Tips to avoid online job scams - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Tips to avoid online job scams

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Con artists pose as employers or recruiters and offer enticing employment or career opportunities in order to commit identity or financial fraud against job seekers. Job seekers who fall for these scams spend time and money, but not the earnings they had hoped for.

Reported Problems: There are multiple types of job scams.

Work-at-Home Scam: Scammers advertise easy opportunities to work from home (online work, data entry, envelope stuffing, product assembly, medical processing and billing, etc.) for large sums of money. After paying for supplies, kits or materials, items never show. Some job opportunities don't pay as promised. In these situations, the alleged employer often can't be reached or refuses a refund.

Mystery/Secret Shopper Scam: Schemers promote lucrative mystery shopping or secret shopping jobs (where consumers are asked to test or evaluate products and services). Schemes trick job seekers into forwarding money to third party. The money turns out to be fake or stolen from another person or business. The job seeker has to pay all the money back to the rightful owner, including the money they thought they were sending to a third party-who turned out to be the scam artist.

Identity Theft: Fraudulent employers use job applications to collect personal details-such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card information-and bilk personal information from job hunters as part of an identity theft ploy.

Red Flags:

Job Ads:

  • Exaggerate high salaries and promise big part-time earning potential, and seldom offer regular salaried employment.
  • Overhype the job demand or amount of available work.
  • Understate the amount of time and effort needed to perform tasks.
  • Minimize the requirements, experience or qualifications to participate; touting phrases like "No experience is necessary."
  • Make a high pressure sales pitch and promote the job as a limited time offer.
  • Overstate claims of product effectiveness.
  • Use personal testimonials but never identify verifiable references.
  • Require money for instructions or merchandise before explaining how the plan operates.
  • Withhold relevant information about the company, job description or responsibilities.

E-mails and Invitations:

  • The e-mail or mail contains an offer for a job the consumer did not apply for. The solicitation comes from an unknown sender; usually e-mails come from a free account, like yahoo or hotmail.
  • Company contact information is not enclosed in job ads.
  • Employer communications are rife with grammatical and spelling errors.
  • The employer requires personal information, Social Security or bank account numbers right away via e-mail or an online application-without allowing time to research the company or the position.

Paychecks and Payments:

  • There is no employment contract or consistent pay schedule. The work begins before a formal job offer has been made; the quality of work determines whether the consumer gets the job.
  • Bank account or credit card information is needed to participate; or an up front monetary investment is required.
  • The employer requires the applicant to setup a new bank account through a specific bank.
  • The job asks the consumer to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or receive and forward suspicious goods.
  • An unexpected check arrives in the mail, usually in conjunction with a phone call or a letter stating why the money was received.
  • The consumer is asked to forward a portion of a check received back to the sender or to another company to pay for taxes, shipping, fees, etc. or to reimburse the company for salary overpayment.
  • Commission or pay is deducted from a check sent to the consumer, which is often counterfeit. For example: They send a check for $5,000, and then tell the consumer to reserve $100 as commission and use the remaining $4,900 according to instruction.
  • The name on the check does not match the name of the company the consumer thinks they are employed by.

BBB Tips: If it seems too good to be true, it's probably a scam.

  • Ask questions. Legitimate employers should be willing to answer questions about the company and job. Steer clear of those not willing to provide details.
  • Deal locally. When searching through online and offline classifieds, look for a company name, phone number, address and e-mail address on the company's job posting, web site and other communications; try contacting them before applying. Steer clear if the alleged hiring manager continually claims to be out of town or out of the country.
  • Check out businesses. Visit <> to find a BBB Reliability Report on the business offering the work opportunity. Research the company name, hiring manager, and product or service on an Internet search engine. Verify references, and where appropriate, check for business licensing.
  • Read contracts thoroughly. Get employment offers and job descriptions in writing. Make sure verbal promises are in the agreement.
  • Protect personal information. Although many employers verify Social Security numbers prior to employment, avoid putting this number on an initial application and make sure the company is legitimate. If a company demands bank account or credit card information, look elsewhere.
  • Examine online offers. If the ad is Internet based, do not enter personal information into an e-mail or web site unless the legitimacy of the employer has been verified. On web sites, review the privacy policy and verify the site is secure before entering any personal information; look for an "s" in the "https" in the Web address bar.
  • Most legitimate employers don't charge fees. Applicants should avoid paying up front fees or making purchases to receive a job or employment opportunities. Research free services online.
  • Be careful pre-paying. If purchasing a business' starter kit, CD or other materials to start working from home: Know exactly what you are paying for and when it will arrive. Consider all possible costs (office supplies, software, etc.) and weigh them with the benefits (gas savings, convenience, etc.). Get the opportunity and work agreement in writing before accepting the offer.
  • Never forward or wire money to a third party.
  • Be wary of fake checks. If concerned, have paychecks carefully inspected by an expert at a trusted financial institution before depositing. Do not use the money until the funds have been collected by your financial institution. Funds "availability" is not good enough.

Report Scams: Job scam victims can file complaints with the:

1. Federal Trade Commission and receive more tips
2. State Attorney General's Office and other local consumer affairs agencies.
3. Internet Crime Complaint Center if the scheme was Internet or e-mail related.
4. Better Business Bureau at if there is an unresolved issue with a business you've made a purchase from.
5. State Department of Labor office.

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