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Graphic Artists Guild

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featured image showing scam text messages

Sophisticated Hiring Scam Targets Graphic Artists

Guild members have been reporting that they have been targeted by a sophisticated scam. The fraudsters operate by posing as recruiters seeking the services of graphic artists. While the scam is similar to the ones we’ve previously reported, these current cons lull their targets into a false sense of security by referencing the Guild and conducting lengthy interviews. The result is that they have been able to convince some artists into sending over photos of their driver’s licenses.

As reported to us, the scammers reach out to the targets via a text message sent to the artist’s mobile phone. The text messages are all similarly worded: they mention having seen the designer’s resume online, and state that the designer has been approved by their HR department “via the Graphic Artist Guild” (sic) for a $50/hour position. While the text messages come from the same cell number ­– 205-273-3336 – they purport to come from either of two different companies, ADCBIO or Pisiffik.  One Guild member reported that they were contacted by both text message and email.

Artists who responded to the outreach were told that in order to fill the position, they would be sent a cheque for the purchase of special equipment required for the job. Once they deposited those funds, they were to purchase the equipment through the company’s approved vendors. The exchange appears legitimate to the target – what harm can come from making a purchase using funds that have already cleared? However, the scam works because the cheque isn’t funded. Once the bank realizes the cheque is bad, those funds are taken from the victim’s account. The victim is then out the amount they paid to the “vendors” ­­– and that money has gone directly into the pockets of the scammers.

The goal of scam may also be to gain a copy of the victim’s driver’s license. The driver’s license could be used to file fraudulent unemployment claims, apply for loans, or perpetuate the fraud by posing as the target.

Creating a False Sense of Security

The scammers utilize a number of methods to build trust. They conduct fake interviews with targets, reference the Graphic Artists Guild, and use the names of Guild members ­– which might be familiar to the targets ­­– as the contact person. They also use the names of legitimate companies and stick their logos into the signature lines of their emails. Or they concoct letterhead with the companies’ correct addresses for their fake employment letters.

One artist we spoke to had responded to the text message and participated in a two-hour-long “job interview” that seemed legitimate. Afterwards they sent over, as requested, a photo of their driver’s license for a “background check.” It wasn’t until later that the artist realized they had been scammed. That driver’s license was used to perpetuate the fraud: Guild members reported they had received emails purported to be from the artist with the license photo attached as “proof” that the contact was legitimate.

Scammers also utilize popular job boards and employment websites to perpetuate their con. One designer told us they responded to a legitimate looking post on the popular job website Indeed. They almost immediately got a call back. That was followed by a 2-hour “job interview” during which the recruiter “asked all the right questions.” Eventually the designer became suspicious that the job offer was a scam and directly contacted the hiring company. They informed them that scammers had stolen the LinkedIn profile information and photo from one of their HR personnel.

How Scammers Appear Legitimate

  • Use the names of individuals who may be recognizable to the target, such as members from the same association
  • Use the profiles of legitimate recruiters
  • Display photo IDs which have been stolen from previous targets
  • Reference trusted sources in their communications, such as the Graphic Artists Guild
  • Post fraudulent job listings on legitimate job boards
  • Conduct extensive interviews with legitimate-sounding questions

How to Detect the Scam

While the scams are becoming more sophisticated, there are ways to detect the fraud. There are red flags to pay attention to, and some basic background checks:

  • Ask yourself if the offer is too good to be true. The recruiter may be too eager to hire you after a single interview or from only reviewing your portfolio. Or they may push you to take the position.
  • Be suspicious of any job offers that require you to accept funds for equipment which you are then expected to purchase from specific vendors. (In a similar scam, artists hired for a specific project may be sent for a sum greater than the agreed-upon deposit and are asked to reimburse the difference.)
  • Do not give out your personal identification, such as a photo of your driver’s license, social security number, or banking information to a recruiter.
  • Check that the source is legitimate. Company executives and staff generally have online profiles on LinkedIn or on the company’s website. Do an Internet search with the name and company of the individual of the person who is contacting you. Bear in mind that even if you do find the profile of the recruiter, you’ll need to check that the job offer is legitimate (see the next bullet).
  • Check that the company is legitimately hiring for the position you’ve been contacted about. An Internet search for “ADCBIO scam” pulled up fraud alert on the Sterling Pharma Solutions website. Sterling acquired ADCBIO in April of this year. Their fraud alert warns of fake recruitment scams using ADCBIO’s identity. While Pisiffik does not similarly show a fraud alert, the only company that surfaces with that name is a supermarket chain in Greenland – not a likely candidate to be hiring US-based designers.
  • Be alert to misspellings, inconsistencies, and poorly crafted communications. Even foreign companies hiring US-based talent execute basic quality control on their communications.

What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed

If you realize that the perfect job you’ve been contacted about is a scam, take steps to thwart the fraudsters. If the “recruiter” is posing as an agent of a particular company, contact that company and notify them that their identity — their name, logo, address, etc. — are being used to perpetuate a fraud. If the job was posted to a job board, notify the board to have the posting taken down. If you shared your contact information, be especially alert to new contacts for potential jobs. Some of the artists who gave responded to fake job posts have reported that they’ve seen an increase in outreach from scammers with similar fraudulent job posts.

If you’ve been duped into sending over a copy of your driver’s license or divulging any of your sensitive personal information to a scammer, take immediate steps to protect your identity. Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s online resource, Identitheft.gov. The resource provides checklists of warning signs, steps to take if your identity has been stolen, and sample letters (for example, to dispute credit card charges or to contact credit bureaus).

Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles to report that your driver’s license has been compromised. They will most likely have resources to help you determine whether your identity is being used fraudulently and advice for next steps to take. They will also issue you a new driver’s license with a new number. You can also request a DMV record or report a few months after your license has been compromised. The report will show any traffic violations committed with your license.

Get copies of your credit report from the three major credit agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can download the free reports from all three agencies from AnnualCreditReport.com. The reports will list any open credit card or loan accounts you have, and the amount owed. If you notice that there have been accounts opened in your name, contact those financial institutions and explain that you are the victim of identity theft. If accounts have been opened with your stolen ID, you should also freeze your credit with Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian to prevent fraudsters from opening additional accounts. (If you need to apply for a loan or credit card, you can use a PIN the bureaus will send you to temporarily unfreeze your credit.)

If you want to see if any cheques have been written with your driver’s license information, you can ask for reports from check verification agencies. ChexSytems, Certegy, and TeleCheck should all provide free reports.

Contact your state unemployment agency if you receive notices about benefits you never applied for. Once you notify them that you’ve been the victim of identity theft, they will cancel the unemployment benefits. You won’t be responsible for paying back any of those funds.



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