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Scammers are targeting millions of unemployed Americans searching for jobs, looking for opportunities to obtain access to victims’ identities and financial assets. In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received complaints amounting to over $62 million in losses from employment scams, an increase of nearly $20 million from 2019.

Who do scammers target?

While anyone searching for a job can be a victim of an employment scam, the BBB found that people ages 25-34 accounted for 28% of BBB Scam Tracker Reports. Nearly 21% of reports came from people ages 35-44, about 18% among people 45-54, and about 4% from those 65 and older. Median losses totaled $1,000, but the figure more than doubled to $2,299 for those ages 65 and older. 

What do employment scams look like?

Criminals promote fake job opportunities through many of the same job boards that legitimate companies use, such as online job sites, social media platforms, and newspapers. The fake postings claim to offer employment but are instead used to acquire victims’ personal information and financial assets.

Some common examples include:

  • Impersonating legitimate companies: Scammers may pretend to represent well-known businesses, such as Amazon or Walmart, and spoof websites to direct job applicants to apply on fake websites. In addition, scammers may try to persuade victims to provide personally identifiable information, such as Social Security number and date of birth, or bank account information. 
  • Mystery shopper scams: In this scam, people signing up to work as mystery shoppers may be asked to provide their date of birth, Social Security numbers, and addresses. Then they receive a check to shop at a store. Scammers instruct victims to purchase a gift card and send pictures with their pin card to the scammers after depositing the check. Alternatively, victims receive instruction to send part of the money back to the scammer. In either situation, the check is fake. Once the bank discovers the issue, the victim is on the hook for all of it. 
  • Reshipping scams: These may appear as “quality control manager” or “virtual personal assistant” positions, where the victim’s role is to receive packages and reship them. Scammers instruct victims to receive packages at their house, remove all original packaging and receipts, then repackage and ship them to an address they provided. They’ll often claim to pay the victim after one month’s work, but no payment ever arrives. On top of that, the victims often face identity theft as they likely shared personally identifiable information, such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, date of birth, and other important data. 
  • Job placement services: Fraudsters will charge job seekers a fee to find employment. However, legitimate staffing agencies do not usually charge fees to the job applicant; companies that work with head hunters typically pay such a fee. 

What are some signs that a job offer is a scam?

  • You receive an offer for a job that you didn’t apply for 
  • The job posting is not listed on the company’s legitimate website 
  • Interviews are conducted via Google Hangout, Telegram, WhatsApp, or similar apps
  • You’re never interviewed 
  • The email offer is from a free account, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail 
  • You need to pay to get the job 
  • You are required to deposit money in your own bank account and then transfer it to someone else 
  • You’re required to provide your personal information, such as your Social Security number, driver’s license, or bank account during an interview. 

How can I protect myself?

  • Research the company before getting involved. 
  • Never pay to play. If a position requires you to pay, it’s a scam. 
  • Don’t share your personal information without meeting in-person, if possible. You should not have to provide any personal data until you have been hired. 
  • An employer doesn’t need your credit card information, so don’t share it. 
  • Don’t take a role that requires you to use your own bank account to transfer money to someone else. 

What do I do if I become a victim? 

  • Report it to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. You can also report it to your state attorney general
  • If you provided any personally identifiable information, such as your Social Security number, visit IdentityTheft.gov. Take steps to monitor your credit. Also, create new passwords for any accounts that you shared with the scammer. 
  • Were any payments sent via wire transfer? If so, alert the appropriate companies. Contact Western Union at 1-800-325-6000 or MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947). 
  • If you sent any payments through your bank, contact your bank. 
  • Contact the website or service where the job posting was listed.