Scams and Tribulations: An InStyle Magazine Job Offer Scam

Just this past week I woke up to a slurry of excited texts from my younger sister, exclaiming that she had been scouted by InStyle Magazine and invited to be a makeup artist for an editorial shoot. My first reaction (as was hers) was of excitement. I was so genuinely happy for her as this represented an opportunity that could be so impactful for the career she is working towards.

The e-mail read:

At first glance, this seemed like an offer too good to be true. And of course, you have to come at things like this with a bit of scepticism. But my sister, like many others working towards a career in the beauty and fashion industry, puts a lot of her life as well as her work on social media. She has an entire Instagram page dedicated to makeup looks she’s created on herself and others, as well as a YouTube channel full of tutorials on how to create her looks. We are in a new age, where portfolios can be accessed and shared so simply, and where businesses have transformed their entire marketing strategies to utilize this online community, which makes it somewhat believable that someone of that calibre could be offering her a job in this manner.

What emerging beauty gurus share on their social media platforms, is no far cry from the amount of personal information others put on the internet; there are no phone numbers or addresses, which are classically thought to be the dangerous tidbits for online predators to latch on to. The only stark contrast is their openness with their career goals. This seemingly innocent detail, which in today’s day and age is so necessary for their success at freelance work, has made them a unique target for this specific scam.

In all of the excitement, I googled the name of this editor Marianne Mychaskiw, and when it popped up in my google search bar before I had even finished typing it, I almost didn't even think to continue. When I scrolled through and all of the links, there was nothing mentioning a scam. Everything I found only made me even more excited for her, as they were credible links confirming Marianne was indeed an Associate Beauty Editor for the magazine.

After the novelty was a little less fresh I opened the screenshot my sister had sent once again, but this time I honed in on some details I hadn’t caught before. The e-mail did not address her by name, it simply said Hi. It also came from a Gmail address rather than a professional Instyle domain. I wanted to believe it was legit, especially after the results of my first google search, but as an older sister, I felt the need to dig a little deeper, because I knew my sister wanted to believe it more than I did and likely wouldn’t do the same.

I started with searching for the email address and was unsuccessful at finding any form of direct contact for Marianne. Then I searched “Marianne Mychaskiw job offer” and sure enough the first but only link that was remotely related, was a blog post by Scotia Kauppi of Sweet Cherry Spa entitled “Watch Out for Job Offer Scams”. This woman detailed the exact same e-mail only signed off by a different InStyle Editor and scouted from Model Mayhem rather than Facebook. Kauppi originally posted this article in November of 2016, and detailed how she contacted security at the Rockefeller Building (where InStyle is located), and even got in touch with the editor whose identity had been co-opted to confirm the e-mail was a scam. I must commend her for all her efforts and especially for taking the time to write about her experience as her blog post really was the only thing I could find out there on this topic.

It wasn’t until after countless search combinations that I found she later did an interview with CBC about the incident where she shared: “I got worried for other people who are freelance makeup artists. This is how you get jobs and it's hard to tell what's a dangerous job offer and what's a scam, and what's a legitimate job offer." 

What makes this so scary is what the scam intends to achieve, unlike a scheme to nab a credit card number or Social Security information, this presents an opportunity for a face to face encounter with the scammers, opening up a whole range of dangerous possibilities from assault to abduction.

My sister, like Kauppi, went on to email back expressing interest (out of curiosity more than anything), and again the emails they received were almost identical:

She was actually given a date and location to meet this person. With no certainty can I say the scam’s ultimate goal, but this seems to be a scheme to lure young women. Kauppi in her article even suggests the possibility this is a lure into sex trafficking, citing multiple news reports of missing women, rape and human trafficking in connection to Model Mayhem, the website InStyle supposedly used to scout her. After further prodding on Kauppi’s part, a third correspondence revealed a financial element to the scam in which she was required to purchase supplies from Nancy Rand of Touch Cosmetics (whose name also checked out).

All this to say, please be wary of who you are in contact with on the internet. Always look at things you are sent with a careful sceptical eye, watching out for:

  1. Unprofessional email addresses
  2. Messages that can have easily been sent to masses of people – not addressed specifically to you
  3. Inconsistencies in information given
  4. Offers that seem too good to be true
  5. Requests for credit card numbers, e-transfers or personal banking/identifying information (SIN numbers, passport numbers, driver’s license numbers etc.)

This incident has been reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Stay safe, and for more information on spotting or reporting an internet scam feel free to consult the following links:

 

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/online-scam-modelling-1.3856005

https://sweetcherryspa.com/2016/11/16/watch-out-for-job-offer-scams/

Cover Image obtained from: http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/12370435/how-to-avoid-new-equifax-scams

Article images by Claire and Olivia Butler