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Employment scams

Employment scams

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How to avoid Employment and Work From Home scams

  • Never provide sensitive financial or personal information. Do not release your social security number, bank account or PIN, PayPal, or credit card information. There is absolutely no reason why a recruiter or employer would require any such information from you. Never impart any financial information. You will eventually have to provide your social security number to an employer -- when you're completing a job application or employment contract -- but do so only after you have validated that the company is legitimate. Terminate a call immediately if you are asked to provide personal or financial information or to pay a fee that you did not expect, and do not respond to similar written requests.
  • Don't agree to have your earnings direct deposited into your bank accounts from any new or unknown employer. While direct deposit is a much more efficient method for getting paid for your services, you do not want to grant any organization access to your account until you know it is completely legitimate and trustworthy.
  • Never agree to a wire transfer of any sort. Any mention of a wire transfer -- or sending money to make more money - should force an involuntary action to delete the message. No legitimate job opportunity is going to involve wire transfers.
  • Be wary of any recruiter who asks for money from you upfront in return for finding you a job or providing job leads. Legitimate recruiters get paid by the employers for whom they place candidates - not by the candidates. Furthermore, most of the scammers who ask you to pay for job leads will provide you -- if they actually do so -- with the same ones you could find on a search of Indeed or another job search engine.
  • Reject job postings or emails that state that no experience or expertise is required for the position. All legitimate job openings have some sort of job description that includes information about the education, skills, and experience required to qualify for the position.
  • Request more details from prospective employers who provide little or no details in their job postings or emails. Vague promises can be very persuasive, but the truth lies in the details - so request detailed information about the services they provide or the job they are hiring for. Request and review contracts carefully. Consult with a lawyer when you have serious concerns or questions.
  • Ignore postings that guarantee you a job - especially ones that guarantee you a postal or government civil servant job. These scammers basically provide you with information about the government exam - for a large fee -- that you could easily find for yourself for free.
  • Don't be swayed by amazing testimonials or money-back guarantees. These are simply marketing gimmicks designed to make you feel more at ease in falling for the scam. While testimonials can be real, even legitimate companies have been caught making them up. And money-back guarantees are worthless unless you have the time and money to sue - if you can even find the scammers to do so.
  • Harness the power of the Internet to research all job opportunities. Do a background check of the prospective employer with the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, and Internet Fraud Complaint Center.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for an online interview. If you are not certain you applied for the job, don’t engage in a session.
  • Call the company’s human resources department to verify that the company does, in fact, use the designated technologies to conduct interviews remotely and that the company has scheduled an interview for you on the date for which you receive a request.
  • Verify through the company that the person leading the online interview or engaging in follow-up conversations is a current company employee or has been hired to represent the company.
  • Trust your instincts: If anything about the way the job interview or hiring process seems suspicious, contact the organization directly on your own to confirm the legitimacy of the position before taking any further action.

