Focus on latest job scams and fake career advancement grants: Internet Scambusters #815
A career advancement grant to improve your professional skills sound like a perfect deal -- but not if it's just a way of stealing your personal information.
It's just the latest trick in a series of new job-related scams that includes an allegedly fake business education program that netted $125 million from victims.
We'll give you the details in this week's issue, along with 7 warning signs of a job scam.
Let's check out today's...
Don't Let This Scam Spike Your Career Advancement Ambitions
Who wouldn't want a career advancement -- especially if someone offered to pay to help you get it?
That's a summary of one of the latest job scams circulating online -- a career advancement grant that plays to the ambitions of people wanting to get on in life.
Of course, it's not the first phony grant scheme we've come across. They're everywhere on the Internet.
And, like the rest of them, this one arrives in an unsolicited email claiming the U.S. government is launching a grants program to help people tailor their skills towards new job opportunities.
The next step is to apply for the supposed grant online by providing lots of personal details about yourself -- plus your bank account information so the grant can be deposited directly.
That's all the scammers need for identify theft as well as other personal information that can be sold on the black market.
This phishing trick is just one of a whole new batch of job-related scams to have surfaced this year.
According to Brie Reynolds, a senior advisor with an online job matching agency, there are about 70 fake job programs for every legitimate one.
She told financial magazine Forbes that a survey by her firm showed that, overall, more than one in five job seekers have been scammed, with millennials (those born between 1980 and the mid 1990s) most likely to fall victim.
The most common employment scams include work-at-home data entry and envelope-stuffing jobs, which usually ask victims to pay an upfront fee for training and materials.
Survey respondents also fell victim to offers of online reshipping (unknowingly passing on stolen goods), rebate processing, and product assembly scams.
Brie Reynolds suggests seven warning signs of a fake job offer.
- The job offer or listing doesn't include the name of the employing company.
- You're asked to pay upfront for something like training, supplies, or even an investment in the company.
- Some aspect of the job, whether it's the pay or the ease with which you can earn big money, sounds too good to be true.
- The supposed employer asks upfront for information like your Social Security number or confidential bank details.
- The email, ad, or job posting uses poor grammar or spelling, or the language otherwise seems awkward or over-friendly.
- When you check out the supposed company's name (you would do that wouldn't you?), it doesn't seem to match the nature of the job, or you can't find the name of the person who contacted you.
- Your gut feeling tells you something isn't quite right.
Another new email-based job scam, based on a variation of an established con trick, is a fake offer of payment to allow your car to be used for promoting beer.
The email seems to come from leading brewer Anheuser-Busch. It offers recipients $400 a week, plus $50 for gas, to promote Budweiser beer by putting stickers on your car -- an advertising practice known as "car-wrapping."
But this is actually an advance payment scam. Victims who "sign up" for the deal receive a check for a couple thousand dollars.
This is swiftly followed by a request to deduct the first $450 for themselves and forward the balance somewhere else -- such as the non-existent company that will provide the vinyl decals for the car.
You know the rest: You deposit the check, keep your $450, draw out $1,500 or so and wire it to the named company. Then the check bounces and you're left holding the baby.
So, we'd add one more to Brie Reynolds' red flags list: A request to wire money to an untraceable third party for the balance of a check you received.
For the past few years, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been running an education and action campaign about phony jobs called Operation Empty Promises.
It's carried out scores of enforcement actions to halt job scammers across the nation.
To give some idea of the scale of this crime, just this past June, the FTC halted an allegedly bogus online home-business scheme that cost victims $125 million.
The fake program told thousands of victims they'd be earning up to $20,000 a month by following a business education program.
The initial fee seemed reasonable enough -- $49. But after that, victims were allegedly told they needed to pay thousands more to take full advantage of the program.
In fact, the whole set-up seems to have been a pyramid scheme, in which members were eventually told the only way they could make big money would be by selling the training program to others. Pyramid schemes are illegal in the US.
A money-back "guarantee" allegedly turned out to be worthless.
If you'd like to know more about business opportunity scams, check out this guide from the Commission.
Whether you're looking for a work-at-home job, career advancement, or a seemingly sparkling, new business opportunity, watch out for those red flags -- and keep your wallet shut and your personal information to yourself until you know for sure it's genuine.
Alert of the Week
Staying with the FTC, watch out for a fake snail-mail letter claiming you've won $5 million.
The letter looks real -- with an FTC logo -- but the $5m is not. It's just another attempt to get you to pay to collect your prize.
The FTC doesn't award, certify or validate prizes. Enough said!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.