There is nothing fun about looking for a job. The drudgery of online applications asking you to reenter the same information from the resume you already uploaded, driving to interview after interview, and that tense wait for a callback, all the while budgeting down to the penny to stretch your bank account through that first paycheck. We’ve all been through this process, and nobody loves it. So, when you find a website advertising one application for dozens of jobs, it’s a dream come true. Then, when that email shows up offering a cushy work from home opportunity, it can seem like a miracle. You may not have applied to this business, you may not even recognize it, but they want you, the pay is right, and they’re offering to front the funds to get your home office setup right away!
You reply and get it all set up. Of course, they need your personal information: full name, phone number, address. Social security too, they need that for taxes. You already put that in the application, so confirming it is no big deal. Direct deposit must be set up as well, so they need your account and routing number, maybe even your online banking login so they can verify a test deposit and confirm your account. Then they send you an email with the check to get you started. It’s a “digital check,” so you must use mobile check deposit. You snap a picture of the front, snap the back, and you’re in business!
Or, more likely, the scammer on the other end of that email exchange is. Just like that, they have your personal information. Your social security number. Your bank information. All for the cost of a counterfeit check and a few minutes of their time. The cherry on top? You spent money against that check, and now that it has bounced, you’re seeing red, and not just in your account balance.
Now to many of us, the red flags are high and bright. A friend, a family member, maybe even ourselves, have been the victim of an online job scam – no matter how often you think it happens, that rate is probably higher. We learned, maybe the hard way, how to spot and avoid this kind of fraud and keep ourselves from being the victim. However, many more don’t. Here are some of the dead-giveaways of an online job scam:
There are many websites that offer to find jobs for you. While a select few are well known and trustworthy, many more are nothing more than data farms, made for the sole purpose of harvesting as much personal information as they can get. Before applying through a third-party site for any job, research it and make sure it’s safe. The same goes for applying on a company’s website. If you’ve never heard of the organization and can’t find proof it exists beyond the company webpage, there’s probably a problem.
Did you apply directly to the business contacting you? Have you ever heard of it? If not, something may be fishy. Once again, a few minutes of research can save a lifetime of heartache. Does the email address the message is coming from make sense? Is there any record of this business online? What about the message itself, is everything spelled correctly? Are there any errors in grammar and punctuation? Little mistakes like that by the scammer can be a dead giveaway to a savvy consumer.
Even if all your research indicates the business is on the up-and-up, there is no situation in which a legitimate organization would need your online banking login as part of a hiring process. Scammers can empty accounts in seconds, use your information to create fake checks, and the scam continues to the next person.
Have you ever wondered how to tell if a check is counterfeit? There are dozens of subtle indicators, and they can be hard to spot. Thankfully, there is one clear sign a check is bad: it’s been emailed. Does the name on the check match the business that’s supposed to be paying you? Has your name and bank already been typed on the back? Is the text for your name and the amount big and bold? Any one of these indicates a problem, and all is a veritable promise of a bounced check.
Online scams in general are all too common, and since the COVID-19 pandemic began scammers have been cashing in by preying on innocent people looking for work more than ever. Look for the red flags, do your research, and don’t let them make you a victim! However, if this scenario sounds eerily familiar, don’t lose hope. Banks are on top of these fraud trends and will do all they can to help. The Federal Trade Commission is on top of it too, and their dedicated online scam reporting website is a great tool to help law enforcement put a stop to these bad actors and bring them to justice. Even the credit bureaus have tools in place to protect people whose personal information may not be as secure as they’d like.
Here is some more information on online job scams, as well as some helpful links if you’ve been a victim:
David Edwards is a Fraud Analyst for Arvest Bank. He is responsible for monitoring multiple systems and applications in order to prevent and detect fraud.