Author Archives: aps

How to combat business e-mail compromise scams

A human resources representative at a small mining company received an e-mail purporting to be from the CEO and requesting employees’ W2 information. That rep—who had been trained on the risk of e-mail fraud just a month earlier—complied, providing the requested data to the source via PDF.
Fishing hook catches email.The problem: It was a business e-mail compromise (BEC) scam. Because HR hadn’t taken the time to confirm the request, highly-sensitive employee data was now in the hands of fraudsters.
The potential fallout from such a mistake is significant. Employees of the breached organization and their families are now at risk, as the scammers could monetize the stolen information by filing false tax returns with workers’ compromised Social Security numbers, as well as access past tax filings to steal personal data on spouses, partners, and dependents.
With the employee having recently been trained on avoiding such scams, HR also could face challenges. Some are questioning how seriously the department takes security issues, and the trust that employees and the leadership team put in the organization’s HR professionals has taken a hit.
BEC scams have been around a long time but they’ve become more sophisticated in recent years. These old scams are getting new twists, largely due to social media and the widening availability of valuable business information. Hackers can now gather insight online into how a business is run and who’s who in the hierarchy.
Fraudsters are able to target their scams to specific individuals, using their names and sometimes even nicknames, and they know who in the organization is likely to have the authority to request highly sensitive information. They also know to hit a business when things are busy, impersonating high-ranking people within the company and quickly extricating cash or data while everyone is too swamped to notice.
The W2 scam is a popular flavor at the moment, but other common BEC variants involve requests for wire transfers of large sums of money—either to a third-party “business partner” or sometimes to the supposed requestor directly—or for help in accessing other valuable accounts or internal systems.
Even with their increasing levels of sophistication, these attacks can still be avoided. Fortunately, HR is perfectly positioned to deploy some choice strategies that can help prevent the organization from becoming a BEC victim.
The risks of BEC
Criminals stand to reap big financial gains any time an organization falls for a BEC scheme. Wire fraud losses, for example, vary widely. Some companies have been being impacted for as little as $5,000, others a whopping half a million dollars. These scams hit companies big and small, and the FBI’s figures show the average loss to BEC victims is $130,000.
Near-term monetary rewards are the primary objective in most BEC scams, but cyber thieves may also target valuable data such as bank routing numbers, personnel lists, or salary details.
Other threats associated with BEC include the compromise of network credentials, which are often heavily guarded and can be difficult and time consuming for criminals to crack. This makes gaining quick access to internal databases and financial systems a tantalizing prospect for a determined crook.
With a well-crafted BEC, it may be much easier for a cyber thief to trick an unwitting employee into divulging passwords and protected account information than it is to hack into a system the old-fashioned way.
Why is BEC a threat to HR?
Human resources typically holds a privileged position within the organization. Executives share highly sensitive information—strategic, legal, and financial—with HR. In turn, it’s not uncommon for an executive to request the assistance of HR in a matter that requires a quick response or discretion in seeking additional approval, and that trusted relationship is exactly what cyber-thieves prey on when executing a BEC scam.
Compounding matters is the fact that HR is often the gatekeeper for the types of data these criminals use to initiate their ruse. Human resources is commonly the department that verifies employment and maintains personnel records. They also often have contact information and other details about board members, another layer of data that cyber criminals sometimes target.
In all, these scammers count on the recipients’ fear of disobeying upper management and they know that targeting employees who handle sensitive data offers the best chances of success. This puts the bull’s-eye squarely on the HR department.
Preparing the HR team against BEC scams
A solid preparation strategy is key in the fight against BEC threats. Since BEC scams are caused by human error, rather than a technology weakness or sophisticated hacking techniques, they often fall into the gray area between the IT and HR groups. With its focus on human capital, HR can step up and play a critical role in minimizing exposure to cyber threats by educating employees on these avoidable threats.
The first tool HR should leverage is education, both within the department and across the rest of the company. Employees must be aware of the risk of BEC and have the knowledge necessary to avoid becoming a victim.
In addition, the entire workforce should know what to do if they suspect a BEC exposure has occurred. The steps to limit BEC risks aren’t complicated, but some may not be obvious to employees trying to quickly respond to what appears to be valid, time-sensitive requests from senior-level management.
First, advise the executive and leadership teams that they should only use their company-provided e-mail account for potentially sensitive work-related activities. On the flip side, warn employees about the dangers of acting on any message that originates from a Google, Yahoo! or similar free e-mail address, as it’s far easier to forge e-mails using a service that’s outside the IT department’s control.
Employees who would normally process wire transfers, vendor invoices, incoming customer payments, and employee payroll need to be on the lookout for changes to established routines. Put protocols in place that require workers to verify any modification regarding where vendor payments are sent or who has authorization to increase signatory levels. Multistep verification processes are encouraged for wire transfers so that fraudulent transactions can be spotted and stopped.
The HR team can take steps internally to help protect the organization from becoming a BEC victim. Cyber criminals commonly use social media to harvest data about which individuals would make good targets and how companies operate, and HR professionals must be judicious about posting information about employees or the company’s dealings. Personal information on high-ranking leaders should be kept to a minimum, but even knowing who to contact within the HR team could get hackers one step closer to successfully carrying out a BEC scheme.
Given the tremendous level of financial and reputational harm that could befall a company that’s stricken with a BEC scam, organizations may also want to consider additional support tools. Cyber liability insurance is available to help provide protection from monetary damages and many policies include proactive tools such as assistance identifying weak processes and educating employees about good information security practices.

