As the old saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true, it’s a scam”. It doesn’t really say that, but with the way times have changed I’d say it’s pretty accurate. During the Great Pandemic (Covid 2020-?), We have seen an increase in scams. Now we know the crooks are still around. But this time it’s a little different, and they make better use of our human psychology.
When Covid really hit the United States, we ended up shutting down a lot of businesses. Many of these workers had nowhere to physically report to work, so they turned to other types of work. One of those options was remote work online.
And that makes sense, but it was the “perfect storm” for the crooks.
Remote jobs scam
All scams try to get you to give up something so that someone else can profit from it. Remote work scams are no different. Depending on the scammer, the scam can consist of emptying your bank account, stealing your identity, or both.
And if you think you can spot a bogus job posting and won’t fall for the trap, think again. According to a September 2020 study by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), most people who are victims of online job scams are between the ages of 25 and 34. The majority of them are women.
From this report, it was estimated that the total number of victims of these scams was 14 million. This number has certainly increased since last September. In an interview with ProPublica reporter Cezary Podkul for NPR’s All Things Considered, fake job postings in March 2021 were around 3,000, but have jumped to 36,000 recently.
By 2020, more than $ 2 billion in direct losses had been suffered.
This figure has also increased since the publication of the BBB report.
How to spot a fake job offer?
We have all kinds of crooks. Some are smarter than others, so the posts reflect that.
- Always be on the lookout for a few misspelled words; the most legitimate companies will proofread their work.
- Use words like “work from home“, “remote work online” or similar too in a post.
- Hiring is “immediate!”
- Unlimited amount of potential earnings or crazy sums without work. Yes, we all want easy money, but a lot of money rarely comes without work. At least not for most of us.
- Asking you to do free work up front without pay or a promise of pay that will come later. This does not necessarily mean that this is a bogus job offer. In fact, I know someone who was asked to work for before joining a company a few years ago. It was not a scam. But that should make you suspicious.
- Ask you to provide your personal information such as your social security number, bank account login information, driver’s license, etc. Never do this in a job application. If you need to enter personally identifiable information, enter gibberish. There is no need to verify your identity if you are simply applying for a job. The verification stage takes place after the offer of a job, and the appropriate forms must be completed.
- Ask you to cash a check or send a gift card or something similar. It is probably one of the biggest red flags. No legitimate business will ask you to send them a gift card. Nothing.
The latter may seem obvious, but it is not.
What can you do?
- To get started, start by asking other people to view the job posting for you. Sometimes it is difficult for us to spot the problem if we are too close to it or want it to be true. If it’s the latter, we can get ripped off.
- Suppose that being tech-savvy doesn’t mean you aren’t scammed. We are all sensitive to it. The more open-minded you are about this, the more likely you are to stay on your toes while browsing these posts.
- Take that job posting you are unsure about and research this company. Check if they have a legitimate website with contact information.
- If you see the posting in many job boards that appear under different company names, it is a sign that it is a scam.
- In Iowa, we can search for businesses if we know their name and they are incorporated in Iowa. You can go to Iowa Secretary of State’s Website to search for a company. I’m sure other states offer the same service.
- Never respond to jobs you haven’t requested. For example, if you receive an email from “Matt” saying that he has found this “job” and thinks it would be suitable for you, ignore it. If you haven’t asked for the reference, it’s probably not real.
A note of caution, even if a job posting is from a family member, you should still do your research on it. Recently I have met people who have fallen into the trap on our campus because job postings were shared by family members.
The BBB website has additional tips that you may find helpful.like having a second bank account when dealing with people you’ve never met in person.
But at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to spot a bogus job posting is to trust your instincts. Some of the job postings are elaborate and have all the features of a real job posting, so they are hard to spot. However, if it really is too good to be true, assume it is a scam until proven guilty. The last thing you wanted to happen to yourself during this pandemic is to have money and your identity stolen from you.