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Categorized | Business

Scammers target job hunters in weak economy

Stay safe on the hunt by looking for seven red flags

As the unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, the Better Business Bureau warns that scammers are taking advantage of the opportunity by preying on the unemployed. Identifying the common red flags of a scam is one way for job hunters to protect themselves and their wallet.

According to the Labor Department, new jobless claims in mid-August unexpectedly jumped to 500,000, an increase of 12,000 over the previous week. Not only did jobless claims rise suddenly, but the length of unemployment is bleak for many. According to a July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 45 percent of unemployed Americans had been out of work for more than 6 months.

“The dismal employment rate means that a lot of people are desperate for work and may be grasping for any job which creates a great opportunity for scammers,” said Ken Vander Meeden, President of the BBB Serving Western Michigan. “Not thoroughly researching a job opportunity can make a bad situation even worse and a victim can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars to any number of job-related scams.”

The BBB recommends looking out for the following seven red flags when searching for a job:

Red Flag: The employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home.

While many legitimate businesses allow employees to work from home, there are also a lot of scammers trying to take advantage of senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, students and injured or handicapped people looking to make money conveniently at home. Job hunters should use extreme caution when considering a work-at-home offer and always research the company with their BBB first at www.bbb.org.

Red Flag: The employer asks for money upfront.

It is rarely advisable for an applicant to pay upfront fees or make a required purchase to get a job. The BBB often hears from job hunters who paid a phony employer for supposedly required background checks or training for jobs that didn’t exist. Always research the job thoroughly before opening up your wallet. Also be wary of job placement companies that ask for large upfront fees to find you a job.

Red Flag: The salary and benefits offered seem too-good-to-be-true.

The adage holds true for job offers: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Phony employers might brag about exceptionally high salary potential and excellent benefits for little work and no experience necessary in order to lure unsuspecting job hunters into their scam.

Red Flag: Employer e-mails are rife with grammatical and spelling errors.

Online fraud is often perpetrated by scammers located outside the U.S. Their first language usually isn’t English and this is often evident in their poor grasp of the language which can include poor grammar and the misspelling of common words.

Red Flag:  The employer requires you to check your credit report.

After posting their resumes online or responding to online job listings, many job hunters received what they thought was good news: an e-mail from an interested employer. In order to be considered for the job, the applicant has to check his or her credit report through a recommended website. The truth is, the e-mail is just an attempt to get the job hunter to divulge sensitive financial information or sign up for credit monitoring services.

Red Flag: The employer is quick to ask for personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers.

Some job seekers have been surprised to learn they’ve gotten a job without having to do a single interview. However, when the employer then asked for personal information in order to fill out the necessary paperwork, suspicions were raised, and rightly so. Regardless of the reason, a job applicant should never give out his or her Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or email and only after they’ve confirmed the job is legitimate.

Red Flag: The job requires you to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or receive and forward suspicious goods.

Many phony jobs require the employee to cash a check sent by the company through the mail and then wire a portion of the money on to another entity. Reasons given for this requirement vary from scam to scam. Whatever the reason though, the check might clear the employee’s bank account but will eventually turn out to be a fake and the employee is out the money he or she wired back to the scammers. The BBB also warns against receiving and mailing suspicious goods, such as electronics or luxury items, overseas.

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