Employment scams are on the rise in the turbulent job market created by the COVID-19 pandemic. A new Better Business Bureau® (BBB) study highlights concerns and warns job seekers to verify employment offers to avoid illegal jobs, identity theft, and fake checks to which millions are exposed annually.
Job scams have been a problem for years. In 2020, BBB estimated 14 million victims with $2 billion in direct losses related to job scams. These job scams increased in 2020 due to more individuals spending their personal and professional lives online, isolation measures, volatile job market, and the demand for remote positions.
BBB Institute’s 2020 Risk Report found employment scams most commonly victimize people ages 25-34. The Employment Scam Report shows an average $1,000 financial loss reported by these victims. In addition, they often reported a loss of their time, as 32% were never paid for the work they did for an “employer” that turned out to be fraudulent.
Identity theft is a common outcome of job scams, as scammers often steal job seekers’ personal information to open fraudulent bank accounts. Fake checks also frequently accompany job scams, and they continue to grow. Common fraudulent job offers involving fake checks include mystery shopping or secret shopper jobs, car wrap jobs, nanny or caregiver jobs, and small business jobs such as photography or painting houses.
Employment scam victims frequently become unwitting accomplices in other frauds. Scammers “hire” victims from social media sites offering to pay them as much as $2,500 to receive and then send on packages. These fraudsters often use stolen credit card numbers to order laptops, cellphones, and other high-end goods and have them sent to reshipping victims who forward them to the scammers
Tips to avoid job scams:
- Research the job offer. Call or go directly to the actual company’s website for contact information to verify the job posting.
- Check on businesses on BBB.org that are offering jobs.
- Do an internet search with the name of the employer and the word “scam” to see if there are reports involving job scams.
- Examine the email address of those offering jobs to see if it matches the protocols used by an actual company. Be alert to Gmail business email addresses.
- Consider creating a separate email address when posting a resume on job boards or applying for jobs to help detect “offers” from scam employers you did not contact.
- Consider setting up a second bank account to handle pay for jobs where you have never met the employer in person.
- If you’re paying for the promise of a job, it’s most likely a scam.
- Be very wary of mystery shopping or secret shopper positions.
- Work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages are likely scams.
- Beware of jobs that involve receiving and forwarding money.
- Don’t fall for a fake check scam. BBB is not aware of any legitimate job offers that send checks to applicants and ask them to send money to a third party.
- Be cautious in providing personal information such as your full address, birth date, and financial information in your resume or to unverified recruiters and online applications.
- Be wary of vague job descriptions.
- Even if you do the work, it still may be a scam. Don’t complete work for free.
- Do not respond to calls, text messages, or emails from unknown numbers or suspicious addresses.
- Do not click any links in a text message from a number you do not recognize. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
- Do not click any links in social media messages from unknown accounts. Remember, scammers can also create accounts imitating friends and followers. If a friend sends you a message with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
It is important that victims of job scams report them to: