Poor Economy, New Tricks Drive Up Job Scams By 500%

Bogus jobs, phony inside information and worthless training aim to relieve you of your money in these job scams: Internet Scambusters #331

As we predicted months ago, global recession and rising unemployment have prompted a massive increase in job scams.

Using bogus jobs, crooks are phishing for personal information as a prelude to identity theft.

Others are out to make a quick buck at your expense by pretending they can help you find work — for a fee.

In this week’s issue, we highlight four new job scam techniques and signpost others we’ve previously warned about.

Let’s get to it…

Poor Economy, New Tricks Drive Up Job Scams By 500%

Media bulletins, whether on the Internet, TV or in print, are saturated with reports of job scams these days as crooks seize the chance to exploit soaring, recession-driven lay-offs.

With US unemployment now around double-digit levels in many states, people are clutching at straws held out by scammers who don’t have jobs to offer, but who are getting increasingly clever at making it sound like they do.

They want to bilk their victims by charging fees for bogus job searches and phony work-at-home schemes or by gathering personal information that leads to identity theft.

Or they may want to snag you as an innocent accomplice in their criminal activities — which could land you in hot water, or even in jail.

According to security outfit Proofpoint, the number of spam messages containing job scams has surged by 500% in recent weeks.

And Staffcentrix, a firm that specializes in screening online job offers, says that less than 2% of work-at-home jobs advertised on the Internet are genuine.

We’ve previously covered work-at-home scams, like envelope stuffing, medical billing, pyramid schemes, and payment and rebate processing — and how to avoid them — in some depth in this two-part Scambusters special.

Top 10 Work At Home and Home Based Business Scams

Work At Home Jobs: How to Avoid Getting Scammed

We also covered job scams on cruise ships, and working as a financial rep or mystery shopper.

False Tips Sink Ships: How To Steer Clear of the Cruise Ship Jobs Scams

Financial Representative Job Scam

The Truth About Becoming a Mystery Shopper

Sad to report, all of these cons are alive and doing good business for their crooked perpetrators. If you’re looking for work, we suggest you check out these reports first.

But, as we said, the crooks are constantly updating their tricks. So, in addition to the job scams listed in those articles, here are four more tricks to watch out for:

1. Cash and product forwarding

Answering an ad or an email that says you have just the skills needed, this work-at-home scam actually makes you unknowingly become a staging post for stolen cash or goods!

You agree to receive money or items and forward them to your “employer” overseas. What you don’t realize is that these are the proceeds of auction or online purchase frauds.

These normally work in one of two ways:

  • The crook sells a non-existent item and the payment from the buyer comes to you; you forward part of it to the scammer, after deducting commission, via an untraceable money-wiring service.
  • The crook orders items with a stolen credit card. You receive them and ship them abroad, usually to a PO Box. A recent survey of eight legitimate online retailers showed that 5,000 people were hoodwinked into receiving and forwarding items this way in just three months. The total annual bill for this crime is said to be about $500 million.

In both cases, the first thing you know about it is when the police arrive on your doorstep after the victim complains.

Action: Legitimate buyers and sellers don’t operate via intermediaries. All, yes all, of these jobs are crooked. Says Barry Mew of the US Postal Inspection Service: “There’s no job at home receiving and forwarding packages. …People like to think there are jobs like that, and that’s why it’s so successful.”

2. Government jobs

Scammers know people are more likely to think “official” jobs are legit. So they use them, especially the US Postal Service, as a springboard for some of the other scams listed in this article.

A few months back, the Federal Trade Commission filed a court complaint against a firm that charged $120 to $140 for materials it claimed would help applicants pass a US Postal Service qualifying exam.

Another trick crooks use is to set up organizations and websites that have names very similar to those of government organizations. The sites are plastered with bogus job ads, but you’re asked to pay a fee for an application form or for more information.

Sometimes, the criminals use the job scam route to perpetrate another well-known trick — posting a phone number you’re supposed to call for more details. This turns out to be a premium line service with a long recorded message which will cost you a small fortune to hear.

Action: You never have to pay for information about job vacancies for federal, state or local governments or the US Postal Service. All jobs are publicly listed on their respective websites, at offices or advertised in local newspapers.

If an examination is required, the agency administering the examination usually offers free sample questions to applicants.

3. Identity theft

Phony job ads are just one of many ways criminals try to steal your identity. You can find out more about the scam as a whole by visiting our Identity Theft Information Center.

With job scams, the ID thieves have three main techniques:

  • They scour online job search sites and classified print and online ads for personal information about job seekers. They may get sufficient info from these or use them as a stepping-off point to build up a more detailed identity using Google searches and the second technique listed below.
  • Using spam or information about you gleaned from online sources, they contact you with a potential job offer, usually saying they’ve seen your resume online or that someone has told them about you. You may then be interviewed or simply sent an application form, but in either case you’ll be asked to divulge personal information about yourself.You may be told they need to carry out a credit check, for which they need personal information — plus a fee, payable by credit card. They may claim they have to scan your driver’s license for security purposes. Then they have all the information they need to steal your ID.
  • Simply advertising bogus jobs both online and in print and then trying to get your personal details as above.

Action: Never post your Social Security number or bank details online. And don’t divulge them in an application form or to a potential employer until you’ve thoroughly checked them out and have accepted a job offer.

Ideally, don’t give your home address or other personal information (e.g., marital status) online either.

If someone you don’t know or have never heard of contacts you out of the blue with a job offer, it’s a scam.

4. Pay to work

It’s not illegal to charge someone for finding them work but it’s not the normal way businesses operate and you’re unlikely to find a job this way.

Even before the recession began, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said it was receiving 6,000 complaints a year about headhunters and employment and placement agencies. And that was probably only the tip of the iceberg.

Mostly, people who charge a fee either have no more idea than you do about where to find work, though they may circulate your resume as a pretense of having taken some action to earn their fee.

Sometimes, they simply invent a non-existent job to get your money. Here are some other tricks they may try (all for a fee of course):

  • Producing lists of jobs for which you’re not qualified.
  • Pointing you to jobs which are thousands of miles away.
  • Claiming they have exclusive access to job lists not available to the general public.
  • Offering to polish up your resume to make you more “saleable.”
  • Encourage you to submit dishonest job applications.
  • Offering coaching to help you pass entrance exams for particular jobs.

Action: Listen to the recent comment from Chris Thetford, Director of Communications for the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois: “I’ve never met anyone who had to pay to get a legitimate job.”

Enough said.

Battling to find a new job in the current economic climate is nobody’s idea of fun. But, if you’re one of the people doing this, please don’t make it worse for yourself by falling for the scams we’ve outlined here.

Put simply: Don’t let your guard down or you’re more likely to fall for these job scams.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!