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Why are employment scams on the rise in MEA?

A new report finds 2,400 fake job pages that impersonated companies from 13 MEA countries.

Why are employment scams on the rise in MEA?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Searching for a job is tough, but don’t pounce on the first decent-looking job offer you receive. It is important to do your due diligence as job scams are increasing. More than 2,400 bogus job pages impersonating organizations from 13 countries in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) were found in the last 12 months by Digital Risk Protection (DRP) specialists at Group-IB’s Threat Intelligence and Research Center in Dubai.

These pages were used by con artists to pose as more than 40 of the biggest companies in the region and post job openings in Arabic with salaries that seemed too good to be true. This was done as part of a social engineering ruse to get the victims to interact with the post to steal their social media login information.

To do this, the con artists incorporate links to phishing pages on which the victim is prompted to input their login information and password into the publications placed on the false social media platforms. Group-IB investigators found that during this scam campaign, the con artists most commonly impersonated businesses from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria.

Since all advertisements are posted in Arabic, the scam effort only targets internet users who speak Arabic. With 48% of all false profiles created on Facebook impersonating firms, Egyptian businesses were the most commonly impersonated by con artists. Organizations from Algeria (16%), Tunisia (7%), Morocco (4%), and Saudi Arabia (23%) were also commonly imitated.

This specific fraud campaign was first noticed in January 2022, and activity peaked in August of last year when 609 new bogus pages were established. Daily scam sites are continuously being created, and in January 2023, 108 Facebook profiles advertising phony job openings with MEA companies were found, surpassing the monthly averages for November and December 2022.

The scammers that started this operation targeted many industries, but the logistics sector was the most frequently targeted since 64% of the profiles found were impersonating businesses in this industry. 

Petroleum (12%) and the food and beverage (20%) industries were also widely impersonated by con artists. More than 1,000 phony pages impersonated a certain organization.

Some of the pages found in this scam campaign claimed to be offering people jobs at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Other significant targets in this campaign included a dairy company in Saudi Arabia and an Algerian logistics company, whose brands were used on more than 300 and 200 pages, respectively.

Frequently, only an “apply” button may be seen on these quite simple scam pages. The branding of the organization in issue is frequently included in them, as well as an explanation of the employment they seem to be offering. The “apply” option nearly invariably directs the victim to a phishing page that impersonates a well-known social network, like Facebook.

When a user enters their email address, phone number, and password, scammers have everything they need to access the victim’s social media account. It occasionally happens that customers are diverted to additional scam websites from the initial scam web pages.

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