Online scams have been around since the dawn of the World Wide Web, but if the feedback we have been getting is any indication, such scams have only seemed to proliferate in the last few years due to the worldwide economic downturn.
With millions of people out of work, and with millions more worried that their job security is less than rock solid, anxiety levels seem to be at an all-time high. This has left people feeling desperate, and in that desperation, they have become more vulnerable to online scammers and predators who promise a job, but are only perpetrating a moneymaking scheme with you as their intended targets.
One of the more popular scams is the phony job offer. Here's how it works: after responding to what seems like a legitimate job listing, the scammer will contact you by e-mail and tell you that you have been hired or "provisionally hired" for employment for a work-at-home position where you will have to perform certain minor tasks in order to receive your weekly paycheck. However, before employment can begin, you have to provide the scammer with certain personal information.
Because the information is not anything that a legitimate employer wouldn't ask – at least not at first – you may be tempted to respond even if you are somewhat suspicious. Our advice: do not respond at all. These e-mails do not come from valid businesses. They do not have an office or even a way to meet with the employer face-to-face. Often, these e-mails will try to get around your suspicions by saying that the employer is out of the country for a few weeks, but you would be able to begin working for him or her right away and that he or she will meet with you upon return. No legitimate company will conduct business in this manner. Would you? Of course not. These ads prey on the desperate, but one should never let desperation override good common sense. Answering these ads or following up on a suspicious e-mail could leave you in worse shape than you started – financially, emotionally, and even legally.
This is because while some scams are simple identity theft operations that exist just to clean out your bank account or make fraudulent purchases on your credit card, others may require you to act as a shipper of goods on your employer's behalf. However, these goods can be stolen property or goods that have been purchased with stolen credit card information. Since your address is the first point of contact, you could find yourself facing criminal charges or at least caught up in a criminal investigation.
Another popular job scam is one in which you are required to receive checks, deposit them in your bank account, and then forward a portion of the money to your employer while keeping the rest. However, since you are required to forward the money before the checks clear your account, you will lose the money you forwarded when you discover that the checks you deposited have bounced.
Scammers are growing ever more sophisticated in their sales pitches, and they know that people will have a natural amount of suspicion when interacting with someone online or by phone, but they get around that by drawing you into their scheme slowly. They do not ask for all of your personal information right off the bat, but over time, they will get whatever information they need in order to operate their schemes. This is why it is best not to answer any ad or respond to any e-mail that sounds even a little bit suspicious.
It bears emphasizing that no legitimate company will hire you – even for a telecommuting job – without meeting you first. There are legitimate telecommuting, personal assistant, and startup company positions out there, but the prospective employer will want to meet you and arrange a meeting at a public location during regular business hours if they do not have an office.
Some tips on recognizing job scams:
• Ads that have misspellings of common words
• Ads that have awkward phrasing, broken English, or bad grammar
• E-mail responses, such as the one reprinted below, which give you the job – even "provisionally" – without ever having met you in person
• Requests for personal information beyond what you have already given them on your résumé
• An Internet search that does not turn up a legitimate website for the company
• The most basic rule always applies: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Below, we reprint a common e-mail response that people have gotten after they responded to an ad for an Executive/Administrative/Personal Assistant on Craigslist. Be aware that these fraudulent ads and responses can appear anywhere on the Internet, in newspapers, or on television.
You will notice that the e-mail contains many of the warning signs outlined above. The scammer tries to allay any suspicions or concerns that you might have by providing a lot of information about his own company and even includes his "real" name.
A simple Internet search told us that the Dun & Bradstreet number provided below has been used to identify other companies besides "New York Insurance Company" such as "Adorama Inc.," "Adorama Camera Inc," "XLM Group," and "CJDouglas Financial Advisors." The same Dun & Bradstreet number will not be given to multiple unrelated companies.
The website mentioned in the e-mail below navigates to a generic-looking insurance rate comparison form, while the e-mail address that the response came from leads to a domain that has a simple placeholder website with a message from Google Sites requesting that the domain administrator begin setting up a home page. Because the e-mail below is using a real person's name, we have changed its spelling.
We contacted Dun & Bradstreet about New York Insurance Company, and we were told by a representative that in order to get information about a company using a Dun & Bradstreet number, we would have to buy a report about the company for $179 or purchase access to the D&B database. Further, D&B told us that they do not maintain any listing of companies that have previously been shown to be fraudulent or that have received consumer complaints.
However, there is something you can do. To file a complaint about a company with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), click here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/
Sample scam e-mail with all spelling and grammatical errors left in:
I got your resume and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it, So I will give this a GO ! I am happy to inform you that after close consideration with your resume, you have been accepted and given provisional appointment. Below are our company details and personal data for you review.
Business Name:New York Insurance Company .
Dun and Bradstreet # 08-740-3499
Type of Entity: CORPORATION
Registration ID: 453033
I'm looking for someone that can be trusted and reliable to work very well with good understanding.This position is home-based and flexible, working with me is basically about instructions and following them, my only fear is that I may come at you impromptu sometimes, so I need someone who can be able to meet up with my irregular timings.As my Personal Assistant,your activities amongst other things will include;
*Running personal errands, supervisions and monitoring. Scheduling programmes, flights and keeping me up to date with them. Acting as an alternative telephone correspondence while I'm away. Making regular contacts and drop-offs on my behalf. Handling and monitoring some of my financial activities..
Basic wage is $400 Weekly excluding Gas expenses and compensations.
I'm sure you'll understand I tend to have a very busy schedule at this point,as I am presently in the Greece, I will be back in three Weeks. We will set up a formal interview as soon as i am back in the states.My company is opening a new office in your state which i will be heading and relocating as well and thats one of the reasons i need a personal assistant there
Please note that this position is not office based for now because of my frequent travels and tight schedules, it's a part-time work from home for now and the flexibility means that there will be busier weeks than others. I have been checking my files and i'll need you to run some errands for me this week. I will have some funds sent to you to complete the assignment, i will get you more information on that, I will like you to get back to me with your Contact Details such as:
Residential Phone Number:
The employee,acknowledged the Detailed Job Description
and signed___________ _____________________
(First Name and Last Name of Employee)
Kindly respond with requested details .. Once I have received your contact information, I will get back to you with the task for this week.
Thanks in anticipation of your prompt response.