BBB Scam Alert: Young adults and recent graduates are common targets for employment scams

The summer season is an exciting time for many young adults as they enter the workforce after graduating from high school or college. Unfortunately, not all job postings found online are legitimate, and many fraudulent employers specifically target young people with entry-level professional positions that offer a high salary and flexible work hours.

The BBB’s 2023 Scam Tracker risk report found that employment scams are the second most dangerous consumer scam in the country with an average loss of $1,995 and a 5% increase in exposure.

compared to the previous year. In Texas, consumers reported more than $750,000 lost to these scams as of 2023. Across all age groups, employment scams tend to affect 18-34 year olds the most.

While most of the reports the BBB receives involve fraudulent employers promoting data entry or package forwarding positions, offers from graphic designers, mystery shoppers and human resources are also frequently used. All reports include an ability to work from home or remotely, often with flexible work hours and an hourly or monthly salary significantly higher than standard.

Contact is most often made via email from someone claiming to represent a fake or fake company who came across the recipient’s email through a job board, LinkedIn, or in response to an application they sent. Soon after, the conversation will move to an online messaging system such as Skype or Telegram to arrange and conduct an interview. The interview is conducted entirely by text and ends with an immediate job offer starting the next day. After accepting a job offer, employment fraud progresses down different paths depending on the position and industry.

To help identify fraudulent jobs for the most common types of positions, the BBB provides the following breakdown into two broad categories:

Data Entry, Administrative Assistant, Clerk or Secretary Positions

Fake checks are a common tactic for these positions in an employment scam. Once an offer is accepted, the scammer claims the company will provide them with a check they can use to set up their home office. The check is emailed or sent directly to the employee’s address, and they follow the instructions to deposit it into their account and provide proof afterward. Once filed, fraud can progress in two different ways:

  • The representative claims that an error on the check resulted in the employee being overpaid. They often blame this on a logical typo, such as accidentally adding an extra zero so $300 became $3,000. The scammer asks the new employee to pay back the extra money immediately through a direct payment method, such as a mobile banking app, gift card or bank transfer.
  • The representative will direct the employee to a third-party vendor they should use to purchase their office supplies. The website often looks legitimate and the employee can easily find all the required products. When it comes time to pay, the total cost exactly matches the amount of money on the check and the employee enters their bank information to finalize the purchase.

In either case, the victim’s bank eventually discovers the check is fake, and the employee loses the amount of money they returned or used to purchase office supplies, which are never received. When they try to contact the representative again, all messages go unanswered and the social media profiles previously used to establish credibility are deactivated. Additionally, banks often freeze, or in worst cases cancel, accounts associated with a fraudulent or forged check deposit as a precaution, resulting in additional challenges for the victim to overcome when recovering.

Package reshipment, quality inspection or product delivery positions

All of these positions require an applicant to have a valid home address and their time, making them very attractive to a wide range of people. They often advertise a monthly base salary between $2,000-$4,000, with additional bonuses per package shipped to its next destination. Most victims who come across this scam receive and send packages as they wait until it’s time for their first paycheck – only they never receive any money. When they try to log in to the employee dashboard, they find their account locked and all their messages go unanswered.

According to the FBI, reshipping scams can involve con artists using stolen credit cards to purchase expensive items. Instead of shipping the item directly to their address, they use a “forwarder” to ship the package overseas. Parcel forwarding positions may also handle stolen goods or laundered money, resulting in victims of this scam unwittingly participating in illegal activity.

Avoiding employment scams

Evaluate work from home opportunities. The shift to remote work has created many opportunities for both legitimate and fraudulent businesses. While many work from home jobs are honest, it is essential to critically evaluate the hiring process of any company that offers this type of employment. Be wary of companies that require the applicant to download a specific mobile app to communicate, conduct the entire interview via text or chat, or not provide a physical address for the business.

Verify contact details. BBB recommends verifying that the address provided matches the business and that the phone number is in service. It is common for scammers to use addresses for free zones or other companies and a phone number that is either fabricated or not in service. At a minimum, verify that at least two contact methods will put you in touch with company representatives.

Research the company. Spend time researching a company’s reputation and legitimacy before agreeing to work for them. Check to see if they are listed and search online for reviews from former employees or customers. If the offer comes from a reputable company, check their official job board to verify the position is listed and use the posted contact methods to contact the hiring team.

Be wary of instant offers and start dates. Any pressure to sign or get on board immediately indicates that the company may not be legitimate. Choosing a place to work is an important decision that most legitimate companies understand takes time to consider. Be especially wary if the position is offered without an interview or promises significant income if the employee pays for coaching, training or certification. If the hiring team threatens that the job will go to another candidate if you don’t make an immediate decision, it may be best to walk away.

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