January is a time for resolutions, and for some people that means finding a new job. Many international recruitment companies have become familiar brand names. We have seen a significant increase in businesses using A2P SMS messaging to communicate with customers and clients. Unsurprisingly, less authentic job agencies also find SMS a useful way to reach people and as a result job scams are popular in January, our Threat Intelligence Unit reports.
What are job text scams?
SMS text messages are used by scammers as a way retrieve a target’s personal information and get their money under the guise of offering the victim a job.
Job scams are not new, but as per the example we are going to explain below, connecting directly with the recruiter via WhatsApp instead of following a link to a website is a new attempt by the scammers to evade detection and to tailor the scam to the recipient.
A new campaign targeting mobile phone users with a wa.me (“WhatsApp me”) link exploded in the Philippines in November 2021 and has since been observed by AdaptiveMobile Security in Mexico, and in the last few days, the United States.
In the US version, the subscriber receives a message like the following from a US number, but with a link to contact an Indian mobile account:
Clicking the embedded link will open the subscriber’s WhatsApp app and initiate a conversation. Other versions also include telegram chat links. The “job” really can be performed with a mobile phone, but it mostly involves transferring money to the scammer.
Operators who have attempted to mitigate this attack by blocking messages with “wa.me” links have found the scammers react with alternative messages containing URL shorteners that redirect to the WhatsApp link. Wholesale blocking of URL shorteners, whether owned by WhatsApp or others, also interferes with legitimate uses of SMS and is unpopular with subscribers.
A more sophisticated response involving knowledge of both the senders and the content/destinations in use is required in this case.
How can MNOs mitigate SMS job scams?
As spammers are continually evolving their attack methods and seeking to evade SMS Firewall protection, it can be challenging for mobile network operators to sufficiently protect subscribers. We recommend a managed SMS Firewall and Threat Intelligence service to build strong defences against new and evolving mobile network security threats.
AdaptiveMobile Security uses a combination of the threat event visibility provided by our globally deployed award-winning security platform, and our threat response expertise to offer advanced threat detection, maintaining a strong defence against messaging threats.
This is the first in our monthly spam blog series. Stay tuned to discover the latest tactics that scammers are using to penetrate mobile networks and defraud users.
With over 20 years’ experience in the areas of Internet messaging, mobile messaging and security, Stuart brings his passion for technology to bear on the security needs of over 2 billion subscribers as head of AdaptiveMobile Security Threat Intelligence Unit. With particular interests in algorithm efficiency and communications protocols, Stuart has implemented solutions for messaging and security from the early days of the consumer Internet to today.