We here at Billshark know you’re savvy enough to avoid the countless job scams out there. The trouble is, the con artists spend all day every day coming up with new ways to cheat people out of their money. So realizing you may not be up on all the latest scams, we thought you should know about the very latest ways the crooks are operating.
Hard to spot
CBS news reported recently on a man who lost more than $35,000 after posting his resume on some jobs sites for work-at-home positions. A company responded, offering him a $72,000-a-year position as a “purchase clerk” to buy large quantities of electronics and ship them to overseas clients. They sent him an initial $2,000 to begin making the purchases, then told him to switch to his own credit card temporarily.
Of course, anyone would spot that immediately as a fraud, right? Except that the victim had thoroughly researched the company in advance, including checking out their website and their physical location in Sacramento. Except that the company sent him legitimate-looking tax and employment forms. Except that they gave him bank account and routing numbers he could use to reimburse his expenses. Except that he described himself as an educated world traveler who thought he was savvy enough not to fall for a scam. The company turned out to be bogus, and he lost thousands of dollars.
The problem with employment scams is that they’ve grown so sophisticated they’re becoming increasingly harder to spot. They show up on legitimate job sites, such as Google and LinkedIn. And they’re now the leading scam out there, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
This month the BBB released its 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report, titled “Tech-Savvy Scammers Work to Con More Victims,” which is based on data supplied by consumers last year to the BBB Scam Tracker. The BBB takes this information and employs a unique algorithm that calculates exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss. Using this method, it designated employment scams as the riskiest of 2018.
“This was a surprise,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report. “It’s the first time since we began this report three years ago that one scam dominated across so many demographic subgroups. It was the riskiest scam in three of the six age groups, for both men and women. It was also the riskiest scam for military families and veterans, and students.”
The BBB said one possible explanation for the increase was because Amazon, which was the sixth-most impersonated organization listed, was in the news so much last year due to its public hunt for a second headquarters, and that scammers glom onto newsworthy events to run their schemes.
“Scammers are opportunists,” Trumpower said. “Whatever is in the news or being talked about on social media, they see as an opening to imposter a recognizable and respected organization or brand.” Others listed include the IRS, Publishers Clearing House, Microsoft, Apple and—of all things—the Better Business Bureau.
Top employment scams
The most popular employment scams continue to be those offering to let people work from home, because it’s so easy with the Internet to create a false persona. It’s difficult to keep track of the numbers of work-at-home schemes (the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] shows over 400 results when searching for “job scams”), but here are some of the most popular:
- job offers for which you have to pay a fee;
- job offers that require personal data (social security number, bank account, etc.)
- helping a company transfer funds elsewhere;
- job interviews using IM accounts; and,
- job placement services.
“Employment scams are particularly egregious because they prey on people who are already feeling pinched and may be desperate for work,” Trumpower said.
The number-one warning sign of an employment scam is a requirement to pay the company money, often disguised as a “registration fee,” a “training fee,” or “materials fee.” A closely related sign is the company sending you money that you need to deposit in your checking account and then send on to someone else, or even return to the sender. You find out days later that the check you deposited is worthless, and you’re out the full amount.
Other warning signs are:
- job offers that come out of the blue;
- job offers that seem too good to be true;
- “interviews” that ask for personal information like birthdate, SSN, etc.;
- any requirement to provide bank account or credit card information;
- websites lacking the “https” or lock designation in the URL; and,
- little or no information about the company available during an Internet search.
The BBB offers these tips to help protect yourself from job scams:
- Be wary of unusual procedures. An on-the-spot job offer is a red flag. Legitimate companies will want to talk to you before they hire. In addition, be very cautious if an employer asks you to pay them for some kind of service before you begin your job with them.
- Watch out for unsolicited phone calls. If you can’t remember talking to a person who claims to know you in a voice message, be careful.
- Double-check job positions before applying. Before offering up your personal information in a job application, make sure the open position is legitimate. Visit the company’s official website and look for information about the job in question.
Finally, research, research, research the company, and never click on a URL in an email; type in the URL yourself. And if your gut tells you to run the other way, listen.
And to pick up some extra money legitimately, let Billshark review your bills to find hidden savings. We can save you time and money by negotiating with your monthly providers to save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And remember, our service is free to make the attempt. We charge only if we succeed.