Last-minute summer jobs hunters face higher scam risk: Internet Scambusters #501
The further we get into the summer jobs season, the higher the risk of getting caught in a scam.
Most of them involve tricks to part you with your money, but some set out to steal victims' identities.
In this week's issue, we highlight the most common summer jobs scams and explain how to spot them and what you can do to avoid them.
Let's check out today's...
10 Telltale Signs of a Summer Jobs Scam
Summer's here -- and so are the summer jobs scams that go with it.
And the bad news is that the further we get into the season, the more likely a temporary job offer will turn out to be a scam.
That's because many legitimate summer vacancies have been filled by now.
Scammers know this. And they know that students and other temporary job seekers are more desperate to find that elusive employment.
Several state Attorneys General have already issued warnings about summer jobs scams and, sadly, the media are full of stories about victims who have either lost a lot of money or have given away personal information that can be used in identity theft.
Here's a rundown of the most common summer jobs scams, how to spot them and actions you can take to avoid getting caught out.
Advance Fee Scams
This is a variation of the well-known check cashing and money wiring scam. In this case, the trick involves receiving a check in connection with a job you've been offered, with a request that you cash it and wire part of it back to the sender or to a third party.
This year, to make the job and the check seem more genuine, scammers have taken to passing themselves off as belonging to a religious organization -- notably a pastor traveling around the country -- or summer camp organizer.
Victims get a worthless check to cover services they're supposed to perform, like booking venues or events, and must wire the cash to the supposed service provider.
They deposit the check in their own bank account, withdraw some or all of it and wire the cash to the "provider," who is, of course, the scammer.
The check bounces and the victim is out the amount of money they withdrew.
There have been numerous reports in the past couple of months of bogus employers seeking a payment for drug tests, job uniforms, credit record vetting and other supposed expenses.
This may be for a relatively small sum -- $50 is common -- but job seekers who pay by credit card may also leaving themselves open to...
All sorts of ruses are used to try to fool job applicants into giving up personal information.
For example: Providing credit card information for the sort of payments outlined in the previous item, or simply requesting bank account details and Social Security numbers in application forms or phony job offer letters.
Recurring Phone Charges
This is a real sneaky summer jobs scam.
Victims are invited to complete an online application form, which includes a request for a cell phone number.
Hidden in the fine print -- or maybe not disclosed at all -- is the fact that what you're really doing is signing up for a monthly subscription service like ringtones or jokes.
Work from Home Scams
This is probably the most common type of job scam, a subject we've covered in depth in the past in our article, Top 10 Work At Home and Home Based Business Scams.
Most of the bogus jobs on offer this summer include forwarding of illegally-obtained goods ("mule" scams) and refund claims (often a variation of the advance fee scam mentioned above).
Students are a popular target for phony door-to-door sales of magazine subscriptions and artworks.
You may actually receive payment in the form of commission to keep you innocently working for the crooks, but you could be selling non-existent products and become entangled with law enforcement.
Telltale Signs of a Summer Jobs Scam
Here are 10 signs that suggest a supposed summer job is really a scam:
- It looks like easy money -- the pay seems too good to be true.
- The offer is unsolicited -- you haven't even advertised your services or posted on a job site.
- The "employer" doesn't seem interested in your qualifications or background. They don't ask for references or details of past experience.
- The job description is vague. If you ask questions or seek more details, you don't get them.
- The "employer" refuses to meet you and you have no contact details beyond, maybe, a cell phone number.
- Their email address is generic -- that is, it comes from the likes of Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo!, rather than from a company.
- You're asked to provide personal information at a very early stage of the recruitment process.
- The job description or offer is written in poor English, with spelling and grammar mistakes.
- The "employer" claims to be either out of the country or traveling around.
- You have to pay some kind of expenses upfront.
How to Avoid a Summer Jobs Scam
Being wary of the points outlined in the previous section should provide you with a firm foundation against being scammed with a bogus job offer.
Four other things you can do are:
- Check out the supposed employer carefully. Having what appears to be a legitimate website means nothing. Try a search using their name and the word "scam." Ask for a full address and landline phone number plus contact details of other employees.
- Simply don't pay in advance for anything. Most, if not all, genuine employers would never ask for this -- and certainly not until the final stages of a job offer. And never, never, never wire payment to someone you don't know.
- Don't supply personal information until you've had a job offer AND you're 100% sure it's genuine. Don't include personal contact information in a job-wanted posting -- instead use a service where replies have to come through the jobs board.
- Read the fine print on any application form or job contract you receive.
Do these four things, look out for the telltale signs we have listed, and you should be well placed to defend yourself against summer jobs scams.
Tens of thousands of people have fallen victim to a recent identity theft scam that claims a Government stimulus program will pay your utility bills.
Victims receive an automated phone call asking for personal information including Social Security Numbers. They subsequently get a check in the mail, which prompts them to tell their friends about it.
The check bounces, but by then their friends have already been roped in, which is why the scam has spread like wildfire.
Be warned -- and let your friends know: There's no such utility bills stimulus program.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.