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Job seekers fall prey to online fraud

By Zhao Ruinan | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-26 08:55

Phone scams among risks facing applicants

An online job search can be speedy, practical and rewarding - but also risky.

Several months ago, a job seeker from Guangdong province, who wanted to be identified only as Zhang, submitted his resume to an online employment service, only to receive a nasty surprise.

After being bombarded with more than 20 phone calls in just one day, he realized that his personal details had somehow been compromised.

Most of the callers told him they were looking for part-time employees who could earn a significant amount each day by doing little work. They then instructed him to download gambling apps.

"That's when I realized it was a fraud. What kind of company would trick me into downloading such apps to my phone?" Zhang said when he appeared on a television program in Shenzhen, Guangdong, on Oct 17.

He said he had no idea how such companies registered on the site could obtain information from his resume, because he had never applied to any of them directly for work.

"They seemed to know all about me - my name, phone number, home address, everything. I'm just wondering how they were able to get that kind of private information, which was only shown on my resume."

In April, Chen Qi, who lives in Shaanxi province, encountered similar phone scams after uploading her resume to online recruitment websites.

"I became so frustrated when answering the calls, which were either from loan sharks or rogue real estate agents," said Chen, who is in her 20s. "And some of the callers, whose voices I'd never heard before, asked if I was interested in buying insurance. I was harassed by them, because my personal information was not safe online."

Chen said many of the calls came from numbers identified by smartphone android systems as being related to scams.

But, frustrated with her phone ringing almost constantly, she sometimes answered it in an attempt to dissuade the callers by "chatting nonsense" to them.

Zhang and Chen are just two of the many victims of online resume scams, and lawmakers and legal experts have called for a crackdown.

In recent weeks, a report in China Youth Daily, a newspaper published by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China, sparked furious online discussion about resume leaks. Allegations have also emerged pointing to online retailers who collect job seekers' CVs illegally in order to secretly sell them.

A search for "resume" on Taobao found dozens of online stores selling templates for CVs. At first glance, they appeared to be only providing job seekers with consulting services, but they were also selling under-the-counter resumes - including private information.

These online retailers ask clients for their requirements before downloading and providing them with suitable resumes.

For example, a client could say that he wants a 24-year-old with a major in art design or a 35-year-old former accountant with five years' experience with a consulting company. With just a few clicks, several resumes matching the criteria are made available.

Those buying resumes can also access recruitment websites and send related page links to online retailers to download.

In addition to Taobao, Tencent's instant messaging platform QQ is another popular site for resume trading in a more covert way. A search on QQ for "resume trading", or similar key words, produces dozens of chat groups in which people are selling or buying downloaded CVs.

Resumes are priced by category. The most expensive are so-called first-hand ones, meaning that they are new and have never been sold before. They cost 1.5 to 2.5 yuan (21 to 36 cents) each. Others, including those that have been sold at least once, range from 0.5 to 1.5 yuan.

To verify the authenticity of sales, China Daily contacted several resume traders through QQ. The vendors were largely straightforward, but asked carefully which city the job seeker lived in, their educational background, if any experience was needed, along with other details.

Paying just 1.5 yuan a time, a reporter bought dozens of firsthand resumes, including those of job seekers trying to find work in fields such as design or teaching English.

Hao Zuocheng, executive director of the Center for Rule of Law and Social Governance at the Yangtze Delta Region Institute of Tsinghua University in Zhejiang province, said online resume trafficking is illegal because it infringes personal privacy.

The sale of resumes involves several forms of infringement, Hao said, adding that trading in stolen personal information is illegal, and that any money made from such transactions should be seized by law enforcement agencies.

According to the Criminal Law, if the circumstances are serious, selling or providing personal information can result in a maximum of three years' imprisonment. If the circumstances are especially serious, an offender can be sentenced to a term of three to seven years.

According to a judicial interpretation implemented on June 1, 2017, if an offender acquires and sells the travel itineraries, phone records, credit or property details of more than 50 people, this constitutes "serious circumstances".

A standard of more than 500 people represents "serious circumstances" involving the selling of accommodations details, communication records, health, transactions and other personal information that may affect the safety of individuals and property. For selling the personal information of others, a standard of more than 5,000 people is adopted.

Asked how he had obtained online resumes, a trafficker identifying himself only as Xiao, said they were all downloaded from major recruitment websites such as 58 and Zhaopin.

