More than 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits in March, and the claims continue to pour in. As more people start looking for remote work to save their careers and make a living, opportunistic scammers are attempting to take advantage of desperate people looking for a job.
It also doesn’t help that if you do have a career in any field right now, you are most likely working remotely unless you’re a doctor or a first responder or essential personnel. That means you’re paying more attention to incoming emails, texts, and phone calls. Scammers have noticed this and are ramping up their sketchy activities like never before.
With a record number of people looking for a job (and a record number of people working from home) we’re all much more vulnerable to job search scams, tax scams and others which often results in compromised computer systems, loss of identity, loss of money and hours of time wasted trying to fix the situation.
Here are three common scams you should watch out for:
#1 - Fake Job Direct Deposit Scam
With many job seekers under pressure to find a position, they may overlook certain red flags that would normally raise suspicion. Because of this, they won’t realize the online job they are applying for is fake until it’s too late.
Some of the most popular internet job boards have fake job postings that scammers create to get your banking information. Because these jobs are posted on legitimate sites, it makes it even more difficult for job seekers to figure out the fake listings.
What happens with this particular scam is that the applicant applies for a work-at-home or telecommuting job that sounds ideal — good salary, benefits, flexible hours — all with no interview.
They believe they can directly submit their application, and either get the job or not. But they, of course, get the “job” and are sent an email with instructions stating that all employees are paid by the company via Direct Deposit.
In order for them to accept the job, they need to provide their banking information so their new “employer” can pay them. Once they’ve provided the info, their account will immediately be compromised and money drained from the bank account.
What to do: Don’t be pressured. While direct deposit is a convenient way to get paid, most legitimate employers don’t force their workers to be paid by direct deposit. Google the company and check the Federal Trade Commission ( FTC) and Better Business Bureau ( BBB )’s scam lists.
#2 - Government Stimulus Check Scam
The Coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a historic $2 trillion dollar COVID-19 stimulus bill. Along with the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus crisis, many people — workers and employers — will be receiving a stimulus check.
But there is confusion about how and when the funds will arrive, and many Americans are eagerly waiting for some economic relief. And scammers are looking to take advantage of this confusion and anxiety in US employers and workers with this new scam .
Don’t fall for it.
Scammers are already sending out fake text messages and robocalls inviting you to expedite the stimulus checks or to help you “claim” your government benefits or PPP small business loan.
The FTC has provided some tips to avoid this stimulus check scam:
The government won’t ask you to pay anything upfront to get this money. No fees. No charges.
The government won’t call and ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number.
Checks are not being sent yet. Anyone who claims they can get you the money now is a scammer.
Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. It might lead to more robocalls.
When the stimulus checks do come, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you provided on your previous tax return or mail you a check. The IRS will not call you nor will they ask you to verify payment details.
What to do: Anyone who claims to provide you with a check or a direct deposit into your bank account should be considered a scammer. If you’ve received a fraudulent offer in your email or over social media, it’s recommended that you report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
#3 - Job Applicant Credit Report Scam
This scam occurs when the scammer poses as an employer and says they need to see your credit report as part of their hiring process. They direct you to a “free” service where not only will you have to pay, the scammer can collect your personally identifiable information (PII) including your Social Security Number and steal your identity.
A typical email from a credit report scammer would look like this:
“I would like to congratulate you on making it to the next step of our hiring process. As part of our company's protocol, and to protect our company from liability, the next step of the process includes getting your credit score checked. Please be aware that a poor score, in no way disqualifies you from the position, but will allow us to gain a better feel for who you are.”
They then direct you to the “free” service for you to obtain your score and tell you to email them the confirmation number ASAP because “Time is of the essence, as we would like to fill the position very soon.”
They use the FOMO tactic to get you to act quickly. The only thing that happens quickly is how fast your identity will be stolen.
What to do: If you think you’ve been scammed, go get a free credit report. You’re entitled to a free report every year under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Then go file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and/or the Better Business Bureau to report the scam.
It doesn’t matter whether a scam originates from the phone, email, or text. Scammers will use any tool that gives them a shroud of anonymity so they can prey on people working from home. Right now, they are using financial fear to trick hard-working people into making decisions they otherwise wouldn’t make. Trust your gut, if it doesn’t feel right then dig a little deeper into the company or person making the offer.
If you receive a call, don't engage with the scammers. As much as you’d like to call them out, just hang up. If you get text messages or emails that claim you can get your money faster by giving them your personal information or clicking on links they provided, delete them. Don't click on any links—just delete them. Most of these scams can be avoided by pausing, remaining calm and not making any hasty decisions.