Follow these steps to avoid a Covid-19 work-at-home scam: Internet Scambusters #906
Work-at-home jobs could be the future for many people in the wake of the Coronavirus lockdown. But they're also the source of a new batch of scams.
In this week's issue we cover all the main actions you can take to avoid home-job-related con tricks.
And if you've found work as a grocery delivery person, we have a warning for you about "tip baiting."
Let's get started...
Coronavirus Scammers Target Work-at-Home Job Seekers
Among the millions of people forced to stay home, hundreds of thousands who've lost their jobs or suffered a pay cut because of the Coronavirus lockdown are likely seeking work-at-home employment.
Even if things start resuming and reopening, many will never go back to their old jobs and are thinking about reframing their lives and careers by working from home longer term.
And since work-from-home schemes have always been a well-practiced con trick, the Covid outbreak is a golden opportunity for scammers. People desperate to find work, often facing financial difficulties, are highly vulnerable, and you can be sure the crooks will show no mercy.
While it may be true that more and more firms are looking to employ people as freelancers or independent contractors to work from home, their opportunities are easily outstripped by those from the con artists.
The most common red flag that signals a likely work-from-home scam is an offer of big money for what seems to be a relatively easy job or small amount of work. Often, fake job ads include phony testimonials from people claiming to be earning thousands of dollars every month.
Or they fail to mention that in order to jump on the bandwagon of whatever work they're peddling, applicants have to pay for supplies, training, registration or any one of many other ruses to get their hands on your case.
Worse, some of the scams are actually fronts for criminal activities. These are the type of jobs in which the victim has to forward packages abroad or cash checks and wire the proceeds to an untraceable destination.
These forwarding or "mule" jobs are invariably the final stage in which other victims have been tricked earlier into paying money to scammers or have had their card details stolen and used to buy goods online. Although usually innocent victims, mules can find themselves on the wrong side of the law, potentially facing a jail sentence.
Pay a Fee
And then there's the simplest of all work-from-home employment scams: people claiming they can find you work if you pay them a fee.
Getting caught out by one of these scams usually happens at the worst possible time -- like after a Coronavirus job loss or furlough. It's prompted the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue a renewed warning.
"Ads offer a variety of work-at-home jobs - internet businesses, shipping or mailing work, selling goods, and more," says FTC attorney Lisa Weintraub Schifferle. "But many of these 'jobs' are scams, aimed at getting your money, and won't deliver on the claims they make."
Taking a cautious approach can help you avoid these tricksters. Here's how.
• Don't believe an easy or big money at-home job ad. It's almost certainly a fake.
• Never pay upfront to anyone claiming they can find you a job. Reliable employment agencies earn their money from employers, not employees.
In particular, watch out for fake federal government jobs. Often these are posted by scammers posing as job finders; they label the work as "previously undisclosed" jobs -- implying that they somehow have privileged access to this work, so they want payment for it. In reality, information on government jobs is free from usajobs.gov.
• Don't pay in advance for supplies, equipment, training, medical/drug tests or anything else that's supposedly a requirement before you can start work.
• Thoroughly research any individual or organization offering work to find out if they're legit. What do others say about them? Do they have a verifiable business address?
Under its Business Opportunities Rule, the FTC requires work-from-home employers to give candidates a "disclosure" document with key pieces of information you can use to check them out.
• Beware of unsolicited contact from a potential employer. They may say they found your details on a jobs board. If you didn't post them, you know it's a scam. If you did post them, follow the step above.
• Don't work for someone who offers you a job without apparently knowing anything about you and without them interviewing or checking you out.
Likewise, don't be convinced by a phone or video interview that a potential employer is legit. You still must check up on them.
• Don't provide information about yourself to someone you haven't thoroughly checked out. For example, they may say they need your bank details so they can forward payment when they're really identity thieves.
• Don't accept a job offer that involves forwarding goods or money. You may get paid but that's no good if you're behind bars.
Finally, there are several sites that list legitimate work at home jobs, such as FlexJobs. Find others using an online search on a term such as "legitimate work at home companies."
You can also learn more about the most common fake work-from-home jobs and how to spot them here: FTC Work-at-Home Businesses.
Coronavirus Scams Update
In a recent update on Covid scams, the FTC said it had received more than 20,000 complaints by mid-April and that victims had reported losses of more than $15 million. The real numbers are likely significantly higher since many scams go unreported.
Among the latest tricks is another scam perpetrated by unethical folk and aimed at people who've found work with the growing army of grocery home delivery providers.
It's a new scam called "tip baiting." When placing online orders, customers enter a big tip as an incentive to the delivery service, perhaps to get preferential treatment or delivery of difficult-to-find items.
When the item is delivered, the customer invents some kind of complaint and reduces or wipes out the tip, which can often account for half of the deliverer's total pay.
If you're a delivery person, there's not a lot you can do to avoid this scam beyond being wary about apparently big tippers and reporting any suspicions you have to your employer.
That's it for this week. Stay tuned to Scambusters for details of more Coronavirus and other scams. It could save you a fortune.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!