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You want a job to make money. But scammers may pose as employers to steal money from you. Some job scams can leave you deep in debt and wreck your credit.
Here’s an example of how a job scam works:
A college student looking for a writing position gets an email from an editor who wants to hire her after seeing some of her writing online. The student accepts a freelance job that pays $1,000.
The editor sends her a check for $3,000 and tells her to deposit it, keep her $1,000 salary and forward $2,000 to the journal that will publish her work. She deposits the check, and when the $3,000 shows in her account, she wires the money to the publisher.
A few days later, she gets an alert from her bank telling her the check was counterfeit and that it is removing the $3,000 it put in her account. She’s now not only getting not paid the $1,000 she was counting on – she owes her bank $2,000 that she has no way to repay.
The scammer gets away with the money, and she’s stuck in debt that could impact her credit and her ability to get private college loans she needs to finish school.
Red flags a job offer is a scam:
- You get a job offer via email based solely on the employer having looked at your resume online.
- You get emailed a job application that you’re supposed to put your Social Security number or bank account numbers on and email back.
- You get the job without ever having an in-person or Skype-style face-to-face interview.
- You receive a paycheck significantly more than the expected salary and are told to deposit the check and send money to another party.
- Your employer asks you to deposit the paycheck into your bank account.
- Your job is to receive packages, check them and forward them on to an address overseas.
- You get hired as a mystery shopper, and one of your jobs includes testing a money-wiring service.
Tips for avoiding job scams:
- Ignore job offers from free email services like Gmail. Companies usually have their own designated .com email addresses.
- Do listen to your gut. If you receive an offer without an interview, be suspicious.
- Never agree to deposit a check and wire or forward the money to someone else.
- Never let anyone else use your bank account to process checks. No legitimate employer will ask you to handle company money through a personal account.
- Do research the company before you accept an offer. Never pay anyone to “find” you a job. Headhunters are paid by companies.
- Be wary of offers from someone claiming to be a job hunting firm if you’re just starting out. Companies that pay for headhunter services usually are looking to fill positions for executive slots or specialized skill sets that new-to-the-workforce employees would not have.
- Never email anyone personal info such as Social Security or bank account numbers.
- Know that scammers often steal the names of well-known companies to gain credibility, Search for the company offering you a job. Most sites have a job opportunities or HR contact where you can find company’s web site and find legit ads.
- Trust your gut. If you feel something’s off, search the employer’s name online with the word “scam.” Ask friends or family members about what they’ve heard about the company. Search the Better Business Bureau’s website for any complaints. BBB reports sometimes note if a scammer is currently stealing a legitimate company’s name.
- Never use your personal bank account to process checks or pay a bill for an employer.
- Do not respond to ads for work-at-home “quality control” or package checking jobs. Scammers working from overseas often try to get victims to act as fences for stolen or fraudulently obtained goods.
This video from the Federal Trade Commission explains more about job scams.
If you’re caught in a job scam: Report the scam.
Find a legitimate job:
- Lots of companies advertise legitimate jobs online. Before applying for a job, research the company online.
- Ask family, friends and neighbors if they know of a reputable organization that’s hiring.
- Search for a job on your college campus or through your college’s career center or job board.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.