The COVID-19 pandemic created a perfect storm for remote job scams. With more people seeking employment as well as online opportunities, more people have been tricked by scammers impersonating employers and posting on job listing websites.
This type of fraud is not new, but has been on the rise, with a 2020 Better BUsiness Bureau (BBB) study calling the current client a “perfect storm” for job scammers. Based on data from the BBB Scam Tracker and a Google survey from March 2020, around 14 million people are exposed to employment scams every year, resulting in $2 billion lost. Employment scam reports were the third most prevalent type of scam reported to the BBB between January 2020 and September 2022, with 9,000 total complaints.
Today’s job scams generally fall into two types: reshipping scams and fake check or prepaid gift card scams. According to the U.S. Postal Service, reshipping scams are a hot trend targeting people who visit job sites, dating sites, and chat rooms. You’ll find reshipping scams disguised as bogus work-at-home offers, fake “sweethearts” who need your help, and charities asking you to donate to their cause, usually in Europe or Africa.
In fake check scams, “employers” send new employees a check to buy items they’ll need for their new job, such as home office supplies. After depositing the checks, the money appears to have been deposited to their accounts, which they use to buy supplies from a vendor provided by the fake employer. The supplies never show up, and the victim’s bank flags the check as fake, removing that money from their accounts—meaning the victims used their own money to pay for supplies they never received. Prepaid gift card scams work similarly.
There’s been a 65% increase in fake check complaints between 2015 and 2020 with these scams typically targeting younger fraud victims between the ages of 25 and 34 who may not have as much experience with checks and may be less likely to question depositing one as part of job onboarding to be a suspicious request.
What do you do if you are a victim of a job scam? A recent article from CNBC shared these helpful tips:
- Do your research before applying for a job: While online job boards have protocols in place to spot frauds, you should still do your due diligence before sending any personal financial information. If you are suspicious at all, call the company in question or Google them. Don’t trust their listed phone number as it may be a fake number. It’s also a best practice to apply to jobs through a company website, not a link sent to you or posted elsewhere.
- Report it: If you see a scam or are a victim, you should report it to the website where the fake listing was posted, the FTC and the Better Business Bureau. You can also alert local law enforcement and your state attorney general.
Kati Daffan, an attorney and assistant marketing director in the FTC’s division of marketing practices, recommends going through the FTC’s website, idtheft.gov.
- Protect your identity and finances: If you paid a scammer, alert the company through which you made the payment as soon as possible to trace and potentially recoup funds. Credit and debit cards have chargeback rights, and funds sent through gift cards or wire transfer may be able to be blocked.
And if you’ve given out other personal information by accident, you may want to place a freeze on your credit reports from each major company, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You should also review your bank and credit card statements for any fraudulent purchases and report them immediately.
- Warn others: Lastly, if you have seen a scam or been a victim, warn your family, friends and co-workers who may come across the same posting.
Lastly, many people find that identity theft protection software thwarts scammers and helps avoid the stress and financial losses resulting when someone steals your personal information.