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Jeremy Johnson

While employment scams have consistently ranked in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot for Better Business Bureau’s annual riskiest scams report, we’ve recently found that in today’s economic climate, consumers are at a higher risk of falling prey, according to a new survey conducted by BBB*.

COVID-19 forced many people to lose their jobs and/or made it unsafe to be in an office, more applicants began looking for work-from-home positions. In fact, more than half of those we surveyed said the reason they clicked on a phony listing was because it offered the flexibility to work-from-home. It is this pool of consumers — unemployed and truly in need of work — that is most susceptible.

Our survey showed that more than half of the people targeted by employment scams (53 percent) reported being unemployed at the time of the encounter. Moreover, three-quarters of respondents who lost money were already in financial crisis.

These number illustrate that scammers often take advantage of the most vulnerable consumers. So, during these unprecedented times, it is critical that jobseekers remain vigilant as employment scams become increasingly hard to spot.

Bad actors are going to great lengths to dupe consumers by hosting phone calls and Zoom meetings, even providing official-looking offer letters. This is all in an effort to gain personally identifiable information or get the consumer to participate in a fake-check scam as part of the process.

  • Sometimes it’s personal information that’s lost. Our survey found that 26 percent of consumers unknowingly engaging in a scam gave out their Social Security Number.
  • Oftentimes, there’s monetary loss as well. BBB found consumers ages 25 to 34 lost on average $1,000, while those ages 45 to 54 and 65-plus lost $1,600.

Our findings also show scammers continue to use big-brand names to lure consumers, with Amazon and Walmart being the most common. And there’s a reason for this: 65 percent of consumers reported they were looking at positions related to “warehouse redistribution coordinator” or a similar title, which really means reshipping stolen products. The use of a misleading euphemism as a job title is an all too common tactic that scammers use to get people to sign onto doing something illegal.

Better Business Bureau offers these tips for consumers and business owners to better protect themselves and, most importantly, learn how to spot legitimate job offerings during these tough times.

If you’re a consumer applying for jobs:

  • Be wary of vague descriptions. In order to reach as many people as possible, scammers list job requirements that are broad enough for anyone to qualify.
  • Don’t fall for the cushy offer. Many phony listings offer jobs that are just too good to be true. One common theme is the opportunity to make “thousands from the comfort of your couch.” Think twice.
  • Look out for fake checks. Employment and fake-check scams often intersect. Be wary if an “employer” asks you to deposit a check and then wire back funds to another account for training, equipment, technology or onboarding “purposes.”

If you’re a business owner, you can do your part by showing applicants what a legitimate job posting looks like. Consider the following:

  • Be consistent. Ensure all jobs you post on third-party websites are also posted in an accessible way on your own website so applicants can confirm which jobs are real.
  • Centralize the information. Be thinking about where you post all open positions and try to keep the information centralized on one or two landing pages. Also, update your page when a job is no longer available.
  • Give details. Be very specific about your company’s hiring process, what each open position entails and desired qualifications. Remember, con artists rely on broad descriptions, so the more detailed your listing is, the more confidence a consumer will have.

For more information, head to trust-bbb.org.

*This report examines findings from an April 2020 survey of 10,670 U.S. and Canadian consumers reporting to BBB Scam Tracker.

Jeremy Johnson is the Eastern Idaho Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. Contact the BBB at 208-342-4649 or email info@thebbb.org. •