Avoid falling victim to employment scams

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Avoid falling victim to employment scams

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The Idaho Department of Finance is warning job seekers to be aware of employment scams in light of a recent consumer complaint received by the department and the continued prevalence of these scams across the state.

In the first quarter of 2022, US consumers were defrauded of $68 million as a result of fake business and job opportunity schemes, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Although this is not a new threat, it continues to have a devastating impact on victims, resulting in monetary damages, identity theft and even unwitting participation in criminal schemes such as money laundering.

“Employment fraud is egregious because it targets individuals who are intentionally seeking to improve their financial future,” said Patricia Perkins, director of the Idaho Department of Finance. “It is especially important that users take precautions to verify the identity of job postings and the position before committing.”

Employment fraud occurs when cybercriminals trick job seekers into believing they have a potential job, then use their role as an “employer” to extract the desired information or action from the victim. These criminals pose as employers or recruiters online, similar to legitimate employers, through job websites, advertisements on social media channels, newspapers, or may communicate through unsolicited emails or text messages. They entice job seekers with glossy descriptions or low-effort, high-reward proposals.

According to a consumer tip from the FBI, cybercriminals often impersonate a company’s website by creating a domain name that is similar to a legitimate company, then post fake positions on popular websites that direct job seekers to apply on the fake sites. Applicants are contacted by email for an interview using a teleconferencing application. After being interviewed, victims are offered a job, usually as a home-based job.

To appear legitimate, criminals may send victims an employment contract to physically sign and request copies of victims’ driver’s licenses, social security numbers, direct deposit information, and credit card information.

Criminals may request payment up front for expenses that will later be reimbursed, such as background checks or startup equipment, but once they receive money, criminals cease communication.

Alternatively, in a recent consumer complaint received by the department, the victim responded to a job posting on social media, securing what was described as a “project management position.” A few days after depositing their first earnings check, the consumer receives notice from their financial institution that the check has bounced, resulting in a significant financial loss to the individual; this is also known as “fake check fraud”. Fake check fraud often occurs in connection with employment fraud; the user receives a check with instructions to deposit the funds and is instructed to repay the excess funds by purchasing gift cards, bank transfer, or investing in cryptocurrency. Eventually, the check bounces and the user is required to return the funds.

Consumers should be aware that a cleared check does not equal a good check. Financial institutions are required by law to provide funds soon after a deposit is made, and it may take several days to determine whether an instrument is counterfeit.

Before you start looking for a job or respond to an offer, consider these guidelines

• Never provide personal information in advance. If you’re asked for your social security number, driver’s license number, or financial information before the offer, the job is likely a scam. Even if the request for information comes after a formal offer, be vigilant to verify the employer’s identity in person or via video before sharing personal information, even after an offer has occurred.

• Be skeptical of unclear communication from a potential employer. Scammers typically avoid direct questions and face-to-face contact, such as face-to-face interviews or secure video calls. Watch out for interviews conducted via teleconferencing apps that use email addresses instead of phone numbers. This could be a red flag.

• Research the company or name of the person claiming to be hiring you. Search terms like “fraud” or “complaint” for more targeted results. Fraudsters often pose as legitimate companies, so check every communication for inconsistencies such as slightly changed domain names, web addresses, spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors. Try to confirm the legitimacy of a job posting by cross-referencing the company’s website for the same job posting.

• Beware of any job offer that requires payment. If a potential employer requires payment as a condition of employment, this is a scam.

• Discuss the job offer or business opportunity with a trusted third party before proceeding.

If you suspect you are a victim of employment fraud

• Immediately contact your financial institution or the account holder that was used to transfer payment (bank transfer, crypto platform, etc.) and report the fraudulent or suspicious activity. Request that all transactions be stopped or reversed, but be aware that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to recover funds lost as a result of fraud.

• Keep copies of all communications with fraudsters and report them to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov/Home/ComplaintChoice and the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

• If applicable, report the activity to the website where the job posting is listed and to the company the cybercriminal impersonated.

• Visit IdentityTheft.gov for a personalized recovery plan, including how to monitor your credit.

• Update personal passwords, enable multi-factor authentication when possible, and update your computer’s security software if an attacker has remote access to your computer.

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