Intellia Weighs in on How to Identify and Avoid Scam Job Offers


When many people think of a scam, the first thing that comes to mind is a shady door-to-door salesman, or a text from an unknown number with a link that reads, “click here.” While these types of scams will likely always be around, many have become much more complex and difficult to identify. 

This is especially true when it comes to hiring. As more and more employers have moved to remote hiring and working formats, it has become much easier for scammers to pose as real employers. After all, if all communication and interviews are online, how can you tell the difference between a verifiable job offer and a scam?

To help you spot and avoid these scam job offers altogether, BioSpace sat down with Maritza Gamboa, the associate director of talent acquisition at Intellia Therapeutics.

Intellia is a biotechnology company that focuses on developing gene-editing treatments and therapies for genetic, oncological and immunological diseases. While Gamboa has not been a victim of a scam herself, she’s recently come into contact with others who have. 

As a prominent company in the biotech industry, Intellia’s name and logos are easy to find. This could be why a group of scammers chose to pose as Intellia, posting jobs, conducting interviews and fraudulently “hiring” job seekers. 

Gamboa said that for a week in April, the Intellia staff was out of the office. When they returned, they checked the company’s public email inbox to find emails from multiple people, all asking the same question: "Can you confirm this job offer?"

Unfortunately, they couldn’t. This is because the candidates never actually applied for a job at Intellia or communicated with anyone who worked at the company at all. And just like the victims thought it would never happen to them, Gamboa felt the same way.

“I was shocked when they started copying Intellia,” Gamboa said. “I would’ve never thought that was possible.” 

The scammers didn't hack into Intellia's database or breach their security, but as it turns out, they didn't have to. This is how the scam worked: first, a job opening was posted on a job board with a very similar title and description as one that could be found on Intellia’s website. When the candidates applied, they would go through interviews, sometimes three or four rounds, before they were offered the job. 

After the candidate accepted the offer, they were told they needed to purchase and complete a specific certification to be able to start the job. The candidate would click the link, enter their credit card information to buy the software and never hear back. 

Gamboa said that even to her, the communication and offer letters the victims received looked very similar to Intellia's. The emails even came from a similar email address as the one listed on Intellia’s site, with almost identical email signatures. 

“The candidates were wonderful in showing us just how similar the offer letters looked, and they even tried to copy our job descriptions…I can totally understand, being in their position, how real and exciting it looked.” 

Looking at the communication and offers the candidates received, Gamboa said she could pinpoint a few subtle inconsistencies. Even so, she works at the company. If it wasn’t obvious to her, how can anyone know if their job offer is real?

According to Gamboa, it is possible to spot a fake job offer. You just have to know what to look for. 

First, check the company website and make sure that the job you’re applying for is exactly the same as a job listed on the company site. Gamboa stressed that the inconsistencies are often in the details. For example, the email the scammers used was almost the same as the one listed on Intellia's site, barring a few letters at the end. 

Second, do your research. If you’ve spoken to a specific recruiter, look them up on LinkedIn or try to find them on the company’s website. Additionally, if a recruiter tells you where the job is located, make sure that matches up with the information the company itself provides. The job seekers who thought they were speaking with Intellia had applied to jobs in India, but Intellia's headquarters are located in Cambridge, MA. 

Third, be proactive. If you have doubts, don’t be afraid to reach out to the company and ask if the job is real. Because scams like these are becoming more and more popular, it may not be the first time they’ve been asked about the authenticity of a job. 

Most companies, especially large organizations, will often use the same software for video interviews: Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Webex. If a company asks you to use or download different software to communicate with them, it could be a red flag.

In the same vein, it’s rare for legitimate companies to ask you to purchase anything to be able to start the job. If you need resources, they will most likely be supplied to you. 

And if you’re working in HR and someone reaches out about a potential scam, you might want to dig a little deeper. 

“Maybe it takes companies taking that extra moment to look into it,” Gamboa said. 

Above all, be aware. Scammers often prey on vulnerable people. And if you’ve ever been on the hunt for a job for longer than you’d like, you know how exciting it can be to get an interview, much less an offer. Just try not to let that excitement overshadow your best judgment.

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