Lehigh Valley’s Best Employment Agency

For the 13th time, Allied Personnel Services has been named the Lehigh Valley’s Best Employment Agency in The Morning Call’s Reader’s Choice awards!

2019 marks Allied’s 35th year serving the Lehigh Valley, and we are humbled by another Reader’s Choice win.  The commitment and hard work of our staff and temporary employees continues to set Allied apart as the top staffing service in the Lehigh Valley.

Thank you to everyone that voted for us!



Nonprofits as First Steps

From The Wall Street Journal


imagesWhile her friends interned at big investment-banking firms, Molly Heitzman chose a summer job in 2009 with Fundación Paraguaya, a microfinance company in Asuncion, Paraguay. She believed that giving the poor access to basic banking services was an effective way to fight poverty, and she’d also gain some global work experience.

The nonprofit was experiencing an abnormally high 13% loan default rate so Ms. Heitzman went out to investigate the problem. She discovered that many small businesses had defaulted because of poor to nonexistent accounting practices.

“I proposed a program that would school borrowers in the business basics of marketing, accounting and saving money,” she says, uncertain as to whether the organization used her ideas.

Ms. Heitzman’s efforts actually made a stronger impression on Deloitte Consulting in Minneapolis, which hired her for a full-time job as a business analyst a year later in 2010.

Although career experts say college graduates will continue to face a tough job market in the new year, volunteering for nonprofit work like the Peace Corps can fill an experience gap and provide a competitive advantage. That’s especially the case since nonprofit work can be like an accelerated management course. Volunteers are often pressed into management and administrative roles they might otherwise not attain for years at for-profit companies.

First, find a nonprofit organization that you’re interested in working with since commitment to the job and the cause is important, says Mark Lonergan, founder of the Redwood City, Calif.-based recruiting firm Lonergan Partners.

“Any way you can show that you genuinely applied yourself in a very important way can count as a very important component of any résumé,” he says. “Employers want to know that you were serious about the work.”

Seek out roles that offer transferable experience. Managing volunteers, for example, to build an irrigation system in Honduras is relatable to many different for-profit job duties. Working as a museum docent may be harder to sell.

Be prepared to aggressively promote and even defend your nonprofit experience during interviews. There is still a stigma associated with nonprofit work at some companies, career experts say.

Turn your more esoteric experiences into a narrative that illustrates how you overcame obstacles and achieved goals. People respond well to stories. Highlight the intangibles that employers are always looking for during interviews.

Emphasize your flexibility, communication skills and ability to deal with ambiguity, says Patricia Tourigny, vice president of talent acquisition for Avon, Conn.-based Magellan Health Services. “We don’t see a lot of entry-level résumés with that kind of experience, but when we do, we take notice. And we’re always looking for it.”

The pay for volunteer work may be negligible but full-time volunteers can defer or even have federal student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program from 2007. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t help with private student loans.


Interested in exploring non-profit careers?  Allied works with a wide range of not-for-profit organizations in the Lehigh Valley.  Check out our job openings and apply today!

Summer Hiring

Summer is right around the corner! Your busy season may be coming, vacations may be looming, and interns may be knocking on your door. This year think about how Allied can help you make summer hiring a breeze.

