The COVID-19 (coronavirus) effect on employment is devastating. Laid-off workers are desperate for income. Most of them are in isolated situations as Americans exercise self-quarantine and social distancing. The result? Absolutely perfect conditions for online job scammers to rip you off.
Better Business Bureau’s (BBB’s) research has shown that people who are socially isolated are more financially vulnerable and likely to become scam victims. Additionally, many of us are spending much more time online within our self-quarantined environment. Scammers see and are seizing this opportunity. Employment scams were the riskiest scams of 2019 (even before the pandemic hit the U.S.) when they made up 9.3 percent of all scams reported to BBB. The median loss was $1,500. Incredibly, the Chicago Tribune has reported that there were between 60 to 70 job scams for every one legitimate work-from-home opportunity.
“If we educate ourselves about their schemes and techniques, we can be sheltered from these scammers’ perfect storm,” stated Jim Hegarty, president and CEO of the BBB serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa. “Your BBB has information for you to use in order to keep your work-from-home job search safe from crooks.”
Take these steps to stop scammers in their tracks
Some ways to screen out their schemes:
• Check out the company. Many times, authentic company names are hijacked to lend legitimacy to phony job offers. Independently research the business through a Google search and contact them at a number you’ve determined belongs to them. Ask the company to confirm that the opportunity you are reviewing is legitimate. You should also check with the BBB to see what information it has about the business, and well as the Secretary of State or the Attorney General in the state where the company is headquartered. It’s also helpful to copy and paste a phrase from the advertisement into a Google search. If you see the identical phrase being used in multiple postings that’s a red flag!
• Don’t click a link or share personal information until you have stopped, paused and researched the company or person. Check BBB’s Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker. Search online for complaints and/or reviews of the company.
• Watch for the signals that an offer is just too good to be true. An offer of a lot of pay for not much work is extremely suspicious, as are rags-to-riches stories. Even the terms “work from home” and “work at home” are considered red flags. Watch out for these terms as well: “Quick money!” “Unlimited earning potential” and “Multi-level marketing.” Grammatical and spelling errors are huge red flags.
• Beware of any request for personal financial information early in an interview process. Interviews only through email or instant messaging can mean trouble. Legitimate companies will usually conduct interviews either through a phone conversation or a video process.
• Watch out if the name of the company is not revealed. You need to contact the company in order to verify that a job recruiter is legitimately working for that company. You also need to verify with them that the job for which you’re applying actually exists. If they refuse to tell you the company name, move on with your job search.
• Never pay money upfront in order to get a job. Scammers may try to tell you that you must pay for special equipment to work for them. They may send you a check for more than the amount you were promised, asking you to cash it and return the balance. You will be able to cash the check, but it will bounce and legally you are then responsible for paying the bank the entire amount.
Financial hardship is a major stressor. When you are feeling it, you may get desperate for any sort of promised work-at-home scheme. Recognize your vulnerability to scams during this extraordinary time and don’t multiply your financial woes by letting online crooks steal from you. For questions or concerns about these issues, contact your BBB at 800-649-6814 or visit our website at BBB.org.