“All we need from you is good work and trust, you will enjoy every moment working with us.”
That was the fake job scammers’ promise, according to nonprofit watchdog Better Business Bureau.
The scammers were offering $22 per hour, $18 per hour for paid training. It was a work-from-home gig.
According to screenshots of text message exchanges provided to the News-Leader by BBB, the fraudsters also wanted to require April South, of Aurora, to set up a home office. She’d need equipment including an Apple laptop, a fax machine, scanner, laminating machine and a variety of software applications.
She wouldn’t have to pay for it. The scammers would provide South with a direct deposit into her bank account, to be used to buy the equipment.
“Are we still connected?” a scammer texted South, after she hesitated to turn over her bank account numbers.
She soon texted back, the screenshots show. “I’m sorry,” she wrote. South wasn’t comfortable handing out her personal financial information. “This is starting to seem less and less like a legitimate job offer and I am going to step away from this.”
Stepping away from anyone in the guise of an employer who’s asking for personal financial information is a great idea, said Stephanie Garland, Springfield regional director for BBB.
Fake job scams are on the rise while the world deals with COVID-19, she said. A new BBB study on fake job scams reports that an estimated 14 million people are exposed to employment scams every year, with $2 billion in direct losses annually. The desire to work from home and the labor market’s mismatch between jobs and workers available have given space for fraudsters to strike, Garland said.
“There’s a new generation of scammers advertising jobs on different job sites on the web and social media,” Garland said. “They’re reaching out to people who are posting resumes on job boards.”
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What used to be a form of fraud often found in print classified ads hawking offers to work at home stuffing envelopes or assembling goods now largely happens online, BBB said.
Victims are turning over their bank information, screenshots of their drivers license, Social Security information and other personal information that lends itself to stealing money or committing identity theft. “Whatever they think they need to send, in order to obtain the job,” Garland said.
Workers are especially vulnerable if they need to work from home or if the pandemic made them reconsider their career choices and look for a new job, she said.
“The scammers are getting more brazen,” she said.
In a new study released Thursday on fake job scams, BBB said victims reported that scammers often started engaging with them using well-respected career websites including Indeed.com and LinkedIn, highlighting the need for job-seekers to be vigilant when they post their resumes.
Janice Cummings nearly got snared that way.
She said she graduated from Missouri State University last year and promptly started putting her resume online in search of work. (She’s now in San Antonio, Texas in the early stages of preparing for a physician assistant program, she told the News-Leader this week.)
Cummings said it wasn’t long before a fake job scammer reached out to her.
“What they’ll do is they’ll contact you per email or per your phone number on the resume that you publish,” she said. “They’ll text to say, ‘hey, I reviewed your resume.'”
A job description that might sound too good to be true then followed. Then, Cummings said, “they kind of like, get your consent to say, ‘hey, yay or nay, would you like to interview later?'”
Cummings’ “interview” took the form of a text-based questionnaire using WhatsApp, a messaging app. She said she was being awarded “points” as she answered questions like, “what are the 10 qualities of a good employee.”
Cummings had no phone call, video meeting or in-person meeting — a hallmark for these types of scams, BBB reported. In another victim’s case, scammers used the internet to send a victim an image purporting to be the Missouri drivers license of the person who would interview the victim for a job, BBB told the News-Leader.
Cummings said in her case, “It was kind of weird because I was like, ‘hold up.’ This is not a real interview.”
Cummings said she never got to a point where the “interviewer” asked for her bank information. Suspicious, she started asking questions about the interviewer’s own credentials.
“They kind of didn’t respond, which was kind of weird.” Cummings decided the offer was fake and stopped interacting with the scammers.
She didn’t lose any money. But, she said, “It also kind of scared me like, wow, these people really have my information.” Cummings, like others interviewed by the News-Leader, later reported the incident to the Better Business Bureau.
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A ‘shipping manager’ gig that never paid
Ryan Boyd, who lives in Republic, described a different experience.
