Job Offer Scams and How to Avoid Them

By: Robert H Thayer II

“Hello, my name is Michael Cochran and I am the hiring project manager at Tri-North Construction Company. I got your number on Craigslist through a post. If you’re still looking for a job, I am looking to hire an assistant for myself. All you will be doing is getting project money to my clients for the project materials, because I’m busy now and that’s why I’m employing you as my assistant to assist me with the job. You would receive $700 weekly as a salary. The main thing you will do is to receive money from my agent or me in the form of direct deposit. Once you get the money, I will instruct you on how to get it over to my clients, okay?”

Sound fishy?

Sadly, these types of job offer scams are on the rise. An increasing number of fictitious jobs are posted on job boards daily and job seekers are unfortunately becoming victims of identity theft and monetary cons. And the example above? That’s a real example.

A scammer has been using Tri-North’s name, posing as a recruiter for us, and offering attractive employment opportunities to people across the country. He uses different names and phone numbers, but the scam is always the same—the “job offer” requires the job seeker to pay money in advance, either for travel expenses, background/credit checks, or both. His intent is that once the job seeker pays him money or gives them their bank account information, he then falls off the map, and the job seeker will then be left with far worse than no job, as they have now given their personal information and money to a thief. Though we do not know for sure, it appears that he is also asking for a photo of the job seeker’s driver’s license, which he then presumably uses as his identity for his next target.

Though their goal has always been the same, scammers are getting smarter and sneakier in their techniques; therefore, it is becoming more and more difficult for folks to determine when a job opening or offer is legitimate. Thankfully, for at least some of the targets of the scammer using Tri-North’s name, this criminal’s story was not sneaky enough. Multiple parties contacted by the scammer did their research and inquired directly with us, thus exposing the fraud and saving themselves from major headaches. Upon learning about what was happening, we immediately filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and were even able to catch the scammer on the phone once. As you can imagine, we firmly informed him that we had filed a complaint with the FTC and implored him to give up the con and never use our name again.

Tips for recognizing and avoiding job offer scams:

  1. The golden rule is: no reputable recruiter or legitimate company will ever require you to pay money to them. Any job offer that requires you to pay any sort of fees in advance is almost certainly a scam. Reputable companies absorb the costs of any background checks and/or training that they require as part of applicant research and/or employee onboarding.
  2. Always do independent research on the company. At a minimum, visit the company’s website. If they do not have one, they are likely a scammer. If you do find a website, compare the contact information you received from the person offering the job to what is available on the website. Likewise, do a Google search on the company to see what other information you can find and compare that to the information you were given.
  3. Remember that scammers often use the name of legitimate companies to mask their scam. This is what happened in our case. Proper research on the part of those offered the nonexistent jobs to Tri-North is what protected the job seekers in our example from falling prey to hardship.
  4. Search the FTC and the Better Business Bureau websites to see if the company or person has been reported as a scammer.
  5. Never give away your personal information such as your social security number or other personal information. The only time it is appropriate to hand over this information is after you have been hired and are setting up your payroll and tax information with the company’s human resources department.
  6. Be aware of the following red flags:
    1. Salaries far beyond what you would normally earn
    2. Emails with grammatical and/or spelling mistakes
    3. Emails from free email accounts like Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail
    4. Job offers without interviews
    5. Work from home opportunities
    6. Vague job descriptions

The consequences of falling prey to scammers can be devastating: identity theft, illegal charges to your credit card, and the loss of your money. Do not learn the hard way. Do as the people who were targeted in our example did—know the red flags, do careful research, and never give money or personal information to someone prior to being legitimately hired.

If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer using our name, or have any questions or information about the example described above, please contact me at 608.271.8717.

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