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Large-Scale ‘Instacart’ Hacks Pushing Gig Workers in Despair

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  • Hackers are now targeting Instacart accounts that have been doing pretty well during the pandemic.
  • Gig workers are increasingly targeted by phishing actors who employ social engineering.
  • The platforms appear indifferent to restore the accounts once they’re deemed risky by their algorithms.

There’s a wave of hacks targeting gig workers who rely on platforms like Instacart to make ends meet, and according to numerous reports that come from victims, there’s really no way to deal with them once they get you. Because the pandemic has created a boom for online shopping, grocery delivery and pickup services like Instacart have exploded, welcoming tens of thousands of new shoppers. These people have found a way out of the lock-down-induced unemployment, and they were happy to be able to support themselves and their families again.

Hackers though were quick to take note of this activity, as they always do, and launched various targeted phishing campaigns against these people. If these accounts were making money, they were valuable, and hackers are after anything that they can potentially exploit to divert money into their pockets. The hackers steal the users’ data, take over their accounts, and drain their earnings, all by phishing security codes to log in and create shopping orders.

As many Instacart shoppers report, if you fall victim to this, the platform will sooner or later deactivate you. To make matters worse, most find it impossible to get their accounts back to normal status even if they follow the advised procedure and give all the proof they are asked for. Instacart just seems to rely solely on an algorithm that handles these flags, so if an account has a suspicious activity like logins from two remote locations, for example, it will be very hard to reinstate.

But Instacart isn’t the only space where crooks are engaging. Last week, Vice reported about an uptick in hacking attempts against gig workers of Shipt, Target’s delivery platform. A large number of reports from Shipt users mention the reception of password reset emails, indicative of account takeover attempts.

These emails were followed by calls over the phone, where scammers pretended to be Shipt employees needing to verify the user’s account. For this, they asked the code that was emailed to them, allegedly as a result of a centrally-controlled verification process. The scammers then added a credit card to the victim’s account and emptied the balance by transferring the entire paycheck into their pocket.

In all cases, the responsibility to protect these accounts burdens the gig workers themselves. Even in the case of Shipt, where the 2FA step is in place, it isn’t something that simple yet effective social engineering cannot possibly overcome. If you are making money online on Instacart, or any other platform, beware of scamming attempts and remain vigilant against phishing actors at all times.



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Uber Eats, Peers Given Deadline to Abandon Gig-Worker Model in Spain

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By Adam Clark

Uber Technologies Inc. and other operators of food-delivery platforms in Spain have three months to change their current gig-labor models, the Spanish government said on Tuesday.

Ministers approved a law to regulate the employment conditions of delivery workers who work via digital platforms such as Uber Eats or Amazon.com Inc.-backed Deliveroo PLC. The approval begins a countdown for companies to convert their workers from independent contractors into employees by mid-August.

The new regulations could be an important precedent as the European Union is consulting on rules on platform work across the bloc this year. Uber, Deliveroo and local delivery startup Glovoapp23 SL had campaigned for a deal which would avoid reclassification of workers, similar to arrangements reached in France, arguing the majority of couriers would prefer to be self-employed.

“This regulation will directly hurt thousands of couriers who use food delivery apps for much-needed flexible earnings opportunities and made it clear they do not want to be classified as employees. It will also impact Spanish restaurants that increasingly rely on delivery solutions to make ends meet,” a spokesperson for Uber said.

The companies will now have to consider how to implement the changes to their business models. Couriers’ groups said the most likely solution will be for the companies to subcontract workers via fleet-management companies.

The subcontracting model is already used by major European food-delivery platform Just Eat Takeaway.com NV but would likely result in relatively higher costs for Uber and Deliveroo, which have a greater proportion of restaurant deals where they handle the logistics of delivery. Uber said last month that it would use fleet-management companies for the planned expansion of its Uber Eats service to Germany.

“We want to be a long-term partner to Spain and are exploring different options to adapt our delivery business to the new regulation,” the spokesperson for Uber said.

