Job offers

Intellia explains how to identify and avoid fraudulent job offers

When many people think of a scam, the first thing that comes to mind is a dodgy door-to-door salesperson or a text from an unknown number with a link that says “click here”. Although these types of scams will probably always exist, many of them have become much more complex and difficult to identify.

This is especially true when it comes to hiring. As more and more employers have moved to remote hiring and working formats, it has become much easier for scammers to impersonate real employers. After all, if all communications and interviews are done online, how do you tell the difference between a verifiable job offer and a scam?

To help you spot and completely avoid these fraudulent job postings, BioSpace spoke with Maritza Gamboa, Associate Director of Talent Acquisition at Therapeutic Intellia.

Intellia is a biotechnology company focused on developing treatments and gene-editing therapies for genetic, oncology and immunology diseases. Although Gamboa has not been scammed herself, she has recently come into contact with others who have been.

As a leading company in the biotech industry, Intellia’s name and logos are easy to find. This could be why a group of scammers chose to impersonate Intellia, posting job vacancies, conducting interviews, and fraudulently “hiring” job seekers.

Gamboa said that for a week in April, everyone who worked at Intellia was out of the office. Upon their return, they checked the company’s public inbox to find emails from several people, all asking the same question: “Can you confirm this job offer?”

Unfortunately, they couldn’t. Indeed, the candidates never applied for a job at Intellia or communicated with anyone who worked at the company. And just as the victims thought it would never happen to them, Gamboa felt the same way.

“I was shocked when they started copying Intellia,” Gamboa said. “I never thought it was possible.”

The crooks didn’t hack into Intellia’s database or breach its security, but it turns out they didn’t have to. Here’s how the scam worked: First, a job posting was posted on a job board with a title and description very similar to those found on Intellia’s website. When candidates applied, they went through interviews, sometimes three or four rounds, before being offered the job.

Once the candidate accepted the offer, he was told that he had to purchase and complete a specific certification in order to start the job. The candidate would click on the link, enter their credit card information to purchase the software, and never receive a response.

Gamboa said that even to her, the communication and offer letters the victims received were very similar to those of Intellia. The emails even came from an email address similar to the one listed on Intellia’s site, with nearly identical email signatures.

“The candidates were amazing in showing us how similar the offer letters were, and they even tried to copy our job descriptions…I can totally understand, being in their shoes, how much that felt real and exciting.”

Reviewing the communication and offers received by applicants, Gamboa said she could identify some subtle inconsistencies. Despite everything, she works in the company. If it wasn’t obvious to her, how does anyone know if her job offer is real?

According to Gamboa, it is possible to spot a fake job offer. You just need to know what you’re looking for.

First, check the company’s website and make sure the job you’re applying for is exactly the same as a job listed on the company’s website. Gamboa pointed out that the inconsistencies often lie in the details. For example, the email used by the scammers was almost the same as the one listed on Intellia’s site, except for a few letters at the end.

Second, do your research. If you spoke to a specific recruiter, search for them on LinkedIn or try to find them on the company’s website. Also, if a recruiter tells you where the job is, make sure it matches the information provided by the company itself. Job seekers who thought they were speaking with Intellia had applied for jobs in India, but Intellia’s head office is located in Cambridge, MA.

Third, be proactive. If you have any doubts, don’t be afraid to contact the company and ask if the job is real. Because scams like these are becoming increasingly popular, this may not be the first time they have been asked about the authenticity of a job.

Most companies, especially large organizations, often use the same software for video interviews: Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Webex. If a company asks you to use or download different software to communicate with them, that could be a red flag. Along the same lines, it’s rare for legitimate companies to ask you to buy anything in order to start work. If you need resources, they will probably be provided to you.

And if you work in HR and someone reports a potential scam, you might want to dig a little deeper.

“Maybe companies need to take that extra moment to look at it,” Gamboa said.

Above all, be aware. Scammers often prey on vulnerable people. And if you’ve ever been looking for a job longer than you’d like, you know how exciting it can be to get an interview, let alone an offer. Just try not to let that excitement overshadow your best judgment.