Fake job offers have been on the rise during the pandemic, according to the Better Business Bureau. In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center data showed 16,012 people were victims of employment scams. They reported losing more than $59 million.
We’ve told you about cybercriminals who spoof legitimate companies and post to popular job boards to trick job hunters.
Now, one North Texas man says a job scam cost him potential unemployment benefits. Read on to learn more about how to recognize the signs of a scam.
“Too good to be true”
After a layoff last year, Moises Duke was in training for a new job. It wasn’t in his field and it didn’t offer full benefits. So, when another company reached out about an open graphic design position with full health and dental benefits, Duke said he jumped at the chance.
“When I received the offer letter, I was like, 'OK, I'm going to put my notice in at the other company,'” said Duke.
Duke said all the negotiations with the new company were handled over email. The company told him it was hiring that way because of the pandemic.
“I wanted to try to sell myself through the emails and everything went well,” Duke said. “At some point, they said due to COVID, we are going to send you a check so you can buy the computers and everything. That’s when everything was a little bit too good to be true.”
He’d later learn the second offer was a scam. Since he quit his job, he couldn’t apply for unemployment benefits.
“The problem is, I quit this company, the other one was fake, so I don't have unemployment or a job,” Duke said.
Cybercriminals employ elaborate tricks
Cybercriminals are going to extra lengths to make the scam more believable. They may spoof legitimate companies – even mining publicly available information to impersonate actual employees.
According to the latest BBB study on job scams, victims are usually contacted by email or text, and most believed the contact was a result of their online job search.
“A lot of people, when they are applying for jobs, they post their resumes not knowing that this information is easily accessible to everybody, including the scammers,” said Erica Mendoza, Investigations Manager for the BBB Serving North Central Texas.
Mendoza said cybercriminals are after your personal information and money. A common trick involves sending a job seeker a check with instructions to deposit it, then buy work-from-home equipment from a vendor they pick. The “vendor” is also a scammer.
Once the victim sends money for equipment, the funds are out of their account. Later, the original check bounces and the victim’s money is gone.
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The Federal Trade Commission explained that just because you see the funds in your account after depositing a check, that doesn’t mean the check has “cleared.” While banks are required to make the funds available from deposited checks within a couple of days, it could take weeks to learn the check is a fake.
“You end up transferring your own money to these scammers and then you're on the hook for the money,” said Mendoza.
Recognizing red flags
Moises Duke didn’t end up losing money. The scam ended when his supposed new boss sent Duke a check to pay for work-from-home equipment. Duke, a graphic designer, said he could tell the bank logo on the cashier's check wasn’t quite right.
“The banks normally are the ones that make sure that their logo looks perfect,” Duke explained.
He cut off contact with the scammer, reported the scheme to the BBB and placed fraud alerts on his accounts. While Duke didn’t send back any cash, he had provided personal information to the scammer after they’d insisted on a background check.
“It’s a bit discouraging because you're trying to work hard to get a job,” Duke said.
He wants to share his story so another job seeker won’t be set back by a scam.
“If everything sounds too good to be true, it's not true,” said Duke. “Watch out for that.”
Other red flags include grammar and spelling mistakes, vague job descriptions and promises of immediate hiring with no interview necessary.
The FBI warns job seekers to be wary of interviews that aren’t done in-person or through a secure video call.
If you’re asked to purchase start-up equipment or pay for your own background check or screening, that’s likely a scam – according to the FBI.
The BBB said work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages are scams.
Be cautious about providing personal information – including your full address, birth date and financial information in your resume or to unverified recruiters and online applications.
The FBI points out legitimate companies will ask for direct deposit information for payroll purposes after hiring employees. It’s safer to do this in person. Legitimate companies also shouldn’t ask you for your credit card number.
How to protect yourself
Verify the job opening directly through the company. Don’t use the contact information provided by a stranger. Instead, call or go directly to the actual company's website for contact information to confirm the job posting.
If you find multiple websites for the same company or the web address is just a few letters off from an actual company website URL, it may have been spoofed.
If a job posting appears on job boards, but not on the company website, it may be a scam.
Double-check the email address of the hiring manager. Does it match the web addresses used by the actual company? Scammers may use an address that looks similar.
You can also do an internet search with the name of the employer and the word “scam” to look for reports of similar job scams.
If a new employer sends you a check and asks you to send money to a third party - either through a wire transfer, cash app or gift cards, don’t do it.
What to do if you were a victim of a job scam
Contact your bank or credit card company immediately. If you used a cash app to send money to a stranger, reach out to the bank connected to the account and let them know about the fraudulent charge. It may be too late to stop the transaction, but law enforcement recommends you notify your financial institutions immediately.
The Federal Trade Commission highlights additional steps you can take here if you were the victim of a scam.
- Report the scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Notify the FTC online or call 877-FTC-Help
- You can also notify the BBB and report the scam to the website where the job posting was listed and the company the cybercriminals impersonated.
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