New scams target accounting job seekers

Firm leaders warn of fake job offers to students and recent grads
By Samiha Khanna

Recruiters are always hunting for the next cadre of bright, eager young graduates. Unfortunately, so are scammers.

Executives at UHY Advisors are sounding the alarm about online scammers who have been impersonating recruiters at accounting firms, offering enthusiastic young job seekers new career opportunities and internships. All the applicant must do, scammers tell them, is sign an acceptance letter and provide personal and banking information, and in some cases, a cash payment so they can be reimbursed for materials associated with starting their new job.

Rick David, CPA, CGMA, the COO for UHY Advisors, recently took news of the scam to a meeting of fellow CPA firm leaders in Michigan, where he previously served on the state Board of Accountancy. He also alerted the AICPA and other accounting firm leaders about the scam.

Earlier this summer, David and other leaders at UHY learned several students or recent graduates had been contacted online by someone impersonating a UHY recruiter. Candidates were contacted via Google Hangouts and received documents with a distorted UHY letterhead, poor grammar, and inconsistent fonts. The offer letters listed a real UHY consultant as the hiring manager, but the contact phone number went to a seemingly dead-end Google voicemail account.

When one of the applicants reported for their first day of work, they arrived at a UHY office to learn the job offer was bogus, David said. One applicant reported sharing personal and banking information and an advance payment to receive a $3,000 refund check for job preparation materials, only to have it bounce, said David, who declined to share additional information to protect the applicants’ privacy.

“You feel sorry for the students who are out there who are all struggling to find a spot so they can learn about the business of the profession and put their education to work,” David said. “It’s a stressful time trying to find a career, and a position with a top firm is hard to find, and very meaningful to someone starting their career. They get excited, only to have this emotional letdown. We’ve got to make sure other young people don’t fall prey to this.”

Job seekers should thoroughly research any job offer that comes their way, advised Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s executive vice president–Firm Services.

“For the candidate, they should be diligent to make sure they are talking to a real person from the company,” Koziel said. “Call the general company line and ask to speak to that person. On LinkedIn, search for the person’s profile. All recruiters will have a LinkedIn profile, so if you can’t find it and verify that’s the person you’ve been speaking to, it’s probably a scam.”

In the case of UHY job hopefuls, they reported visiting a seemingly legitimate website for summer jobs and internships, David said. Scams such as this can appear even on legitimate sites for job seekers such as CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and Monster.com, Koziel said.

“Any organizational summary page on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, CareerBuilder, etc., should be explicit that their recruiters will have legitimate email addresses from the company, and the interviewee should go to the company’s career website to ensure the job is real,” Koziel said.

Since the scammers used the name of a real person, David also advised that recruits send the firm recruiter a direct email or, as Koziel suggested, call him or her to confirm that the offer is legitimate.

Firms can also help applicants avoid scams by including statements on their websites and on social media channels to explain any specific interview practices, such as always conducting in-person or video interviews, David said.

David hopes sharing information about the scam will prevent more job seekers from falling victim to the ruse.

“We’re highly respected as a profession, and I want to keep it that way,” David said.

Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager of newsletters at the AICPA.

SPONSORED REPORT

CPEOs provide peace of mind around payroll services

The creation of these new IRS-certified service providers for small businesses clarifies some issues around traditional professional employer organizations.

QUIZ

Pronoun practice to help polish your prose

Using pronouns correctly in writing and speech can help you make a good impression. Try our 10-question quiz.