Lured by convenience and seemingly easy money, more and more people are falling prey to job scams. Particularly vulnerable are people who want or need to work from home and those who are looking supplement their income. Those who fall victim can suffer serious consequences including debt collection and criminal charges. Work-at-home scams are varied and can be more difficult to detect. They come in many different forms and change regularly. To protect yourself, it's important to be aware of the various scams lurking and what to do if you suspect you discover one. Here are six of today's most common job scams:
1. Nigerian Check Cashing Scam
The Nigerian check cashing scam usually involves transferring funds internationally. The scam artist attempts to reassure the victim by offering apparently legal contracts, forged or false documents bearing company letterhead, false letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. Once the scammer has obtained the victim's trust, checks, money orders or wire deposits are sent to the victim for "processing." The victim is asked to cash the check or money order (wire deposits will send the money directly to the victim's account) and send a percentage of the funds back to its origination. The need for the "middle man" is often explained as being a way around international fees or taxes. Once the funds are sent back to the scammers (usually the victim is told to keep a percentage for themselves, as payment for their services), the victim's bank or financial institution learns that the check/money order/wire transfer was fraudulent. The funds are then subtracted from the victim's account and he or she is made liable for the lost money.
Reshipping scams often begin with an employment offer, usually via e-mail. As with the Nigerian scam, these "employers" offer bogus contracts and other documentation to make them appear legitimate. Once the victim's trust has been obtained, packages are shipped to the victim's residence with instructions to reship the packages to another address. Once the package has been reshipped, the victim is "guilty" of receiving and shipping stolen property. This often leads to a visit from police, as the return address or shipping receipts lead back to the victim.
3. Envelope Stuffing Scams
These scams usually incorporate a "registration fee" which must be paid before work begins. Once this fee has been paid, the "employee" is asked to post an ad -- often the exact same ad that the "employee" responded to -- using his or her own contact info. Once the "employee" receives a response to their ad, he or she will stuff an envelope with information/instructions on how to get started and mail it to the new applicant. The victim is "paid" based on the number of responses received from the ad.
4. Medical Billing
Advertisements for these prepackaged businesses always contain an initial financial investment. The ad or solicitation explains that only a small percentage of medical claims are transmitted electronically and that the market for medical billing is wide open. In reality, the medical billing industry is fierce and revolves around several large and well-established firms. Because competition is so prevalent, few consumers who purchase medical billing business opportunities are able to locate clients to generate enough revenue to profit, and they usually can't even earn enough to recover their initial financial investment.
5. Work-at-Home Job Lists
These scams claim to sell lists of companies that are hiring for work-at-home positions. These lists are rarely updated and often yield a list of worthless leads.
Phishing scams are cleverly hidden attempts to get your account information. These e-mails appear legitimate -- with professional-looking company logos and information -- and often claim that there is an urgent need for you to log into your account and verify personal information. If you receive one of these e-mails, check the destination URL on the provided link before attempting to login or submit any information; the links could actually lead the recipient to a false Web site. The victim may be asked to update their banking information or other sensitive information, which the site owner (aka scammer) will use for any number of illegal purposes.
Before you send any money responding to job ads or completing job placement contracts, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help job seekers avoid these types of scams:
Avoid job listings that use these descriptions: "package forwarding," "reshipping," "money transfers," "wiring funds" and "foreign agent agreements." These and similar phrases should raise a red flag.
Do not be fooled by official-sounding corporate names. Some scam artists operate under names that sound like those of long-standing, reputable firms.
Never forward or transfer money from any of your personal accounts on behalf of your employer. Also, be suspicious if you are asked to "wire" money to an employer. If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer's business account, not yours.
Do not give out your personal financial information. A potential legitimate employer will not request your bank account, credit card or Paypal account number. Only provide your banking information if you are hired by a legitimate company and you choose to have your paycheck direct deposited.
Do not fax copies of your ID or Social Security number to someone you have never met. Credit checks and fake IDs can be obtained with this information. Only give these documents to your employer when you are physically at the place of employment.
If you have questions about the legitimacy of a job listing, contact your Better Business Bureau, your state or local consumer agency or the Federal Trade Commission.