That ‘employer’ you’re speaking to may in reality be after your personal information, your money or your help with their illegal activities
20 Jul 2023
4 min. read
The pandemic has radically reshaped the workplace. For many it normalized working from home (WFH). For others, it offered an opportunity to reevaluate whether their current career was the right fit for them. A “Great Resignation” ensued. Today, most of us expect our employers to give us the option to work remotely. Over half (53%) of remote-capable US workers have a hybrid work arrangement, for example.
With the cost of living hitting many countries, we’re also increasingly on the lookout for new ways to make some extra money. But scammers are as always primed and ready to take advantage. Nearly 93,000 Americans reported fraud related to business and job opportunities last year, according to the FTC. They suffered median losses of $2,000 – more than any other fraud type except investment scams. Separately, cases of employment fraud reported to the FBI last year resulted in losses of over $47 million.
It’s more important than ever to be on guard against job offers that look too good to be true. That ‘employer’ you’re speaking to may in reality be after your personal information, your money or your help with their illegal activities.
Eight WFH scams to look out for
WFH scams usually start with an online ad, perhaps on social media or even on even abuse legitimate career sites such as LinkedIn other platforms where job seekers look for new opportunities. Here are some of the main ones to watch out for:
The victim is hired to receive packages, potentially ‘inspect’ the items and then send them on to another destination. These may be advertised as “package handler,” “package processing assistant” or even “warehouse distribution coordinator.” In fact, the victim is receiving stolen goods purchased using compromised financial details, and is effectively helping the criminal to cover their tracks to hide the original crime.
2)Fake mystery shopper
The victim is hired to purchase products and report on the shopping experience. However, the check they’re given to pay for the purchases and/or upfront training and other expenses will bounce. Some scams may impersonate the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) to add legitimacy.
The victim is hired as a PA and asked to make some purchases for their employer, who sends a check to cover the expenses. They may ask for some of the money to be returned via wire transfer or digital app. Of course, the original check will bounce, leaving the victim in the red.
4)Start your own business
A scam company claims to offer resources to help the victim become an entrepreneur. Usually they charge a premium for these course materials, which turn out to be useless. The “get rich quick” promises are soon revealed to be built on sand.
Medical billing is a key part of the healthcare supply chain. It can take many months of training to get up to speed with this kind of work. However, scammers will often offer medical billing roles requiring no training. The course materials and/or certifications they include to get the victim up and running will cost a premium.
6)Fraudulent job listings
Sometimes scammers upload listings for jobs that don’t exist. The end goal is to get the applicant to send over personal information like Social Security numbers and other details which can be used to commit subsequent identity fraud in their name.
Victims are told they will be paid to assemble toys or crafts and send them back to their employer. However, they must pay up front for a starter kit. Once they pay, they soon realize there is no job.
Some multi-level marketing (MLM) opportunities are simply scams where fake companies promise that those who sign up will be paid a handsome commission to recruit others. They will also be forced to buy products from the ‘employer’ to sell to would-be customers.
How to stay safe
Follow this list of best practice advice to stay safe from WFH scams:
·Search for the company offering the job to check for any negative online reviews. In the US the Better Business Bureau is also a useful resource
·Ask the employer plenty of questions, such as: what the total cost of the program is; and when they will be paid, by whom and how
·Don’t assume the job ad is legitimate just because it appeared on a legitimate site
·Don’t apply for any job where earnings are dependent on recruiting others to the company
·Don’t believe information on the company’s website, including testimonials from other recruits, as this can all be faked
·Don’t respond to any unsolicited contact or click on links in unsolicited comms like emails or texts
·If you want to follow up an out-of-the-blue job offer, do some background research on the company rather than replying to the initial email
The popularity of WFH scams reflects both a worsening economic backdrop and our increasing preference to work remotely. There are jobs out there. Just be extra cautious in following up leads.