Write to Adam Clark at adam.clark@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-11-21 0846ET

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Local chef creates app to connect gig workers with hospitality jobs

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Connecting gig workers to hospitality jobs in Charleston is now easier than ever thanks to the app, Gigpro. It was created by a local chef, Ben Ellsworth, along with three others. The app lets anyone apply for and book jobs for just a single night at a time. It’s a fast and easy way to fill open shifts without committing to full employment with a business.

The hospitality industry is facing a detrimental shortage of workers with both back-of-house staff like line cooks and dishwashers as well as front-of-house staff like servers and bartenders.

The idea came to Ben Ellsworth, who’s been a chef in Charleston since 1998, as he stared at a pile of dishes in the Royal American kitchen during a shift when the dishwasher called out. He says the lightbulb switched on when he checked his cell phone.

“I got a notification on my phone that someone had booked my Airbnb and I said out loud ‘I wish he had booked to wash these dishes.’,” said Ellsworth.

That’s when Gigpro was born.

Nearly 150 Charleston businesses and over 2,000 workers have joined the platform since its initial release in late 2019. In the first month of beta testing, 36 gigs were booked and in the second month, 86 gigs were booked.

Now Ellsworth says around 200 gigs are posted to the platform each week.

There are only a few simple steps to set up Gigpro and begin picking up shifts. Download the free app, create a profile with a resume, fill out insurance information and add a payment method. A restaurant will post a shift with information like date, hours, and pay, then workers on the app can scroll through and apply for a job. If the employer finds a good fit for the night, the job will be booked. After a worker completes the job, payment is sent through the app two to three days later.

“Everybody that’s on the platform gets covered with occupational accident insurance,” explained Ellsworth. “Which takes the liability off the business and keeps the pro safe.”

He says the occupational accident insurance is about $0.38 per hour. Many gigs pay $15 to $30 an hour.

It’s a big help for employers working to fill shifts when employees call out or when staff is short.

Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms has been working with Gigpro for just over a year and recently has been booking workers most weekends.

“It’s a great tool to have in our toolkit,” said Manny Montes, the assistant director of HR at Wild Dunes Resort.

In some cases, at Wild Dunes and other businesses, workers have been asked to stick around.

“There’s actually two people that we connected with originally on the app that we’ve ended up offering positions to stay on board with us as actual employees,” said Montes.

Gigpro is a way to get some fast cash and help out businesses that are in dire need of staff.

“I would say right now that our biggest mission is to try and get more money in the pockets of the workforce in this industry. I’ve heard from multiple businesses that we’re working with that we’re kind for the only thing that’s moving the needle and getting help in the door,” said Ellsworth.

Gigpro is officially expanding to Nashville, TN and Charlotte, NC and Ellsworth hopes to add more “food eccentric cities” to the list soon.

For more about Gigpro, click here.

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Rep. McHenry introduces Gig Worker Equity Compensation Act

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U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced legislation that would include the gig workforce in the category of workers who can benefit from equity compensation.

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The Gig Worker Equity Compensation Act (H.R. 2990) would help gig workers share in the economic resurgence while preserving their flexibility and independence.

“How people choose to work is changing. Our technology-driven economy is embracing this shift, Washington needs to keep up,” McHenry, the Republican leader on the House Financial Services Committee, said. “By giving these non-traditional workers access to equity compensation—just like traditional employees—we can ensure they benefit from the growth of the companies they are making successful. While Democrats attempt to stifle this growing sector of the workforce, my bill ensures they retain the flexibility they need while giving them the opportunity to grow wealth. This is a win for our capital markets, job creators, and gig workers.”

McHenry points out that about a quarter of the U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy or non-traditional work — whether as a rideshare driver, food delivery courier, or sharing their property through a platform like Airbnb. Further, about 10 percent of workers rely on alternative work arrangements for their primary source of income. These workers do not want to be bound by constraints like an office, set hours, or a traditional employer-employee relationship. This bill seeks to provide additional flexibility to support these workers.

In November 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to propose rules to provide equity compensation options for gig workers. McHenry welcomed this initiative and is committed to working with the SEC to implement his broader proposal.

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