Q: My friend was recently scammed looking for a job on the Web. Does the BBB have advice on how to avoid job hunting fraud and phony job postings on the Internet?
A: As much as the Internet has made searching for jobs easier, it also provides an opportunity for identity thieves and scammers to take advantage of eager and unsuspecting job seekers.
It is becoming more common for scammers to lure in potential candidates with phrases like, "Get rich quick -- without even leaving your home!" all in the hopes of getting their personal information. Craigslist, Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, and now even Facebook are all breeding grounds for scammers and fraud.
Job seekers need to be on the lookout for potential scams. Before posting your resume to a career site or inquiring about a job, make sure you know with whom you are dealing. Many job scammers are having candidates set up direct deposit accounts as part of the application process, making it seem as though it is a natural part of the process to get an interview. It absolutely, is not part of the process.
BBB advises job hunters to be on the lookout for the following red flags when conducting their job search:
• Employer emails that include grammatical and spelling errors. Most online fraud is perpetrated by scammers outside the U.S. Their first language usually is not English, and this is often evident. Their poor grasp of the language often includes poor grammar and the misspelling of common words.
• Emails purporting to be from job posting websites claiming there is a problem with a job hunter's account. After creating a user account on sites like Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com or Craigslist.com, a job hunter might receive an e-mail saying there has been a problem with their account, or they need to follow a hyperlink to install new software.
Phishing e-mails like this are designed to convince readers to click a link within the message to address the issue, but actually takes them to a website that will install malware or viruses on their computer.
• An employer asks for extensive personal information such as social security or bank account numbers. Some job seekers have been surprised to learn they have gotten a job without having to do a single interview.
However, when the employer then asked for personal information to fill out the necessary paperwork, suspicions were raised. Regardless of the reason or excuse given by the employer, a job applicant should never give out his or her Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or e-mail.
• An employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home. While there are legitimate businesses that allow employees to work from home, there are also a lot of scammers trying to take advantage of senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, students and injured or handicapped people. Job hunters should use extreme caution when considering a work-at-home offer and always research the company with their BBB first at www.bbb.org.
• An employer asks for money upfront. With the exception of paying for a uniform, it is rarely advisable for an applicant to pay upfront fees or make a required purchase to get a job. Most recently, a BBB uncovered a scam where job hunters were told they had to pay $64.50 for a background check before they could be considered for a cleaning job. Predictably, after paying for the background check, the job seeker did not hear from the company again.
• The salary and benefits offered seem too good to be true. The adage holds true for job offers: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Phony employers might brag about exceptionally high salary potential and excellent benefits for little experience to lure the unsuspecting.
• The job requires the employee to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram. Many phony jobs require the prospective employee to cash a check sent by the company through the mail and then wire a portion of the money on to another entity.
Reasons given for this requirement vary from scam to scam. Whatever the reason though, the check might clear the employee's bank account but will eventually turn out to be a fake and the employee is out the money wired back to the scammers.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.