Allied has a network of new and returning college students that can help you:

  • Meet peak production times by supplementing your staff
  • Ensure shipping deadlines are met by covering staff vacations
  • Complete projects you’ve saved for later
  • Cover your front desk during vacations

Do you already supplement your staff with the use of interns?  Check out these guidelines for unpaid interns and make sure that you follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Consider offering your interns a modest hourly rate and payroll them through Allied. We can: 

  • Screen, on-board, and pay the interns you’ve recruited  
  • Handle employee paperwork and payroll processing
  • Ensure compliance with all applicable employment laws

For more information or suggestions on how you would benefit most fully from our summer offerings, contact us.  We can help you get the most out of your summer help. 

First 90 days: Helping New Hires Start Off on the Right Foot

Setting an unachievable bar for new hires is unproductive for the long-term health of your company and your employees. While it’s reasonable to hope that new hires will hit the ground running, regardless of their skill level and experience, employees just starting out are entitled time to onboard — and will benefit greatly by you providing a career roadmap for their first 90 days on the job.

So how long is a fair amount of time to allow them to get up to speed?84619535-welcome-new-employee

A majority  (54 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed for a recent Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey said they give new hires less than 3 months to prove themselves. Another 9 percent of respondents said they give new hires less than 30 days to prove themselves.

Clearly, the burden of success during the first 90 days doesn’t rest entirely on employees’ shoulders. It’s in your company’s best interest to set your new hire up with the tools needed to succeed and become a productive member of your team. Ensuring that you avoid the costs of a bad hire begins with the candidate vetting process long before a job offer is made.

Here are five tips managers can follow to bring new employees into the fold and help them thrive in their new role.

    Make onboarding a priority

You worked hard with human resources to craft an accurate job description, sift through applications, interview candidates and negotiate an attractive offer. After you pause and pat yourself on the back knowing the hiring process is behind you, now’s the time to help the new employee get acclimated with the work environment, office technology and duties.

You’ve already laid the groundwork by having IT set up the work station and voicemail before they arrive. You’ve contacted campus security about scheduling your new employee to get a new ID badge and office keys. Onboarding is the component that continues your work and will help your new hire be more productive and, with any luck, more inclined to stay with the company.

   Elements of a successful orientation strategy
Structure. Onboarding periods vary depending on an individual company’s needs, but it’s wisest to begin with a schedule. This will enable staff members involved to understand their roles and budget appropriate time. You should also provide new hires with a schedule so they know what the expectations are for the first few days and weeks on the job.

A proper welcome. Make it a priority to introduce new hires to their immediate colleagues and others at your company with whom they will interact on a regular basis, and encourage tenured workers to reach out to them. This period of icebreaking will be beneficial to both sides.

Education. During the first 90 days, encourage new employees to learn as much as possible about the company, its history, priorities and best practices. During this time, provide new hires information in digestible bites on special initiatives, products and services, major clients, dos and don’ts, quarterly and annual goals, and, most importantly, how their role contributes to the overall organizational picture.

    Set targets for success

During the starting weeks, provide new hires with tangible short- and long-term goals to work toward in their first 90 days. It’s easier for new hires to hit targets when they know what to aim for. Explain that this list of goals will be part of their 90-day performance review.

    Provide regular feedback and an open-door policy

Don’t make new hires wait until their annual review for an assessment of their performance. They need praise and constructive criticism at regular intervals. Schedule frequent check-ins during the first 90 days to recognize successes and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Most new hires, especially members of Generation Z, crave consistent and frequent feedback. Envision this time as a training ground for your company’s future top performers. Encourage them to come to you with questions or issues.

5.    Be on the lookout for warning signs

In an ideal world, every new hire would be a perfect fit. In reality, that’s easier said than done. Even if you’ve avoided making hiring mistakes, sometimes you just don’t know whether an employee will work out until they’ve been tested in everyday work situations.

During the first few months, be on the lookout for red flags, which include:

  • Absenteeism
  • Missed deadlines
  • Poor performance on assignments
  • A negative attitude
  • Conflict with coworkers
  • Complaints

If you notice any of these characteristics in the first few weeks, don’t wait to see if things improve. Take action immediately if you want to salvage this hire. Poor performance could be an indication of either inadequate training on your part or a lackadaisical attitude on the employee’s part, but you won’t know until you dig deeper.

