An Elaborate Employment Con in the Internet Age
The story is an old one, but the tech gives it a bunch of new twists:
Gemma Brett, a 27-year-old designer from west London, had only been working at Madbird for two weeks when she spotted something strange. Curious about what her commute would be like when the pandemic was over, she searched for the company’s office address. The result looked nothing like the videos on Madbird’s website of a sleek workspace buzzing with creative-types. Instead, Google Street View showed an upmarket block of flats in London’s Kensington.
Using online reverse image searches they dug deeper. They found that almost all the work Madbird claimed as its own had been stolen from elsewhere on the internet—and that some of the colleagues they’d been messaging online didn’t exist.
At least six of the most senior employees profiled by Madbird were fake. Their identities stitched together using photos stolen from random corners of the internet and made-up names. They included Madbird’s co-founder, Dave Stanfield—despite him having a LinkedIn profile and Ali referring to him constantly. Some of the duped staff had even received emails from him.
Read the whole sad story. What’s amazing is how shallow all the fakery was, and how quickly it all unraveled once people started digging. But until there’s suspicion enough to dig, we take all of these things at face value. And in COVID times, there’s no face-to-face anything.