Financial fraud targets digital businesses in India

fraud

Hundreds of youth are willing to make significant effort on a digital platform to earn money, they just need the right opportunity and the right outlet for their talents

Over 2 days in the last week of July, India’s job portal for mid to lower-end candidates – MeraJob, was attacked by online fraudsters aiming to take advantage of the company’s referral rewards program. A surge in referrals, which were quickly identified to be mostly fake data (disposable email addresses, gibberish names, etc.) led MeraJob to suspend the program and initiate a detailed investigation.

Simple checks such as the time-interval between candidates referred and their profile creation indicated to MeraJob that something was amiss. Normally it takes weeks for referred candidates to complete their SmartProfiles™. In these referrals over the 2 days, SmartProfiles™ were being created within minutes – clearly indicating that the referring online scammers were themselves making SmartProfiles™ of non-existent candidates, or in some cases for real candidates, who were themselves not interested in availing online portal services.

What happened next was even more incredible. These online tricksters started attacking the company’s Facebook  page with abuses, low ratings, and threats. It would appear that they felt MeraJob would buckle under these threats and pay the referral rewards even if they were fraudulent and ineligible. In their understanding, trolling could get this done.

New face of cheating

This is the new face of cyber cheating. It’s not high-tech programmers with state-of-the-art equipment operating in the shadows. Instead, these are digitally savvy youngsters who have built an online following, armed with only a mobile phone, data connection and a strong social media following. They help other young people spot these opportunities and exploit digital chinks and often indulge in cyber fraud and illegal activities.

These misdirected digital natives encourage unsuspecting young followers to make a quick buck. Most of such young people are unable to understand the difference between financial frauding and making money online through borderline legal arbitrage opportunities or those exploiting digital security or process lapses. Such naïve followers of the digital mavens are willing to make dozens of referrals of fictitious job seekers for a few hundred rupees in their digital wallets without realizing that they are over-stepping legal boundaries.

What encourages the mavens to perhaps indulge in online trolling is their power lies in the anonymity and their experience that for many companies a few lakhs rupees of loss is not worth fighting back. To them identity theft, fake profiles are no more than hacking.

“Everybody is now Internet savvy and one doesn’t need to be a software engineer, or even a college graduate, to know how to hatch schemes like these. The people who were involved in these two days of ‘loot’ (an actual word used by many of the offending persons on their websites and Facebook pages to promote large-scale misuse of the referral program) are between 15-25 years of age and digital natives. Familiarity with Internet usage is common from the highest to the lowest strata of our society and the need to be vigilant when offering online rewards is critical,” said Sumit Ray, Digital Marketing Manager, MeraJob.

For MeraJob, the learning has been two-fold: first is the obvious vulnerability of such a program, but, second and more important, it reveals how many skilled, dexterous, and yet under-employed people there are in India. This one incident speaks much louder than all the data on the Indian skill gap and unemployment.

According to government reports, around 30 lakh graduates join the job market every year in India, but only 5 lakh are considered employable. The growing skills gap in India is estimated to be more than 25 crore workers by 2022. Skilling and vocational training aren’t keeping up with job creation, contrary to the wide perception that unavailability of jobs is the only issue. The government’s ambitious Skill India flagship program, delivered through agencies like the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), National Career Service (NCS), Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY), and others, is a big push to addressing this gap.

Dishonest means

Therefore, it is a very illustrative example to see how many hundreds of youth are willing to make significant effort on a digital platform to earn money. Presumably, some among them will be stubborn and will resort to dishonest means even if legitimate means were available to them. But, for a large number, this will only be stop-gap income for lack of anything better. These are smart, alert young people with drive. They just need the right opportunity and the right outlet for their talents.

Cyber security is one of the fastest growing areas of employment offering global opportunities. MeraJob, which uses behavioral analytics and signals to find ‘matching jobs’ for candidates, is working on seeing how some of these youngsters can be connected with training opportunities through Sector Skill Councils and companies for ethical hacking and testing.

Sourcing these jobseekers from multiple channels allows a job portal to bring more eligible people on to one platform as not all of them can be located through traditional means. The best person for a job may not be self-registering on a portal so it’s important to also find them through social media and referral programs.

National Career Service

The government schemes mentioned earlier are another great place where jobseekers are coming together, and that is why MeraJob is a partner to the National Career Service, National Skill Development Corporation, Sector Skill Councils, and now also the Army Welfare Placement Organization (AWPO) which helps retired officers and junior commissioned officers find civilian jobs. Major General Deepak Sapra, MD of the AWPO, said, “It is the need of the hour for private and public players to come together to ensure a dignified livelihood for ex-servicepersons in India. With MeraJob, we have taken a huge leap forward in achieving this.” It is a matter of pride that our work as a job portal is also a part of nation-building.

“At times of crisis that reveals disenchantment and frustration among the youth, employers, job portals, and the policy makers are increasingly beginning to recognise the need to move on from old methods to place people in just any job. Instead, an online digital talent marketplace like MeraJob is working to disrupt Job Portal 1.0 (classified model) and evolve the platform for a Job Portal 2.0 that is a Job Matching Portal,” said Girish Phansalkar, Co-founder and COO of MeraJob.

Data Analytics

He added, “MeraJob is more a data analytics and communications company than just a Job Board. We focus on enriching jobseeker data from multiple channels, including social media and based on their observed behavior on the platform. This leads to highly curated SmartProfiles™ which allows our proprietary matching-engine to operate. It also allows for better searchability so employers can find people with the right skills and offering highly focused content such as self-improvement videos and articles for candidates to help them perform better during selection and in their work.”

Not surprisingly, Prime Minister Modi has said that “Skill India mission is not merely to fill pockets but to bring a sense of self-confidence.”

With features like these MeraJob is pushing the role of a job portal from just being a directory of jobseekers and jobs, to being a more responsible match-maker of jobseekers and jobs. In fact, they are India’s 1st Job Matching Portal, making them a disruptive human resources technology company.

So, while young people are still encouraged to make genuine referrals that don’t violate the company’s terms, the others who need to make regular income don’t need to scam the system. In fact, the system has been made to help them find the right opportunity so they don’t need to indulge in petty misdemeanours. Just sign up on a job portal like this and look to make your career. – PRNewswire.

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