Meet with your new hire and construct a plan for improvement, with benchmarks. If there’s no improvement over a set period of time, then you’ll have to cut your losses and terminate them for the good of client relations and team morale.

It takes time and effort to get new hires off on the right foot. By providing them a clear roadmap, you and your team can help new hires quickly acclimate to the workplace culture and become contributing members.


Source: in2vate 

Professional Career Opportunities

Allied is more than just temporary staffing! We are also a leader in the staffing of Office & Professional roles for companies across a diverse set of industries within the Lehigh Valley.  And working with a professional recruiter can transform your job search!

Here are just a few of the roles we currently have available:

images-1HR Manager

Senior Operations Manager

HR Generalist

HRIS Analyst

Staff Accountant

QA Documentation Coordinator

Network Engineer

Desktop Support

Project Coordinator

Corporate Recruiter

These full-time positions are all located in the Lehigh Valley and offer the chance to work with some of the best companies in the area. If you are interested in one of these openings, please email your resume to for immediate consideration.  (Haven’t updated your resume recently?  Check out our tips for giving it a refresh!)

The Psychology behind New Year’s Resolutions

imagesNew Year’s resolutions are usually based on forming new habits or changing current habits. This means changing human behavior and that is, by far, one of the hardest things to accomplish. Why? There are many reasons, but here we will focus on two; negative motivation and enduring the entire process of change.

Negative Motivation – Many people’s motivation comes from negative thinking such as fear or guilt. You have much better odds of long-lasting success when the motive is positive. For example, your motivation to start exercising comes from a feeling of guilt or fear that not exercising will negatively affect your health and could develop into disease. This thinking may get you started, but the motivation for long-lasting success isn’t there because there’s nothing to feel excited about, especially when the actual effort of coming up with an exercise plan day in and day out starts to wear on you.

It is much more likely that you will form lasting change if you attach your negative thinking to positive thinking and a positive goal. For example, “I know I need to exercise so that I don’t become unhealthy, but I also feel great physically and mentally and rid myself from stress when I exercise. Plus I really want to look more like I did 5 years ago.” This positive thinking gives you something to look forward to rather than only something to avoid.

The Process of Change – Most of the time, in order to change behavior, you have to undergo a process and there are several stages, each which take time, but are necessary. According to an article by Harvard Health Publications entitled “Why behavior change is hard- and why you should keep trying” these are the following stages…

Precontemplation. This is the stage where you have no conscious intention of making a change. People in this stage tend to avoid discussing and thinking about the unhealthy behavior or may be unaware of how unhealthy the behavior is. BUT, your interest could be sparked by outside influences, such as a public health campaign or a concern from a doctor, friend, or family member. You can’t move past precontemplation, until you feel that the unhealthy behavior is hindering your life.

Contemplation. At this stage, you’re aware that the behavior is a problem, but you’re still not quite ready to commit to action. You are probably fluctuating, weighing and re-weighing the pros and cons. You may be considering how you could overcome some of the obstacles.

Preparation. At this stage, you know you must change, believe you can, and are making plans to do so and soon. You’ve taken some preliminary steps — joined a gym or fitness class and bought a new pair of sneakers. At this point, it’s important to anticipate obstacles and create a real action plan with realistic goals. What obstacles may arise?  You have no time? You’re too tired? What are the solutions to these obstacles? If you’ve been sedentary a long time a realistic goal may be to start with 15 minutes of walking a day and you can move up from there.

Action. At this stage, you’ve made a change (Yay!) You’ve started exercising and you’ve begun to face and overcome the challenges that come with trying to plan exercise regularly. You’ll need to practice the solutions you identified during the preparation stage.

Maintenance. Once you’ve practiced the new behavior for six months, you’re in the maintenance stage. Now your focus shifts to integrating the change into your life and preventing relapse into your old ways. This may require other changes, especially avoiding situations or triggers associated with the old habit.

One frustrating thing is that the track between stages is rarely straightforward. A lot of people relapse at some point in the process and end up in a previous stage all over again. Sometimes when people are in the maintenance stage they will find themselves back at the contemplation stage. This is common and each time it happens you will need to reevaluate your strategy and tweak it to work better moving forward.

Source: Occupational Athletics, Inc. OAI

Do your New Year’s resolutions include a career change?  Apply with us today for a positive start to your 2019!