This particular scam preys on the vulnerability of job seekers and is likely to become even more prevalent in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At one time or another, most working-age adults have faced the prospect of searching for a new job. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that employment/job scams were the riskiest scams facing consumers in 2019. Many individuals are facing uncertain futures and the rise in unemployment has led both scammers and legitimate job-seekers to employment websites.
Job scams can take many forms, but in general, scammers are usually trying to accomplish one (or more) of the following:
- Gain access to a job seeker’s bank account so they can steal funds.
- Access the job seeker’s personal information such as date of birth, social security number, and other personal information in order to commit identity theft.
- Perform an advance payment scam against the job seeker, in which they send the job seeker a fake check and ask for money back once the check has been deposited. These checks are later returned unpaid, leaving the job seeker with an overdrawn account.
Even the most careful and observant individuals can be fooled by a sophisticated con artist — especially during times of uncertainty.
If you are currently seeking employment, be aware of the following red flags that may be indicative of Job Scams:
- The job you are applying for is ‘Too Good to Be True’. Does the job posting promise an exorbitant salary and amazing benefits for a slight amount of work? Good jobs are hard to find, so if you come across a job posting that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- You didn’t contact them, they contacted you. If a potential ‘employer’ indicates they found your resume online and offers you a job right away, be aware. Scammers will try to entice you by saying that you’ve been hired, even though you’ve never heard from them before. While legitimate companies may contact you to setup an interview, gather as much information from independent resources as you can on the company before engaging with them.
- Vague job requirements or job description. Scammers try to make their job postings sound believable by listing simple job requirements such as: “Must be 18 years old, Must be a citizen, Must have access to the internet.” As a rule of thumb, if it’s a legitimate job posting, the requirements will be detailed and specific.
- Unprofessional job postings or emails. Job postings or emails from scammers can be well-written, but most aren’t. Real companies hire professionals to write and describe job postings or send communications. If the job posting or email contains spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or grammatical mistakes, be on alert. Additionally, most legitimate companies have their own email domain. If you receive an email from a personal email service (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) there is a high likelihood that this may be a scam.
- Online interviews via messaging services. Many job scams say the interview will take place online using an instant messaging service which may include instructions for downloading and registering software. Legitimate employers will not interview you over online messaging services (or only request to speak with you through typed messages). Downloaded software may contain malicious spyware.
- You get the job right away. After a quick phone or Instant Message interview, the ‘interviewer’ immediately contacts you to offer you the job. This is too good to be true and likely not legitimate.
- You’re asked to provide confidential information. Some scammers ask for your personal identifying information and your bank account details to set up direct deposit or to transfer money into your account. They may even directly ask for your digital banking credentials to do it themselves, or direct you to go to a website and fill out a credit report form so they can “put you on the company insurance.” A legitimate company should have a new employee orientation with the Human Resources department to discuss a variety of company policies including securely submitting your personal and banking information. A legitimate company will never ask for your digital banking credentials or provide you with theirs.
- Sending money or using your personal bank account. The most common scam includes a newly hired employee receiving a check through a legitimate mail service (like Fedex) from their ‘supposed’ employer or boss. Their boss will provide them with instructions to deposit the check, “keep” some of the proceeds, and to send the remainder to someone else. They may even request you to purchase travel arrangements or office supplies. Beware of these schemes as this is always done with a fake check and the scam quickly leads to an overdrawn account. Never use proceeds from anyone you don’t know personally. Contact the bank the check is drawn on or your own bank to help determine the legitimacy of a check item.
- They want you to pay for something. Legitimate, prospective, employers will never ask you for money. On the other hand, scammers will ask you to pay for software, a credit report, or even to have your resume reviewed. If you have been recently hired, you shouldn’t have to pay for anything up front.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Research the Company
Before providing personal information or agreeing to an interview, do your research on the company. If it is a legitimate employer, you should be able to find information about the company by doing an online search. Finding information does not guarantee the company is legitimate, but if you can’t find any information surrounding the company, proceed carefully.
- Research the Person Making Contact
If you know the company exists or are able to verify the company through research, make use of the contact information listed on the company’s website to confirm the person making contact with you is both employed at that company and authorized to contact potential employees.
- Do Not Provide Personal or Bank Information Via Email or Unsecured Methods
When arranging for Direct Deposit, you will share your bank account information. Be certain that only people who have a need to know receive your direct deposit information.
- Talk to a Trusted Source or Financial Institution
If you have questions about the legitimacy of an opportunity or job, talk to someone you trust. Having a family member or friend review the information in front of you can help. Similarly, feel free to contact your financial institution if you’re having trouble determining the legitimacy.
Researching the company is your best defense, but some scammers are very clever. If you start to feel that things aren’t right, trust your intuition, ask questions, and pay close attention to the answers. Slow the process down and don’t be pressured into making a commitment or giving out any personal information. If it turns out to be a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or to the Better Business Bureau.