Job scams have become very sophisticated, convincingly claiming to be genuine employers, requesting interviews and even providing fake offer letters. If you’re applying for jobs online, you’ll need to constantly do your research before accepting an interview or job offer. This is the best way to protect yourself from these schemes that are designed to take your money – and personal information – instead of helping you make money.
Individual submissions to BBB’s Scam Tracker show that these clever new twists are increasingly being added to traditional job scams. In fact, according to the BBB’s latest Risk Fraud Tracker report, employment fraud has climbed to the second highest risk type of fraud after online purchases.
How the scam works: You apply online through a reputable third-party job search site. A few days or weeks later, you receive a text message or email asking if you are still interested in the position or similar at the same company. Since you provided your contact information to your potential employer when you applied, the message doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.
For example, one person told the BBB Scam Tracker about his partner’s experience with such a job scam. “He was contacted via text message by someone claiming to be with him [Healthcare Company] for a position he did not apply for. He did apply for another job, but not the one for which he was sought. He decided to answer in case there was any confusion. The writer said their name was Tara and they were contacting him because they wanted him to have an interview.”
If you reply to the message, the scammer will invite you to a job interview. However, this is when red flags start to appear. Instead of conducting a traditional interview, the “employer” asks you to download a messaging app and answer a few questions via text. You are then offered the position on the spot, with great pay and benefits. Your new “employer” may even send you a compelling offer letter. After your “job offer,” the fake employer asks you to fill out a form with your personal and banking information, claiming they need it for direct deposit. In other cases, the scammer may ask you to set up a home office with your funds or money, which they will send you with a (fake) check.
One job seeker recognized the scam, telling the BBB Scam Tracker: “It looked like a real interview and they even sent me a job offer letter that looked real. They were going to send me equipment to set up my mini office. However, a day later they asked me for money – $400 to get my office equipment to the nearest airport to my home.”
If you send money or share your personal information, it will already be in the hands of fraudsters. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get your money back, and your shared personal information puts you at risk of identity theft.
How to avoid fraud at work:
— Research the person who contacted you. If you suspect that the person contacting you may be a scammer, look them up. A quick online search should reveal if they work for the company they claim to represent. If you’re still unsure, call the company at a phone number you’ve confirmed is legitimate (not the one the rep provides). Make sure the person is an employee and that they are interviewing and hiring.
— Do more research on the company. You may have done this before applying for the position. Still, if you get a surprise interview offer, it’s worth doing more research to learn more about the hiring process, home office requirements, salary and benefits packages. If they don’t respond to your offer, you may be dealing with a scammer.
— Keep your personal information safe. Never give confidential information to someone you are not sure you can trust. Be especially wary if someone pressures you to reveal your information, saying that the job offer will only go ahead if you fill out all the forms.
— Watch out for overpayment scams. Many job scams involve sending fake checks with extra funds. Scammers ask their victims to deposit the check and send back the excess amount, hoping they will do so before they realize the check is fake and bounced. Legitimate companies will only send you money after you’ve done work for them, so be wary of jobs that involve receiving and returning money.
— Don’t fall for jobs that seem too good to be true. They probably are. If you’re offered a job – without a formal interview – with great pay and benefits, it’s probably a scam.
BBB’s next Shred Day is April 15th
A great, proactive approach to protecting your identity is to safely destroy and dispose of unnecessary documents and hard drives that contain your personal information. BBB is here to help with our Spring Shred Day. BBB will hold this free bi-annual event in partnership with the Times Free Press, River City Shredding, Resource 1 Tier 3 Data Security, Coca Cola Bottling Company and the Hamilton County Coalition on Saturday, April 15th from 9am to noon. (Crushing will finish sooner if the trucks are full).
The event will be held in the Coca-Cola Bottling Company parking lot at 2111 W. Shepherd Road in Chattanooga, which is located just off Exit 1A (Airport Exit) of the 153 Freeway.
It’s also a great opportunity for residents to get recycled electronics and outdated or unnecessary prescription drugs dropped off for safe disposal.
Please limit documents to three large garbage bags of documents per person. For more information, please visit bbb.org/Chattanooga or call BBB at 423-266-6144.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.