• Businesses are re-hiring team members after COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is also seeing a rise in online job scams, particularly mystery shopper scams. The ITRC has seen a 250 percent increase in mystery shopper scams from June to July.
  • Job scams are not uncommon. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $59 million.
  • Law enforcement agencies across the country are also seeing the rise. The St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana is asking its citizens to be on the lookout for online job scams. The FBI wants people to watch for fake job listings.
  • To avoid a job scam, only use a reputable website for employment opportunities, be careful how much personal information you share and don’t pay upfront costs.
  • To learn more about online job scams, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat by visiting www.idtheftcenter.org.

With many people vaccinated for COVID-19, most businesses are reopening and rehiring team members. Criminals are also looking to take advantage of the surge in hiring. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a rise in the number of online job scam reports to its contact center, particularly mystery shopper scams. In fact, the ITRC has seen a 250 percent increase in mystery shopper scams from June 2021 to July 2021.

The ITRC is not the only organization to see the job scam uptick. The St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana is urging its citizens to be on the lookout for online job scams. The FBI wants people to keep an eye out for fake job listings.

Work-From-Home Job Scams

While vaccinations are on the rise, the pandemic is still ongoing, meaning many people are still looking for jobs where they can work from their homes. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), criminals are aware of this and are posting the “perfect” work-from-home jobs, claiming you can be your own boss and set your schedule. They claim you can make a lot of money in a short amount of time and with little effort.

Mystery Shopper Scams

Mystery shopping has been around for a long time. Mystery shoppers help businesses, retailers and restaurants get information on the quality of their stores in exchange for money. In the past, scammers have found ways to turn the service into a mystery shopper scam, also known as a secret shopper scam. The ITRC saw a spike in 2020, and is seeing a rise again. There are different forms of mystery shopping scams. Click here to learn more.

Tips to Avoid an Online Job Scam

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 16,012 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling more than $59 million. While you are looking for the right job, there are a few things to remember:

  • Know the source of the job listing and only use reputable websites to find employment opportunities. This will require you to do some research. Look online for independent sources of information. While the company’s website or advertisement may show testimonials or reviews from satisfied employees, they could still be fake. Instead, you should search the name of the company or the person who’s hiring you and add a word like “scam,” “review” or “complaint.” Searching for “Acme Co Scams” will give you search results that show if the company is legitimate and if it has been associated with fraud. You will often see what other employees and customers think of the would-be employer.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be mindful of unsolicited emails and offers with outrageous claims, such as “Earn $3,000 a week working from home.”
  • Once you find a job posting, be careful how much personal information you share, at least during the application period. If a company claims they want to do a phone, Skype or Zoom interview due to social distancing and safety, that’s okay. However, it does not mean you should turn over sensitive personal information like your Social Security number (SSN) until you have been given a job offer contingent on passing a background check (which requires an SSN). Also, before you accept an offer or send a potential employer your personal information, run the job offer or posting by someone you trust.
  • Legitimate jobs don’t usually require any upfront fees or costs. Even things like company uniforms or specialized equipment like steel-toed shoes are often deducted from the first paycheck or purchased by the employee through an outside company. Typically, a form of payment is not requested. If an employer asks for a finder’s fee, administrative fee, background check fee or other funds, it is probably a scam. Even for legitimate actions like submitting a bank account number and routing number for direct depositing of paychecks, it’s vital to ensure the company is legitimate and the job has already been awarded before submitting the information. Also, don’t pay for the promise of a job. Only scammers will ask you to pay to get a job.
  • Don’t send money to your new boss. If a potential employer or new boss sends you a check, asks you to deposit it and then buy gift cards, it is a scam. While the check may look like it cleared and the funds look available in your account, the check is still fake and you will be responsible for any purchases.
  • Never pay to be a mystery shopper. Don’t wire money or send a “deposit” via PayPal, Venmo or Zelle. Also, to avoid a mystery shopper scam, cash the check at an issuing bank or wait until the money has not just posted but cleared the other account. If the check is not good, the victim can return the cash into their account.

Contact the ITRC

There are many different job scams, particularly online job scams. If you have questions, want to learn more or if you believe you were the victim of an online job scam, contact us. You can speak with an expert advisor by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

The post was originally published on 6/30/21 and was updated on 7/21/21