Spring arrived two weeks ago and warm weather will be coming soon.
But there’s no warmth in the hearts of Internet and telephone scammers who are finding new ways to fleece people of their hard-earned incomes, retirements, savings and bank accounts.
Take, for example, what Tim Johnston, president of the Northern Nevada Better Business Bureau (BBB), tells me is the most dominant scam proliferating across the country: The “employment scam.”
This scam, warns the BBB, attracts those enticed by employment job postings, recruiter e-mails and work-at-home schemes, all of which are fakes. The scammers often use real company names and can be “very convincing,” says the BBB.
Those responding to employment scams will usually receive a phone call or e-mail from a “recruiter” encouraging them to apply for a job. The jobs offered are usually a real business or government agency. Companies large and small, even the BBB, have been impersonated, added Johnston.
After the unsuspecting victims apply for the job, they receive another quick response from the scammers who say they are the “hiring managers,” and that they want to hire you, often without even a cursory interview. But, to be hired, the victims are informed that they must pay the scammers upfront for “training” and expensive equipment and supplies so they can work from home. The victims also are required to provide personal and banking information and give their credit scores.
Then the victims are “accidentally” overpaid by the scammers and asked to wire back the difference, which often is several thousand dollars. So now the victims have been scammed two ways. They have sent a check for a large amount of money to total strangers and have also given their personal and business information to these strangers, who will undoubtedly use it to impersonate you. Of course, the scammers vanish after they’ve received your checks and information. Boo-hoo. Sorry, pal. How could you have been so gullible to believe the scammers?
Well, there are several ways to spot the employment scam before you mail the crooks your money, says the BBB. Always be wary of being offered “generic” positions such as administrative assistant , customer service rep, caregiver or secret shopper that don’t require state or local licensing and appeal to a wide range of applicants. If the job posting is for a well-known company, check the company’s web employment site to see if the position is listed there. Beware of being offered a job without being interviewed. Don’t fall for the overpayment scam. No legitimate company would ever overpay an employee and ask for money to be wired elsewhere.
Government agencies post all jobs publicly and for free. The U.S. and Canadian federal governments and postal agencies in both nations never charge for job information, job applications and job offers.
The employment scam was the most dominant scam across the U.S. and Canada during 2018, according to the most recent BBB figures, for virtually all age groups, both sexes, demographic subgroups and for military families, veterans and students. This is “because scammers are opportunists. Whatever is in the news or being talked about on social media, they see as an opening to impersonate a recognizable and respected organization or brand. The Internal Revenue Service is the leading impersonated organization, and other government agencies together rank second. Other leading brands impersonated by scammers include Publishers Clearing House, Microsoft, Apple and the Better Business Bureau.
“Amazon, a BBB-accredited business, has only one authorized job application site, which is amazon.jobs. Any other link is a scam,” reports the BBB.
“Employment scams are particularly flagrant because they prey on people who are already feeling pinched and may be desperate for work. If the scam gets far enough, scammers collect the same information that real employers do, such as one’s address, birth date, Social Security number, bank account and credit card information ... everything needed for identity theft,” adds the BBB. Legitimate firms provide job applicants with complete job descriptions and salary information. Scammers, of course, do not because they have nothing to offer the applicant and would not want to reveal their true addresses and contacts. The 10 riskiest scams for 2018, including the employment scam, were online purchase, fake check/money orders, home improvement, advance fee loans, romance, technical support, investment, travel/vacation and government grant, says Tim Johnston, who heads the Northern Nevada BBB which encompasses 13 Nevada counties including Churchill. For information about the employment scam or other scams, and to report a scam, call Johnston at 775-322-0657. His office is located at 4834 Sparks Blvd., Suite 102, Sparks, Nevada, 89436.
In future columns, I will describe these other risky scams. Meanwhile, don’t fall for something which sounds too good to be true. It usually isn’t, particularly if it is an employment scam.
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard.