In 2009, my then-unemployed husband spent money and left us vulnerable to identity theft because of a job scam. In response, I wrote an expose about job scams for the St. Petersburg Times titled "Frayed emotions make it easy to fall for job-hunting scams."
Since then, he has also fallen for the job-retraining scam where the "school" uses your one-time federal job retraining grant to "retrain" you to do something nobody is hiring for.
Today he came into my office and announced: "I got an email from a home foreclosure renovation company to fill out this form and pay $99 for a background check. I'll get on this list for renovation work supplied by the banks." I simply followed the advice in my 2009 article and did an online search of the company name along with "complaints," and I found the scam. Those who paid the $99 never got any work.
I am wondering how this can happen so easily, so I called Judi Perkins, a New York-based career coach with 22 years in the recruiting business. Turns out she sees it all the time.
"During the holidays, when money is tight, scammers prey on job seekers who are especially vulnerable out of fear and desperation," Perkins says. "The ads are simply a sales funnel designed to get your money and personal information. And those who think they would never fall for such scams are particularly vulnerable by nature of their pride," because the scammers can be so sophisticated.
"Listen to your inner voice when it recognizes those red flags. If you have to ask whether this is a job scam or not, it probably is," she says.
Other red flags:
- No legitimate company name or website.
- Legitimate-looking website with no contact information or physical address listed.
- Email from a free service such as Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail.
- Upfront requests for money, Social Security numbers or bank accounts.
- Paying you a large sum of money upfront.
- Bad grammar in ads or emails.
- Auto-responses emails or canned emails to a personal request.
- Off-site interviews.
Perkins stresses that legitimate job offers begin with a request for a resume, followed by a personal phone interview, a face-to-face interview with one or more employees at the physical address of the company and finally a background or credit check. "Most companies ask for background or credit checks only when they are ready to extend the offer, and by then you have discerned the legitimacy of the company and the offer," says Perkins. So what about paying for background checks? The Federal Trade Commission states that the law only requires they notify you and ask your permission to run one, but they can ask you pay for it.
So, have you ever spent money and fallen for a job scam?