With pandemic restrictions fading, many look forward to a return to “normal” and rewarding employment.
According to news outlets, there are literally thousands of employers who are desperate to hire workers, offering hiring incentives and increased wages. Compounding the situation is the annual surge of job seekers from high schools and colleges.
Sadly, the criminals who lure us into scams are aware of our desires and needs related to jobs. There has been a dramatic increase in job scams, so, if you are looking to return to or join the workforce, be vigilant.
According to the Better Business Bureau, about 14 million people experience job scams, losing more than $2 billion in a typical year.
While job scams can occur in almost every area of employment, some fields are more susceptible to fraud schemes.
Leading the list of targeted employment are “work-from-home” offers. Scammers know that there is great interest in this and “create” high-paying jobs that require no experience, time or effort. Frequently, the criminal offers to sell employment training kits, requesting payment by credit card or gift card. The result, at best, is loss of money; at worst, it is a compromised credit card.
Here are some of the more popular “work-from-home” traps:
• Reshipping scams: You work as a personal assistant receiving, repackaging and reshipping products.
The products tend to be big-ticket items, and the new address is in a foreign location. The company tells you that you will receive your first paycheck and expense reimbursement shortly, but it never comes.
You are out the money, and possibly set up to be an identity theft victim based on the personal information you provided;
• Reselling scams: You are given an opportunity to buy discounted brand-name products and then sell them at a profit, but once you pay for them, the merchandise never arrives.
Other job scams include “mystery shopper” jobs, caregiver jobs, and even government employment jobs. Often, these scams involve paying a fee to get the job or prepare for it.
Other scams impersonate employment or job-placement services. In these cases, the criminal creates a fake job that has a lucrative salary and surprisingly excellent benefits. Some of these scams charge fees, while others send advance-payment checks to cover expenses.
In the case of the latter, the advance payment is in excess of your expenses, and you are asked to return the additional money, but the check you receive is bogus and bounces. Now, you have lost the money you returned and likely face bank fees.
You can avoid losses by applying a healthy degree of skepticism, particularly when the job offer is unsolicited and sounds too good to be true.
The Federal Trade Commission suggests that an online search of the company and hiring person be conducted. Verify the legitimacy of the job offer by contacting the company’s human resources department. Talk to a trusted resource, such as the Better Business Bureau or your state Department of Labor:
• Massachusetts: tinyurl.com/2xns8rrx, or 617-727-8400;
• New York: dol.ny.gov, or 518-457-9000;
• Vermont: labor.vermont.gov, or 802-828-4000.
Don’t pay for the prospect of a job. If you are asked to make an upfront payment, it’s a scam.
Another sign of a scam develops when you are sent a check and then asked to return part of it by gift cards. Honest employers do not operate this way. The check will bounce and will likely create problems for you with your bank.
If you are the victim and have paid money to a likely scammer, contact the company that was used to send the money.
Above all, don’t be complacent, contact your state consumer protection agency if you believe you are a victim:
• Massachusetts Department of Consumer Resources: tinyurl.com/3t9vmfsa, or 617-727-8400;
• New York: tinyurl.com/2be6dfzc, or 800-697-1220;
• Vermont Consumer Assistance Program: tinyurl.com/ht68b5ce, or 800-649-2424.
A report can also be filed with the Federal Trade Commission: reportfraud.ftc.gov.
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