"All the information on the resumes is true and reliable. I've been in this business for a long time and have a good reputation," he said after sending China Daily a screenshot of chat records with a client to whom he had just sold 500 resumes.

Xiao said most resume traffickers register business accounts with recruitment websites and post job openings to attract applicants, allowing them to obtain information or directly download resumes before selling them.

Recruitment websites typically cater to two types of users: job seekers and businesses looking for suitable employees.

Companies attract applicants by registering and posting job openings. But the problem for the sellers is that only certified corporate accounts can post openings and download resumes.

The certification company also needs to prepare a business license. However, the traffickers seem to be able to get round these obstacles easily.

"You can always buy a business license online in a certain way," Xiao said. "As long as you tell me your request, I can always get a resume for you."

Legal experts said greater efforts must be made to prevent illegal resume trading and leaks of personal information.

They believe the platforms should strengthen the review of registered companies' qualifications to ensure that they are suitable, rather than fake operators searching for job seekers' resumes.

You Yunting, a lawyer and partner at DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, said that once users are registered, online recruitment platforms are responsible for keeping their personal information safe and ensuring their privacy.

"Platforms should provide certain data security guarantees and have strict review obligations. Once the websites find that the registered enterprises are illegally providing applicants' personal information to others, they should erase them and report them to police."

Chen Wenchao, an assistant judge at Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing, said that in addition to a safe and effective security system, strict internal management is needed.

She said that if a recruitment website is not strictly managed, there may be staff members who use their positions to resell personal information - as highlighted by a court case in the summer.

The case, on Aug 30 at Chaoyang District People's Court, involved the reselling of personal information. The defendant, named only as Zheng, falsified a business license and colluded with recruitment staff members at Zhaopin, illegally obtaining people's resumes and selling them by registering a fake business account on the company's website.

More than 160,000 resumes were downloaded, from which Zheng made about 1.5 million yuan. He was one of several people involved in the case sentenced to up to four years and nine months' imprisonment and fined 50,000 to 300,000 yuan.

Meanwhile, legitimate job seekers are finding that it is not always easy to protect their rights.

Chen Qi, from Shaanxi, said that although she felt helpless after the phone scams, she did not want to spend a lot of time safeguarding her rights and had no idea about the legal procedures involved in securing her privacy.

"I don't know how my resume was leaked. I don't know which government departments to approach in response to this situation, and I think that many people feel the same way," she said.

Chen Wenchao, the assistant judge, said the most difficult thing in tackling such online criminals is obtaining solid evidence. It is almost impossible for people to prove that their resumes have been leaked, because they don't have access to the databases and internal information of recruitment websites.

"If you don't get illegal operating traces from the websites, you can't figure out who - the website or a third party - is responsible for the leak," she said.

It is also difficult to assess the precise financial losses caused by the disclosure of personal information. Moreover, under the Criminal Law, it is not always mandatory to punish wrongdoers with a prison sentence or fine, and a case should be judged according to the degree of damage caused.

Zhang Qiang, director of student affairs at the International School of East China Jiaotong University in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, recommended that college students, especially university graduates, hand out their resumes at job fairs organized by universities or submit them on the official websites of companies where they want to find work.

"It is not safe for job seekers to submit resumes online," Zhang said. "Many people who use websites are job-hopping or looking for part-time work. Most students at our university tend to attend recruitment fairs that we have organized."

But Zhang said that if applicants have to resort to looking for jobs online, they must be cautious, and before sending their resumes out they should determine if the company physically exists, and more important, if it is a qualified and authentic business.

Meanwhile, the government has been tightening supervision.

According to an iMedia Research report, China's working population reached 900 million last year, with nearly 200 million people using internet recruitment sites, year-on-year growth of 15 percent.

Categorizing their negative experiences in using online recruitment platforms, nearly 35 percent of job seekers were most concerned that information provided about businesses was false, while nearly 32 percent said leaks of personal information were their greatest worry.

You, the Shanghai lawyer, said the government still has no valid measures to regulate or eliminate illegal trading in resumes, but as the legal system is further perfected, such offenders will not escape punishment.

In March, at the second session of the 13th National People's Congress, the nation's top legislature, it was announced that a bill aimed at protecting personal information had been placed on the legislative agenda.

Hao, from Yangtze Delta Region Institute of Tsinghua University, said the upcoming Personal Information Protection Law would tighten the standards of protecting private information and punish acts such as illegal trading.

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