Job scams work when you don’t

June 23, 2011 

Navigating the job market can be frustrating in these difficult economic times. But unemployment can go from bad to worse when job hunters become the target of scammers on Craigslist and other classified advertising sites.

Con artists exploit the desperation of the jobless by tricking them into divulging personal and financial information, says LA County Department of Consumer Affairs’ Acting Director Rigo Reyes. They then use that information to defraud the victim.

“This is always a problem when the economy slows down,” Reyes says. “We have seen a significant increase over the last year or so, not just in numbers, but in the complexity of the scams that they try to get you with.”

You can identify fraudulent job offers by arming yourself with information. According to Reyes, the two most important things to watch for are guarantees of employment and companies or individuals asking for payment up front.

Reports from the Federal Trade Commission and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse list other red flags and suggest some precautions:

Red Flags

  • Requests for financial information (account numbers, credit card numbers, etc.)
  • Requests for a Social Security number
  • Requests to scan your ID card, or for a scan of your ID card
  • Absence of a company name or contact information
  • A contact email address that is not a primary domain (for example, when the hiring company is “Omegacorp” @yahoo.com instead of @omegacorp.com)
  • Misspellings and grammatical errors
  • Promises to get you a job
  • Employment services that charge an up-front fee
  • Reluctance by the hiring firm to answer your questions
  • Ads containing such terms as “PayPal”, “package-forwarding”, “money transfers”, “wiring funds”, “eBay” or “foreign agent agreement”

Precautions

  • Make sure you understand your duties and the employer’s duties
  • Take time reading contracts and avoid high-pressure sales pitches
  • Follow up with the company that listed the ad
  • Check with Consumer Affairs, the state Attorney General’s office, and the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the company
  • Research the company before sending your resume or any personal information
  • Target your search to the type of job you are seeking
  • Do not give prospective employers your money or financial information (after all, aren’t they supposed to be paying you?)
  • Be wary of companies that want you to sign up for direct deposit before you have started work

Craigslist and other classified ad sites offer their own warnings and have security measures to protect users, but scammers often find ways around them. Furthermore, the websites are not legally responsible for the listings. The people who place the ads are responsible, says Reyes, but odds are against you getting your money back. Many of the scams originate outside of the country and are difficult to track down.

While some scams are fairly blatant, others are more clever, Reyes says. Some scammers use professional looking logos and websites. And when they steal, they take small amounts that embarrassed victims usually don’t report, and that law enforcement officials are often unwilling to prosecute.

If you find yourself victimized by a scam, you can take some action. If the scammers accessed your finances, close all accounts at the bank where it took place. Register a fraud alert with all three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—and report the fraud to Consumer Affairs. The agency investigates complaints and presents viable cases to the City Attorney and the District Attorney for prosecution. You can call Consumer Affairs officials at (800) 593-8222, e-mail them here, fill out an online complaint form, or visit their office at 500 West Temple Street, Room B-96.

Finally, Reyes warns job hunters to guard their privacy online.

“A resume is basically an outline of your life. Who knows what they are going to use that information for?” he says. “Unless you are on a very reputable site, be extremely careful with your personal info. Once it goes online it is very difficult to get it back.”

Posted 6/23/11

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