by Gloria Welton
The Better Business Bureau® (BBB) has noticed a significant increase in employment scams since COVID-19 began. BBB did research into what tactics scammers are using to get people to apply for fake jobs and lose money in the process.
BBB was founded in 1912 and has locations throughout North America. One aspect of their mission is to encourage and support best practices by engaging with and educating consumers and businesses.
What is an employment scam?
As a result of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people who lost their jobs are now seeking new employment opportunities through online platforms.
A BBB report suggests this new environment has created a perfect storm for scammers to draw people into fake opportunities for employment that can result in money lost and personal identity information stolen.
“This issue has prompted BBB to launch a new research project to better understand how employment scams are being perpetrated, who is being targeted, the overall impact of these scams, and how we can help people avoid these situations,” says Kristin Matthews, Marketing & Communications Manager for the BBB serving the Atlantic provinces.
Unfortunately, an estimated 14 million people per year are drawn into employment scams, with more than $2 billion lost per year in North America. For every victim who lost money, at least one other worked without pay, and yet another lost personal information.
Most common tactics used by scammers
Did you know scammers most commonly use email and text to contact their targets? “Email addresses and cellphone numbers can be taken from actual job posting sites where resumés are uploaded.
“Be on the lookout for fake recruiters. You may get an email from someone who says they saw your resumé on Indeed and they offer you a job with their company. They may provide you with a contract and ask for a fee for services.
“One of the most popular tactics is the fake cheque scam,” says Kristin. “The target is asked to deposit a cheque and transfer funds to another account before they realize the cheque is bad.
“They may say you are hired and send you a cheque for supplies to get you set up at home. But then they say they overpaid you and ask you to deposit the cheque, buy your materials, and send back the overpayment. When the cheque turns out to be fake, you’re on the hook for all that money.”
Kristin reported that employment scams may take a few twists and turns to scam you out of your money or personal information. “It can start by you responding to a help wanted ad online or you could get an email or a text message from an employer asking you to apply to a position.”
It is important to know that companies small and large have been impersonated. “When you apply for a job, you could get a quick response from the hiring manager and be hired after a short or no interview. Phony interviews have been done through Zoom or Google hangout. Scammers put a lot of effort in trying to appear real. We have noticed scammers impersonating large well-known companies such as Amazon and Walmart that have lots of employees.”
The twists and turns can take place once you are notified that you are hired. “The company may suggest that an upfront fee is required to pay for training. They might entice you further by saying if you pay for training, you could get an increase in salary and better benefits. This request is an absolute red flag.
“Another thing would be a request for your personal and banking information to set up direct deposit. Ask for opinions from friends and family and contact BBB if you are uneasy about the requests.
“Often if you question the scammer, they respond aggressively. Do not give into pressure or follow their demands because the job is not real.”
Kristin referred to government agency employment scams. “You may receive an email or a text saying if you pay an access fee to this government job portal you are guaranteed a job. However, if you must pay for a promise of a job, it is not real. Government agencies do not charge an access fee to their jobs.”
An unusual job title is another red flag. “Warehouse Redistribution Coordinator is a new job title that scammers are using to attract attention. They will say they are hiring you and they send you items that you must repackage and ship out. These items are usually stolen, and you might find that you are on the hook for the stolen goods.
“If you receive an employment contract, check to see what the company does and question if the company would even be in the warehouse distribution business. If they ask for a driver’s license when your role does not involve driving, that could be a red flag. Also, if they ask for a copy of a utility bill, they are just trying to collect more person information. They could also ask for your direct deposit information.
“All these requests are meant to steal your identity piece by piece. Even if you don’t follow through with the entire scam, they may have been able to get enough information to steal your identity. It is so important to safeguard your personal and private information.”
“Also, scammers post fake jobs on legitimate job posting sites such as Indeed. They use job titles like administrative positions, secret shoppers, or customer services, which are broad terms that draw in many people.”
Prevention tips for consumers, businesses, and employers
- If you suspect a scam, check the Better Business Bureau scam tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker
- Always do background research on a job offer. Take time to find the job listing on the company’s website.
- Be wary of work-from-home, shipping/warehouse opportunities or secret shopper positions. Sixty-five percent of fake job offers were related to becoming a “warehouse redistribution coordinator” or some similar title involving the reshipment of packages.
- Watch out for on-the-spot job offers. You may be an excellent candidate for the job but beware of offers made too quickly or without an interview.
- Don’t fall for a fake cheque scam. Be wary if the “employer” asks you to deposit a cheque and transfer funds to another account for training, equipment, or any other reason. Be cautious sharing personal information or a request for pre-payment.
- Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. Scammers promise work-from-home jobs, higher salaries, and flexible opportunities if you pay for coaching, training, certifications, or directories. If you are paying for the promise of a job, it’s probably a scam.
- Be wary of vague job descriptions. To reach as many people as possible, scammers list job requirements that are broad enough to enable anyone to qualify.
- Even if you do the work, it still may be a scam. Thirty-two percent of those who reported employment scams said they did work before they realized it was a scam.
What businesses and employer can do
- Post all jobs on your website in an accessible way so job applicants can confirm which jobs are legitimate.
- Explain in detail your company’s hiring process. Post tips and other resources for job seekers visiting the employment section of your website.
- Help BBB spread the word about job scams and how to avoid them by encouraging job seekers to learn more at www.BBB.org/EmploymentScams
Resources available on bbb.org
The website has business profiles that gives details about the legitimacy of a business and lists those accredited by BBB. “We use a rating system that provides information about any complaints.”