How to recognize a job scam

  • Job offers from strangers. If someone offers you a job without getting an application from you first, meeting you, or doing an interview, it’s a scam.
  • High pay for simple work. Be wary if ads, emails, or callers promise to pay a lot of money for jobs that don’t seem to require much effort, skill, or experience. Usually, such offers turn out to be a scam.
  • Prompts to download documents or files. Files may contain malware that captures keystrokes or mouse movements, or that even takes control of your webcam. If a file is sent to you via a virtual platform, the safest move is not to open it and to end the session.
  • Requests for money. If someone wants you to pay a fee or buy something to get work, stop. This is a sure sign of a scam. Once you’ve paid, the scammer disappears and so does your money.  Criminals may ask you to pay money to cover application or enrollment fees, employment screening fees, purchase of materials or office supplies, shipping costs, training fees, and so on.     
  • If you wire a payment to somebody, it may not be possible to get your money back. Scammers may also ask you to purchase gift cards and provide the card’s code numbers or request other forms of payment that are quick and hard to recover, such as payment apps.
  • Requests for personal identity or financial information. Be very suspicious if an unfamiliar “employer” or recruiter asks for your Social Security number, birth date, bank account number, or other private information that could be used to steal your identity.
  • On-the-spot interviews or lack of preparation by hiring personnel leading up to the online session. Be wary of any request to do an online video job interview immediately, without any prior contact by the hiring organization. A legitimate online interview is generally preceded by initial outreach, as well as information such as interview time, names, and titles of those who may be on the call, among other things. A lack of advance preparation could be a red flag.   
  • An employer should never request your Social Security number prior to an interview. It is common for job scammers to try to get this critical information when pretending to hire the victim. Don’t give such details to anyone you have not investigated first or whom you have not met. If you have not met the employer in person, do not agree to a background check, which could put you at risk of identity theft.
  • Odd or poorly written text, including typos or unusual wording, on the online platform page or in other communication.
  • Fake checks. Some scammers send checks to cover the supposed cost of doing a job, with a portion to be used as payment to the worker. This is a technique often called an “over-payment” scam.   The fake check may look real and appears to clear at first, but soon it bounces – typically after the victim has spent a lot of money to benefit the scammer.   Even cashier’s checks and money orders can be faked by scammers, so beware of checks that are sent by unfamiliar people. Job scam victims can lose thousands due to fake checks.
    • If you cashed a check at a financial institution that was found to be fraudulent you will have to pay back the funds.  Federal deposit insurance does not cover losses due to theft or fraud. Depending on the circumstances and your state's laws, you may be held responsible for the entire amount of a fraudulent check that you cash or deposit into your account.
  • Pressure to commit to a job quickly or make equipment purchases.  Reject anybody who pushes you hard to accept an unsolicited offer of work, or who pressures you to take other actions that seem unusual, for the sake of a job. High pressure is always a sign that something is wrong.
  • Long-distance employer. Many job scams involve opportunities that seem to come from an employer located in another country or a distant state. Watch out! Scammers use this as an excuse to hide their identities. If the employer lists only a P.O. Box and does not provide a local street address, be wary: this is also a way of hiding that the scammer may be in a remote location.  However, be aware that there are also cases where bold scammers open temporary offices and conduct in-person interviews – and then vanish, after taking your money or identity information.
  • Suspicious emails. All unsolicited emails bearing job offers should be viewed with suspicion. If you receive a job offer in an email that comes from a free email service, such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo, it is very likely to be a scam. Most real employers will use an email address related to their company’s website address. Bear in mind that it is also easy for scammers to imitate an email address from a legitimate company.
  • Fake websites. If the company making the job offer has a website, check to see when the website was established. You can do this by entering the website address in a “WHOIS” lookup site.
    • If the website was established only recently, contains many language errors, or doesn’t work properly, it could be a scam.
    • If contact information for a physical street address for the business is missing or does not make sense, be cautious: a cellphone number and email address are not sufficient.
    • Don’t click on links that someone sends you to verify a company’s identity. Instead, search the web on your own with the company name and check location addresses online to see if they match the business.

I received a check from a new employer whom I met online. The employer needs me to send money back. 

This is a typical fraud scam, usually referred to as a “work from home scam.” They usually start with a job posting on an online platform such as a social media site, online marketplace, or career-building website. The ad will boast short and flexible hours, great pay, and little training. The job may have you wrap your car in an advertisement. Or it may involve you becoming a secret shopper. Either way, the new employer will mail a check to you. Then they’ll expect you to deposit the check into your checking account and use the funds to purchase equipment or pay for items for the job.

The employer will request you send the remainder of the funds back immediately. They may ask that the money be sent by Western Union or MoneyGram. Or they may request you send the funds through a prepaid or gift card. By the time the check has been returned as fraudulent, you have sent money to a fraudster who is waiting to take it so it cannot be retrieved.

If you’ve decided to work for an employer you found online, be sure to research them thoroughly. Look up the business online, call them, and ensure the company is legitimate. Do not call the phone numbers provided in the paperwork sent by the “employer.”

