The Perfect CandidateA law firm in Oregon, whom I will call Alpha Beta Charlie (“ABC”), recently posted an ad for an estate planning legal assistant. ABC received an impressive resume from a candidate. The resume hit all the right points and addressed specific requirements in the job posting. It had flawless grammar and a beautiful layout. The candidate seemed like a perfect match. ABC’s HR manager immediately called the candidate for an interview.
Too Perfect to Be TrueAfter the interview, the HR manager started to examine the candidate’s employment history. Because the candidate was a recent transplant from another state, the HR manager was not familiar with any of the firms listed in the resume. The HR manager pulled up the website of the candidate’s last employer, which was a law firm. Right away, the HR manager noticed that the website looked a bit odd. It had missing elements of a regular law firm website, like no biographies for the lawyers and no description of their practice areas. It contained a lot of dead links and seemed incomplete. With the help of a web designer friend of one of ABC’s staff, ABC was able to determine that the last employer’s website was cobbled from multiple websites.
The firm called and asked the candidate about the website, such as why there was no information about the named partner. The candidate replied that she didn’t know why that information was not available. The candidate suggested it was probably due to a merger that firm was currently undergoing. She said she would give the names of a few people at that firm. The HR Manager looked at that state’s bar directory and found that those people did not exist.
ABC then dug a bit more into the website and found that it was registered to a company called CareerExcuse. This company is in the business of contriving employer information (e.g., dates of employment, compensation, job duties, and reason for termination) to people willing to pay for its service. It also creates fake websites for those fake employers and provides fake references who are paid agents ready to lie for job applicants.
Game OverAfter ABC put the puzzle pieces together, it was game over for the candidate. The HR manager doesn’t know the candidate’s true motivation. What she knows is that the estate planning position provides access to clients’ personal information, like their social security numbers, their dates of birth, and their financial information. Whether the candidate was looking to steal that information or whether she was just desperate for a job and was willing to lie to get it was something the firm was grateful not to find out.
To be clear, the HR manager is not a fraud investigator. Her job was to find the right candidates and make sure they met the qualifications they claimed on their resume and in their interview. That task does require digging below the surface.
Law firms and lawyers are targets of sophisticated frauds and scams like this one, and should be aware of them to protect themselves. Read the Oregon State Bar’s announcement on scams that target Oregon lawyers, firms, and courts: https://www.osbar.org/_docs/barnews/ScamAlert2019.pdf.
I want to thank the HR manager at “ABC” firm for letting me share this story with other Oregon lawyers.
- The Truth about Fake Job References - https://www.virtualvocations.com/blog/telecommuting-job-search-help/the-truth-about-fake-job-references/
- Fake Law Firm Scam - https://www.osbplf.org/inpractice/the-fake-law-firm-scam/
- Evolving Scam: Don’t Let Your Guard Down - https://www.osbplf.org/inpractice/evolving-scams--dont-let-your-guard-down/