Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scams and Schemes to Avoid While Job-hunting

Just because you’re looking for a job doesn’t mean that crooks will leave you alone.  They don’t care, and just because you’re low on cash doesn’t mean they won’t try to get it from you. Most employment scams use your anxiety against you.

One of the scams uses bogus news stories as the hook, linking to realistic-looking “news” sites with printed and video stories about people getting rich from Google.  In fact, many people really are making money using Google – they’re working hard, developing valuable products and networks. The scammers aren’t promoting hard work, though – they’re promoting phony get-rich-quick schemes with the real objective of draining your bank account into theirs.

Other websites claim to offer leads to legitimate online jobs, often for freelance writers, mystery shoppers or other work-from-home jobs. Again, there are plenty of legitimate opportunities for online employment from real companies.  The scammers, though, aren’t interested in hooking you up with a real job, they’re interested in hooking into your bank account.

In both of these cases, you’ll find yourself at a long web page that culminates in a pitch for a money-making kit that’s going to put you on the path to instant (or almost-instant) wealth.  The purchase price is often pretty low – sometimes under $10, although some go as high as $50 – and many folks who really ought to know better go ahead and buy it, thinking that maybe, just maybe, there’s something to it . . .

Of course, the kit’s a ripoff, and the buyer just writes it off to tuition in the school of hard knocks . . . until the next credit card statement shows up with a recurring charge for $47 or so from the same crooks. And because so many Americans – even the unemployed ones – don’t scrutinize their credit card statements all that carefully, sometimes these charges will continue for months or even years before they’re caught.

Another scam is a variation of the certified check ripoff. An “employer” hires you online to drive him around for an hour or so every day for a week or two when he comes to town.  He sends you a certified check to pay for an auto rental he’s arranged – all you have to do is drop off the payment with the rental agent, keeping a couple of thousand dollars as an advance on your pay.  The car, he tells you, will be dropped off a couple of days before he arrives in town. The check turns out to be bogus, but it won’t get returned to your bank until long after you’ve paid his confederate and spent your “pay” -- and now you’re responsible for making good on that phony check.

Protect yourself.  When you’re offered a job online, research your employer thoroughly. Don’t give out bank or credit card information, and by all means don’t pay anyone for a job! If you need to provide account information so you can be paid, establish a PayPal account for that purpose alone and sweep it clean immediately after you’re paid.

- Dale

After a long career in human resources, Dale lives in the metro Atlanta area and works as a business consultant and freelance writer.

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