Hackers turn Brazil’s job crisis into lucrative phishing attacks

. May 21, 2019
As most people go online for their job hunting, they become easy targets for hackers. 21% of Brazilian internet users have been victims of phishing attacks. sensitive data

“While people cry, I sell tissues.” The phrase, made popular by Brazilian ad maker Nizan Guanaes, is about how crises can turn into opportunities for those ready to seize them. It takes a dark turn, however, when we see how hackers have used Brazil’s unemployment crisis as a way to lure easy victims into phishing scams.

A phishing attack is when a hacker poses as a legitimate institution, luring their victim into willfully giving up sensitive information—such as personal data, passwords, etc. They usually bait users into clicking on malicious links through promises of prizes or easy cash. In Brazil, fake job offers have become the most common bait.

</p> <p>A <a href="">study</a> by Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab shows that Brazil is the country with <a href="">most phishing scams</a> in the world. As most people go online for their job hunting (the country is LinkedIn&#8217;s third-largest market, with over 25 million users), they become easy targets for hackers—21 percent of Brazilian internet users have been victims of phishing attacks.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1200" height="800" src="" alt="Hackers turn Brazil's job crisis into lucrative phishing attacks" class="wp-image-17718" srcset=" 1200w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px" /></figure> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>After the year&#8217;s first quarter, a staggering <a href="">25 percent of the Brazilian workforce</a> is either unemployed or underemployed. The number of people searching for a job has increased by 10.2 percent, to 13.4 million workers. For 5.2 million workers—or 39 percent of the unemployed population—their quest for a new position has lasted for over one year.</p> <p>While users have grown suspicious of emails from unknown senders, data shows that Brazilians tend to click indiscriminately on links shared through instant messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.</p> <p>A recent fake job offer for a salesperson at chocolate producer Cacau Show shared on WhatsApp scammed over 1 million people in just 24 hours. The scam followed a common script—it made victims fill out a form giving scammers their personal data, social security number, and fiscal information. Then, it said that in order for them to have their résumé accepted, they would have to share the message with at least five other people on their contact list.</p> <p>&#8220;Hackers also rely on the fact that many people innocently share these malicious links intending to help people they know who are out of the job market,&#8221; says Emilio Simoni, from cybersecurity company PSafe.</p> <h2>&#8220;Offline&#8221; scams also rising</h2> <p>According to local consumer defense portal Reclame Aqui, 30 percent of the 4,872 complaints in 2019&#8217;s first quarter were against recruiting firms posting fake or misleading job ads. And the data is underrepresented, as many people are too embarrassed to say anything when scammed.</p> <p>The São Paulo Consumer Justice Prosecution Office has started to investigate such recruiting companies in several states. Their scam, like with their online counterparts, follows a similar pattern. After reaching out to workers with a job offer &#8220;matching&#8221; their profile, the company invites people to a face-to-face interview. And once the applicant arrives, the conversation changes. &#8220;On the phone, it was a sure offer. Once I got there, they said they&#8217;d need to tweak my résumé in order to make it look better for HR recruiters, and put me on a training program to get me prepared,&#8221; one victim told prosecutors.</p> <p>All of these additional services, of course, are paid—from BRL 300 to 5,000 in some cases. And even after candidates went through all the hoops, they all &#8220;coincidentally&#8221; failed to meet recruiters&#8217; criteria.</p> <p>Employment scams are nothing new, yet the methods used and context of these phishing cases speak to a harsh reality in today&#8217;s Brazil. Millions are desperate for jobs, allowing themselves to be easily taken in be unscrupulous actors.

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