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How Scammers Are Trapping Those Who Are Hunting For Jobs

Susan Tompor Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Susan Tompor reports, "Complaints have been climbing during the pandemic when it comes to phony job offers, missing paychecks and scams that involve paying upfront for equipment and supplies that are supposedly needed to do that new job."

Detroit

Adam Garfield-Turner thought he had a lead on a good job. All he had to do was find people who needed to borrow cash and he'd get paid money to make those connections.

The pay? He was supposed to get $250 for finding five people who needed personal or business loans of $10,000 and more. He found the job on Craigslist.

He spent two days doing research on Craigslist to find people who needed to borrow money. But somehow the owner of the operation couldn't find the cash to pay him.

"I found him five people who needed a loan — and he didn't pay me," said Garfield-Turner, 38, who lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

"He told me the check was coming in the mail — and it never came."

Then, Garfield-Turner was told he'd get the money via PayPal. But somehow, the company claimed to be having "technical difficulties" with PayPal. He still hasn't been paid anything for a job he did in March.

Garfield-Turner, who wasn't working at the time, now has a job that pays $15 an hour working for Amazon as a Whole Foods Shopper in West Bloomfield. He had been quite upset for a while about that oddball loan job and the lack of pay but he's happy to be working now.

Job seekers, beware. Complaints have been climbing during the pandemic when it comes to phony job offers, missing paychecks and scams that involve paying upfront for equipment and supplies that are supposedly needed to do that new job.

About 32% of those complaining to the Better Business Bureau noted that they did the work but were never paid.

The BBB continues to warn those looking for work to verify employment offers to avoid getting caught up in illegal jobs where you might end up reshipping stolen merchandise, becoming a victim of identity theft and losing big money out of your pocket to fake check scams.

The BBB estimates that 14 million people are exposed to employment scams every year, with $2 billion in direct losses annually. The overall median loss was $1,000.

As more people wanted to work from home, the door opened to even more job scams, according to a BBB report titled "Job Scams."

The report highlighted how scammers target those who want to work:

Demanding money on gift cards A South Dakota women who ended up putting $500 on two gift cards — and losing that money — to cover a down payment for a phone that was to be reimbursed for her work in so-called data entry job that paid $20 an hour.

Impersonating real HR people An Illinois woman noted that scammers actually used the real name of a head of a human resources at a health care company to convince her the job opportunity was real. She was asked, as part of the job, to send $400 via a Zelle payment app to pay for a necessary iPhone. The cost was to be reimbursed to her. Later scammers wanted her to buy a laptop and special monitor, which she did not do. She never got her money back.

Promising cash for reshipping goods Some consumers looking for jobs are offered "distribution jobs" that involve reshipping goods purchased with stolen credit cards. "Many of the innocent people employed to do this work never get paid for their efforts, and may have their identities stolen or face law enforcement scrutiny," according to the BBB report.

A Dallas man, according to the report, ended up giving his bank account information so that he could be paid. He reshipped about 40 packages, including cordless drills, jewelry, phones and laptop computers to a variety of addresses. After a month, he was never paid the $3,800 he would have been owed for his work.

Advertising for a nanny or caregiver The nanny scam can involve requiring those who are "hired" to buy a wheelchair or baby equipment for the job. The person is sent a fake check, deposits the check to cover the purchase, and then wires money to a third party to buy the required equipment. And you're out the cash.

Many times, people might look the other way on some of these offers because they are desperate and want to work.

According to the BBB's latest report, 54% of victims were unemployed; 25% had full-time jobs; 50% were looking for full-time jobs; 28% flexible jobs; and 10% part time. The data is based on a survey of those who reported employment scams to BBB Scam Tracker between 2017 and March 2020.

Anyone who has been looking for a job lately can undoubtedly tell you about some pretty strange opportunities, including quick online interviews via Google Hangouts where you quickly get a job and then are asked for bank account information on the spot.

Students have even reported getting email that look like it's from their college's placement office. You might feel like you're doing your best to find work, posting a resume online, searching for work on Indeed.com or LinkedIn. But the con artists can advertise phony job openings online, too.

As many people lose unemployment benefits or see reduced benefits ahead, there's more pressure to frantically find a job.

"People are scrambling a little bit," said Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Many times, she said, women with children would like to keep working from home, if possible, to avoid the high cost of day care. So a job opening that seems to offer a work-from-home option could prove attractive. The BBB report indicated that women accounted for 66.7% of complaints relating to job scams but suggested that it is possible that women were more likely to reach out and file a complaint. BBB said it is aware of no evidence that scammers are targeting women.

Unfortunately, she said, job applicants need to do far more background searches on some offers that simply sound too ideal.

It's not enough to go online and see if there is someone with that same name working in HR at a given company. Scammers could have found that name and simply tried to impersonate the professional. Duquesnel said she would recommend calling the company itself and asking for the HR department, not the name of a given person. Then, mention that you've been contacted to see if there really is such an opening.

Many times, people will be asked to interview via Zoom or online chat services. But it's key to do more due diligence.

She noted that a woman recently applying for a job at the BBB in metro Detroit was offered the opening via a Zoom interview. But the woman said she'd like to come in and see the building before accepting the offer. While Duquesnel said she first found that a bit unusual, she realized that many people understand that job scams exist.

"For all she knows, she was going to be scammed," Duquesnel said.

(Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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