She said she was contacted by someone purporting to be a recruiter with a Scotland-based company, Logistics Matters LTD, who wanted to hire her as a work-from-home “shipping manager.”
Boyd said the company hired her on a 21-day probationary period, after which she was supposed to receive bonuses of more than $2,500 before being paid $610 per week. She was supposed to receive packages, inspect their contents — seemingly random items like parts for cars and motorcycles, a water purifier, a heating unit for a greenhouse — and keep records of how she sent them along to their destinations.
Boyd said she worked for the company for a few days longer than the probationary period, but never got paid a cent.
“Right there towards the end of my probationary period, it got pretty quiet,” she told the News-Leader.
The website of Logistics Masters lists an address in Scotland’s major city, Glasgow, that belongs to another firm that rents out office space to other businesses. Neither Logistics Masters nor the office-space company could be reached by deadline.
In BBB’s new report, the nonprofit said that in reshipping schemes, often stolen credit card numbers are used by scammers to buy expensive consumer items like computers or phones. Because retailers often only ship these items within the U.S., scammers enlist them to ship them elsewhere.
BBB’s new report said most of these goods are ultimately shipped to Russia. People snagged by reshipping schemes often face identity theft of their own and potentially scrutiny from law enforcement, BBB said.
There are a variety of other types of job scams. Sheila Jimerson, a Chestnut Ridge resident, told the News-Leader she reported a scam that involved fraudsters asking her to deposit third-party checks and money orders that were supposed to be payment for her to put a decal on her car that would serve as advertising. She never put any checks in her bank account, she said; it seemed obvious that someone wanted to use her account numbers to steal money.
Victims of fake job scams interviewed by the News-Leader said it’s important for job-seekers to be wary.
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“Regardless of how desperate you may be, and the crap that you’re going through in your life and how bad it may be, don’t ever not listen to your gut,” Boyd said. She had partly been motivated to seek new work because a family member was diagnosed with heart disease, she said.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Boyd added. “If it’s a company you’ve never heard of, do your research, and if they don’t want to (video call) you or meet you face-to-face, then it’s a scam.”
BBB said 54 percent of victims were unemployed, though 25 percent had full-time jobs. Almost one-third of victims did the work offered them, but were never paid, BBB said.
Women accounted for two-thirds of the complaints, possibly because women are more likely to communicate the issue to authorities and nonprofits. BBB said it was not aware of evidence that fraudsters were targeting women for these types of scams.
BBB reported that 16,879 complaints about fake job scams were filed with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center last year, 2,386 more complaints than the previous year.
While the number of complaints was up more than 16 percent, the amount of the losses reported to the FBI swelled to $62.3 million in 2020, up more than 46 percent compared to reported losses the year before, according to the BBB report.
BBB tips to avoid job scams
- Research the job offer. Call or go directly to the actual company’s website for contact information to verify the job posting.
- Check on businesses offering jobs at BBB.org.
- Do an internet search with the name of the employer and the word “scam” to see if there are reports involving job scams.
- Examine the email address of those offering jobs to see if it matches the protocols used by an actual company. Be alert to gmail business email addresses.
- Consider creating a separate email address when posting a resume on job boards or applying for jobs. This can help detect “offers” from scam employers you did not contact.
- Consider setting up a second bank account simply to handle pay for jobs where you have never met the employer in person.
- If you’re paying for the promise of a job, it’s most likely a scam.
- Be very wary of mystery shopping or secret shopper positions.
- Work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages are likely scams.
- Beware of jobs that involve receiving and forwarding money.
- Don’t fall for a fake check scam. BBB is not aware of any legitimate job offers that send checks to applicants and ask them to send money to a third party.
- Be cautious in providing personal information such as your full address, birthdate and financial information in your resume or to unverified recruiters and online applications.
- Be wary of vague job descriptions.
- Even if you do the work, it still may be a scam.
- Do not respond to calls, text messages or emails from unknown numbers or suspicious addresses.
- Do not click any links in a text message from a number you do not recognize. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
Where to file a complaint about a job scam
Reach News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman by emailing [email protected] Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.