Student work scammers exploit emotions and inexperience of victims: Internet Scambusters #652
Student work seekers could land themselves in serious trouble, losing big money they can't afford and even ending up on the wrong side of the law.
We explain how this happens and what you can do to avoid the latest con tricks in this week's issue.
We also report on a new angle for bogus bank and mortgage impostors who might turn up on your doorstep.
Let's get started...
FBI Issues New Warning on Student Work Scams
The FBI has issued a renewed warning about the latest wave of student work scams.
Most of us would probably like a little more money but students are among the hardest-pressed groups and are regularly on the lookout for ways of earning extra cash.
Crooks know this and, having no mercy, regularly exploit this need. At the same time, they make the most of the fact that younger age groups tend to sometimes be less streetwise and are more easily taken in by con tricks.
We reported on these tactics in an earlier issue covering summer jobs, 10 Telltale Signs of a Summer Jobs Scam.
Some of the stories that scammers put together are pretty convincing too, tugging on the heartstrings of their victims.
For example, a couple of months ago, a student trying to find money to put herself through school in the San Francisco Bay Area responded to an ad on a legitimate site specializing in jobs for nannies, babysitters and home-care providers.
The supposed job, which paid $18 an hour, was for a nanny. The out-of-town advertiser, who said she was moving to the Bay Area, told a tragic tale of how she had lost her husband and a 4-month old child in a car accident.
Her surviving child, she claimed, was deaf and wheelchair-bound and needed constant support.
The young student was genuinely upset by this tale of woe, which put her in exactly the right frame of mind for the scammer to strike.
You can probably guess what happened next. The student was "hired" without an interview.
Then she received a check for $3,000 supposedly to include her first pay installment of $300, with the balance to be forwarded to a wheelchair company so the equipment would be available when the mother and child arrived in the Bay Area.
Fortunately, the student's bank put a three-week hold on the check. But when she informed her new "employer," the scammer switched tactics and said she needed a $500 loan.
That was enough to alert the student and this scam attempt had a happy ending with no money lost.
The site on which the student found the job -- care.com -- acknowledges that scammers are targeting people in their line of business and that scams "have initiated" through their website.
Mostly, these are overpayment and advance fee scams and the organization offers tips on how to spot a scam and how users can protect themselves.
Find this information at Care.com and Scams: How to Avoid Babysitting Scams.
Meanwhile, as we said earlier, the FBI is becoming increasingly concerned about work-from-home scams targeting students.
The Bureau explains: "Students have been receiving emails to their school accounts recruiting them for payroll and/or human resource positions with fictitious companies.
"The 'position' simply requires the student to provide his/her bank account number to receive a deposit and then transfer a portion of the funds to another bank account."
Behind the scenes, the crooks trick an unsuspecting employer into redirecting an employee's paycheck to the student's account.
Then, of course, the student, not knowing where the money came from, innocently transfers it to the crooks.
"Innocent" the student may be, but from the FBI's perspective, the student is an accomplice to the commission of a crime.
Once they become involved, the victim's bank account is usually identified by law enforcement as being linked to crime.
"Participating in the scam is a crime and could lead to the student's bank account being closed due to fraudulent activity or federal charges," says the FBI.
"Without the student's participation, the scam could not be perpetrated, so he/she facilitated the theft of the paycheck.
"The student could be arrested and prosecuted in federal court. A criminal record will stay with the student for the rest of his/her life and will have to be divulged on future job applications, which could prevent the student from being hired."
Of course, even if you're not a student, almost anyone could be targeted by these types of scams.
Protect yourself by following this advice from the FBI:
- Job offers that seem too good to be true usually are.
- Don't accept a job that involves depositing money into your own account and then transferring it somewhere else.
- Check on spelling and grammar in the job offer. If it's poor, it's probably a scam.
- Don't give your bank account details and other confidential information in reply to a recruitment email.
- If you get a message with this sort of job offer through your school/college email system, report it to the IT department and warn your friends.
And if you've already fallen victim to this student work scam, report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Centre.
Alert of the Week
Watch out for an unusual phishing trick in which scammers actually call at your front door with documentation claiming you must call your bank regarding your mortgage account.
In some cases, the crooks leave door hangers with the message "Important. Please Call," followed by a toll-free phone number.
Victims who call the number are asked for their bank account details and Social Security number, which are then used for identity theft.
If you receive this sort of document, don't call the number. If you're worried, call your bank or mortgage company independently to check that everything is in order. And, of course, report the incident to the police.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.
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