As more people search for flexible employment opportunities during the Coronavirus pandemic, the Better Business Bureau® (BBB) warns that scammers are targeting victims in need using scam job postings, fake recruiter emails, and work-at-home schemes. Learn these steps to better protect yourself and your loved ones from job scams.
The #1 Riskiest Scam, According to the Better Business Bureau
According to the BBB Risk Index, which measures exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss based on reports to BBB Scam TrackerSM, employment scams ranked as the riskiest scam in 2019.
Here’s how an employment scam might work.
Scammers post an online ad for a fake job opening or send an email or text from a fake employer--sometimes impersonating a legitimate business or government agency. If the victim takes the bait and applies for the position, a phony hiring manager may reply, even conducting an interview through Google Hangouts or another chat service. After the victim is “hired,” the so-called employer may charge the victim upfront for training, ask for personal and banking information under the ruse of a credit check or direct deposit signup, or use other tactics in an attempt to get the victim’s money or personal or financial information.
Scammers sometimes search for potential victims on job boards. Others scammers may pay to have their ads or fake websites appear at the top of search results. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), fraudsters are also preying on financial fears tied to the pandemic and using robocalls to promote COVID-19 themed work-from-home scams.
Scammers May Pose as Recruiters
In another version of an employment scam, job seekers are targeted by criminals posing as recruiters claiming to work for an established recruiting firm or hiring on behalf of a well-known company. The scammers may even research the victim on social media, so they appear to be legitimate. Victims may be asked to provide personal information for background screenings or to submit information via a fake recruiting website.
Other employment scam tactics may include:
- Directing job seekers to a website to fill out a credit report form or to provide information in order to receive company insurance
- “Accidentally” overpaying victims with a fake check and asking victims to deposit the check and wire back the difference
- Requiring that job seekers buy expensive equipment and supplies to work at home
- Asking to use a job seeker’s personal bank account to transfer money from one account to another account, which could be against the law
- Offering victims a job as a warehouse redistribution coordinator or similar title involving the reshipment of packages, which often involve stolen goods
Steps to Better Protect Yourself Against Job Scams
- Be wary of work-at-home opportunities and generic job titles - According to the FTC, job ads may promote a variety of work-at-home opportunities, such as online businesses or shipping or selling goods and services, but many of these jobs are scams. Experts advise job seekers to always be wary of work-from-home opportunities, secret shopper positions, or any job with a generic title such as administrative assistant or customer service rep.
- Research potential employers - The FTC advises that job seekers research potential employers through a local consumer protection agency or state Attorney General, either of which may be aware of complaints about a particular scam. Also consider searching online for the potential employer’s name, email address, and phone number.
- Pay attention to URLs and email addresses - Experts warn that sophisticated scammers may have convincing-looking professional websites. If the job posting is for a well-known brand, consider checking the real company's job page to see if the position is posted. If a job seeker is contacted via email, they should pay attention to the email address, as scammers may use a personal email address or an email address that closely mimics that of a real company.
- Use caution with unsolicited messages - It’s recommended that job seekers use caution with unsolicited messages saying that an employer or recruiter found the candidate online. A legitimate recruiter may initially reach out via LinkedIn or another platform, but the communication will typically switch to email and phone.
- Look for poorly worded job descriptions or communications - A scam job description may have grammatical or spelling errors or may lack industry-specific language. If the job description or related communication contains spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or grammatical mistakes, job candidates should be on guard.
- Don’t pay to get a job - Scam job opportunities may ask job seekers to pay for an application, a background check, or processing fees, or may request personal identification information prior to completing the hiring process. Some scammers ask for the victim’s bank account information to set up direct deposit or transfer money to their account.
- Request an interview - The BBB recommends that candidates beware of job offers made without first having an interview. Although candidates may not be able to meet the hiring manager in person right now due to the pandemic, a request for an interview over video conference will often help confirm if the job opportunity is legitimate or not.
- Beware of pressure to hire immediately - Scam job openings may claim that they want to hire very quickly—even immediately. Although some companies, such as Walmart, are attempting to hire new employees quickly due to the current pandemic, a legitimate hiring process normally takes some time.
- Don’t believe ads for previously undisclosed federal government jobs - According to the FTC, information about federal jobs is available for free at usajobs.gov. Be wary of any offer to provide special access or guarantee a job for a fee.
- Safeguard personal and financial information - The FCC advises never to share personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone. Be cautious if there is pressure to share any information or make a payment immediately.
- Confirm background checks with the company directly - If asked for a background check, it’s recommended to contact the company directly to confirm they are requesting a background check.
- Get all details and contracts in writing - A legitimate recruiter will provide you with a complete contract for their services including the total cost, services provided, who is responsible for payment (the job candidate or the employer), and what happens if the candidate does not find a job. For a direct hire, candidates will likely receive a formal employment document that outlines the terms and conditions including the compensation and benefits.
If You Believe You Have Been a Victim of an Employment Scam
- If you believe you have been the victim of an employment scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and to the Better Business Bureau