes should look like.
Mangiantini said students should contact the career center immediately if they feel they are being scammed.
“It just makes you ill when you’re in a job like mine and the students are the ones being targeted,” Mangiantini said.
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org