The beginning of summer brings an influx of job-seeking students looking to capitalize on their free time by earning money over their three-month break. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of these students find employment in the accommodations and foodservice industry, with a little over half (54%) of 16- to 24-year-olds employed in July 2021, an 8% increase from 2020 levels. Unfortunately, con artists are well-versed in creating job postings that seem legitimate and are often tailored to appeal to first-time workers and students.
In 2018-19, employment scams were the No. 1 riskiest scam in North America, replaced by online purchase scams in 2020 as consumer shopping habits transitioned to more digital marketplaces due to the coronavirus pandemic. BBB’s 2021 Scam Tracker Risk Report identified employment scams as the third riskiest scam in North America, based on consumer susceptibility and exposure, with a median loss of $900. While the median loss decreased by $67 from 2020 levels, employment scams affect 18- to 24-year-olds, military spouses and veterans at higher rates. More than 3,300 reports of employment scams were submitted to BBB Scam Tracker in 2021, with nearly 30% occurring from May thru July.
Employment scams progress in various ways and do not always result in a loss of money. However, jobseekers often provide sensitive personal information to potential employers which places them at an increased risk of experiencing identity theft if the employer turns out to be fraudulent. Additionally, many victims of employment scams may inadvertently participate in illegal activity, particularly for positions involving package reshipment. Common versions of employment scams include:
- After being offered a position with a company, the employee provides all the required personal information including, but not limited to, banking information, address, Social Security number and other identification documents. Once submitted, the company ceases to contact the employee and all attempts to establish communication go unanswered.
- The company provides the employee a check under the direction it is to be used to purchase work or training materials. After depositing the check, the company informs the employee that they were overpaid and requests the money be returned via nontraditional payment methods, such as gift cards, a wire transfer or mobile banking app. Eventually, the employee’s bank identifies the deposited check as fraudulent and removes the funds from their bank account, leaving the victim out however much money they ‘returned’ to the company.
- Employment is offered to the jobseeker under the condition they pay for and complete specific training, credentials, or qualifications required for the position. Conveniently, the company provides the courses required or directs the jobseeker to use a particular third party. After paying for the training, the victim never hears from either company again.
In many cases, scammers impersonate well-known companies, like Amazon and Walmart, to appear legitimate and put victims at ease. Recently, fraudulent job positions that include the opportunity to work from home are growing in popularity, following marketplace trends.
To avoid employment scams targeting students looking for summertime employment, follow these tips provided by your Better Business Bureau:
- Some positions are more likely to be scams. Be wary of package reshipment and secret shopper positions and any jobs with generic titles such as caregiver, administrative assistant, or customer service representative. Positions that do not require special training or knowledge appeal to a wide range of applicants, which scammers use to cast a wider net for potential victims. If the job posting is for a well-known company, check the company’s job posting page to see if the position is legitimate. It may be a scam if the jobseeker can find the posting in multiple cities with the exact same wording. Jobs that advertise themselves as “high pay and flexible schedules” are extremely appealing to students searching for summer jobs, which scammers use to their advantage. Be cautious of postings that use this type of language.
- Beware aggressive employment offers. Any pressure to sign or onboard immediately is a sign that the company may not be legitimate. Choosing a place to work is an important decision that most legitimate companies understand requires time to consider. Be especially wary if the position is offered without an interview or promises a significant income under the condition the employee pays for coaching, training or certifications.
- Do not deposit unexpected or suspicious checks. Be cautious with whom and how you share your personal information, such as banking information. Do not fall for an overpayment scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay an employee and ask for compensation by requiring money to be wired elsewhere.
- Get contracts in writing. Employee requirements, qualifications and job duties should be in writing. If using a recruiting service, the service should provide a complete contract for the cost of their services, what the service includes, who pays for the service (either the jobseeker or employer) and what happens if the recruiter fails to find a position.
For more information about employment scams and to access BBB’s 2020 Employment Scams Report for free, visit BBB.org/EmploymentScams.
If you’ve been a victim of an employment scam, report it on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided may prevent another person from becoming a victim.