BBB Warns of More Employment Scams Since Pandemic: Here’s Advice for Job Seekers

Better Business Bureau
Photo Credit: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

LOS ANGELES & SAN JOSE – Employment scams are on the rise in the turbulent job market created by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new study from the Better Business Bureau® (BBB®). BBB warns job seekers to verify employment offers to avoid things like illegal jobs, identity theft and fake checks. The in-depth study details the many forms employment fraud takes and the scams that often result.

BBB says last year 14 million people lost a total of $2 billion due to job scams, which is the riskiest of all scams. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports losses from employment scams rose 27% between 2018 and 2020.

The BBB’s report found the most common victims are ages 25-34, with women filing two-thirds of complaints. The median financial loss reported by these victims was $1,000; about one-third said they were never paid for the work they performed.

Identity theft is common in job scams, as scammers often steal applicants’ personal information to open bank accounts to further their fraud. BBB found 34% of victims provided their driver’s license number and 25% provided their Social Security number.

Fake checks are another feature of job scams and this problem continues to grow. Over one-third of complaints to BBB involved a fake check, and these complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) increased by two-thirds between 2015 and 2020. 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.

“Here’s a typical scenario: You get recruited through a job search website to work as a remote assistant for a large company,” says Steve McFarland, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles & Silicon Valley. “The ‘employer’ deposits a check into your bank account so you can buy equipment and supplies, then you’re asked to buy $2,400 in gift cards and text the employer the numbers on the back. The employer disappears into thin air but your bank tells you that the check they deposited to your account is fraudulent. You’ve not only lost the money you spent on the gift cards but have another $2,400 stolen from your bank account.”

Victims also find themselves participating in reshipping scams, which represent 65% of the scam job offers reported to BBB Scam Tracker. Scammers “hire” victims from job boards, Facebook or Craigslist and offer them as much as $2,500 to receive and forward packages. The fraudsters often use stolen credit card numbers to order laptops, cellphones and high-end goods and have them sent to reshipping victims, instructing them to repackage the goods and providing shopping labels to send the packages to a new address, often in Russia. The accomplices who were hired for this fraudulent type of work are never paid, and their identities may be used to open bank accounts.

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 out businesses at BBB.
  • Search the internet for 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.
  • Use a separate email address when posting a resume on job boards or applying for jobs. This can help detect “offers” from scam employers you did not contact.
  • If you’re paying for the promise of a job, it’s most likely a scam.
  • Be 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 careful about putting personal information such as your address, birthdate 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.
  • 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.

Consumers should report job scams to:

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