If you’ve received a check, following these steps will help protect you from falling victim to a fraudulent check scam.
  1. Did the check come with a letter? If so, read the letter carefully. Many fraud scams start with a letter and a check. The letter will have instructions to send money or purchase a money order. Do an internet search to find out if other people have received letters for the same purpose.
  2. Research the business that issued the check. You’ll find the name of the business in the top left-hand corner of the check. If you find a listing online, call the business and ask them if they issued the check. Do not call the phone number provided on the check or in the email as it could lead back to the fraudster.
  3. If you have trouble finding any information, take the check to the financial institution that issued the check and they will be able to verify whether it’s legitimate.
  4. If you have concerns that the check may be fraudulent, take it and the accompanying letter to the nearest branch of your financial institution to discuss with a manager or call them.

How to find real job possibilities

  • Search through reputable channels. Look at job listings on well-known, legitimate employment websites, as well as job openings posted on websites of companies where you might like to work. Check job postings that are available through your college’s career center. Work with reputable employment agencies (check to see if they are required to be licensed in your area). Ask friends and relatives to let you know of job opportunities.    
Visit our resources section for legitimate sites for finding and researching a job.
  • Stick to job opportunities that you have researched and applied for yourself. Avoid job opportunities that are offered by strangers who may contact you by email, phone, or social media. Do not respond to job offers that you did not apply for. Even when you are submitting an application, check to be sure that the job is legitimate before making contact.
  • Always check job listings to verify whether they are genuine. Be aware that even reputable websites and college career centers can have job scam listings posted, especially sites and bulletin boards such as Craigslist, where posting is easy to do and free. If you publish your resume on a job website, this can sometimes lead to unwanted contacts from potential scammers. 
Visit the website of the potential employer’s company by searching for it online. Check all the jobs posted on that website, to see if the job you are interested in is listed there. If it is not, that is a red flag that the job you are interested in might not be a real one.     
Do an Internet search of the company name with the word “scam” to see if any warnings from scam victims come up in search results.       
Check to see if the company has a track record with, in social media, or on websites such as Glassdoor where employees post reviews of their employers.      
Be aware that scammers also steal real companies' identities to commit fraud. Sophisticated scammers can create bogus checks and websites that look real. They may also use stolen names and photos of actual employees to help them convince victims that job scams are real opportunities.
  • Know which job types are often used in scams. Certain kinds of employment are frequent targets for scammers. Be especially cautious if seeking work in these fields: there may be real jobs available in rare cases, but scam jobs are much more common.        
Common job types targeted by scammers include caregiving, virtual administrative assistant, customer service representative, driver of an advertising-wrapped car, security guard, medical billing, processing rebates, envelope stuffing, re-packing, and re-shipping merchandise, posting reviews online or conducting online searches, secret or mystery shopping, forwarding or transferring payments, or other types of work-at-home employment. Some scam job offers may appear on websites specializing in caregiving professions.         
Also, some glamorous-sounding jobs may be high-scam areas, such as modeling, acting, movie or TV-related jobs, and sports or entertainment marketing.  Such scam jobs typically target people with no prior experience, which is a signal to be very wary.
    • Manage your social media accounts to protect yourself. Some scammers may try to gain greater access to your social media account to learn more about you, either to target you and your contacts with scam offers or to use your identity for scam purposes.
    Be cautious about accepting friend requests from people you don’t know, even if you have some friends in common. Accept invitations only from people that you have checked out or that you have met.
    You can set your social media privacy controls to limit the ability of strangers to contact you that way. This can help protect you against job scam approaches that come through social media.

    How to avoid fake recruiting scams

    1. Recruiters should never be asking for money.  Paying a referral fee is not a legitimate practice at all – the client always pays the fee.
    2. No one is going to tell you you’re perfect for a job or put you in touch with a company without interviewing you first.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    3. Ask the recruiter “What do they know about the client? What do they know about the opportunity? What is the time frame for hiring?” If they can’t give you clear answers, something isn’t right.
    4. Recruiters should never ask you to sign a contract or non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before an interview.  They will also never ask you for your social security number or banking account information.
    5. Research the recruiters. Do you have connections in common on LinkedIn? Do they have a detailed professional profile other than on their own site? If you Google them, are you finding complaints on scam warning sites?

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