Monday, August 23, 2010

Keeping Your On-Line Job Search Safe

Recently, I was the victim of computer hackers. For some reason, I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. My personal email address was taken over, the hackers sent a scam email to all of my contacts making it look like I emailed everyone to ask for help as I had been mugged in London and I needed money. My phone rang off the hook with friends and family calling to make sure I was safely at home in Atlanta. Even close friends seemed to believe the email even though I had spoken to them recently and hadn't mentioned a thing about a trip overseas. It was weeks before all of my on-line content was returned to me and the whole experience was a nightmare.

Searching for jobs on-line can open you to similar issues, but ones that may be harder to determine their authenticity. This article from MSN Careers gives some scenarios and some ways to protect yourself.

Keeping Your Online Job Search Safe

By CareerBuilder

Scenario: Imagine searching online for jobs one day, applying to a handful of them and hearing back from one of the employers. After an e-mail interview process, you are told that your new job as a finance manager requires you to transfer money deposits made to your personal bank account to a new account. You sign the contract and send it off via e-mail.

You receive your first assignment: Transfer money overseas. Upon going to the bank to make the transfer, you are arrested on the spot and charged with grand felony theft because the money you were about to forward was stolen. You are indicted by a grand jury for the theft and now, you're awaiting trial and facing prison time if convicted.

While the above situation is true, according to a report by the World Privacy Forum, it's also the worst case scenario to result from a job scam. Enticed by advertisements to work from home or make quick cash, more and more job seekers are falling prey to Internet employment hoaxes.

"Job scams target job seekers searching for high-paying, convenient opportunities," says Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources for CareerBuilder. "They con workers into divulging personal information such as bank account or Social Security numbers. Instead of getting paid, the victim ends up losing their money, their identity or worse, they can end up in jail."

Read on to get a crash course in (almost) everything you need to know about job scams, according to the World Privacy Forum, a California-based public interest research group and the Better Business Bureau.

Types of scams

The most common type of employment swindle is a payment-forwarding or payment-transfer scam, of which there are many variations. All of these stings involve forwarding or wiring money from a personal bank account, a PayPal account or from Western Union to another account, which is typically overseas. Usually, the con artist pretends to be an employer and, after he wins the job seeker's trust, he tricks job seeker into giving up his or her bank account number. For compensation, the job seeker is told to keep a small percentage of the money. While the amount of the transfer varies, almost always the money is stolen.

Another typical ruse is reshipping. These scams begin with an employment offer, usually via e-mail, for a job forwarding packages. Victims receive packages at their homes and are instructed to repackage and reship the parcels to another location, usually abroad. Frequently, the packages are stolen property.

A third set-up to be aware of is work-from-home opportunities, which generally promise quick cash and a lot of it. Victims have to pay a "registration fee" or a fee for training and/or equipment; often, the paid for materials aren't sent to the job seeker and refunds aren't available. Keep in mind that not all work-from-home opportunities are crooked, but take caution when applying for them.

Warning signs
Here are a few known "red flags" of phony job listings:

  • A request for bank account numbers.
  • A request for Social Security number.
  • A request to "scan the ID" of a job seeker, like a drivers' license. Scammers will say they need to "verify identity" -- this isn't a legitimate request.
  • A contact e-mail address that is not a primary domain. For example, an employer calling itself "Legacy Inc," will have a MSN hotmail e-mail address.
  • Misspellings and grammatical mistakes in the job ad.
  • A lack of interest in meeting the employee.

    Tips to avoid scams
    The following tips can help job seekers protect themselves from fraudulent job opportunities:

  • Never give personal bank account, PayPal or credit card numbers to an employer.
  • Do not transfer money and retain a portion of the payment.
  • Never forward, transfer or "wire" money to an employer.
  • Don't divulge private information such as a copy of your driver's license, passport or Social Security number. *
  • Do not re-ship products.
  • Don't partake in cross-border action.
  • Research the prospective company.

    If you have questions about the legitimacy of a job listing, contact your Better Business Bureau, your state or local consumer agency or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    If you feel you have been a victim, file a complaint about fraudulent jobs posted on an online job search Web site by calling the FTC complaint line at (877) 382-4357. If you ever receive a suspicious request that mentions, please do not respond and immediately contact CareerBuilder customer service at (866) 438-1485 or report the suspected fraud using our feedback form.

    To find a consumer agency near you, visit

    *Remember, this advice only applies to work from home jobs where you have not actually met the company or completed paperwork such as the Form I-9. Legitimate companies, like DISCOVER STAFFING, are required to get this information for the Federal Government. We will not ask for it until you've completed the application process.