It’s a dream come true. You’ve been scouring the internet, trying to find employment, and now you’ve received an amazing job offer. It’s a virtual assistant position that allows you to work from home so that you can make money while balancing your home life. The good news? You can start immediately. Even better news, the company is sending you a check to purchase the office supplies you will need to get started!
All you need to do is take the image of a check they email you, deposit the check into your bank account, and then forward the excess money above the funds they are sending for supplies. The best news of all… You get to KEEP any extra funds that you don’t spend on supplies as a sign-on bonus!
So, you receive a check for $4,500.00 by email and deposit it using mobile banking. Your new boss tells you to keep $1,000.00 of the check for your supplies and then fulfill your first task. That task - send the remaining $3,500.00 to an unknown third party by wire or funds transfer.
It’s the perfect job and opportunity!
Or is it?
The perfect job and that bonus cash will soon become a huge nightmare!
Why? Because that check you deposited… It’s FAKE!
Behind the scenes, your new “boss” is a scammer, offering the same job opportunity to thousands of other unsuspecting victims. For each new employee who accepts the job offer, a fraudulent check is emailed with the same instructions: print a copy of the check sent by email, use your bank’s mobile app to deposit the item, and then send a large portion of the funds to another person.
After you take the money from your account and send the funds, the check will be returned to the bank as fraudulent. By sending a wire, using a transfer platform like PayPal or CashApp, or taking cash from your account to send via the local Western Union or to send by mail, the money is gone forever.
Now, you, the account holder who deposited the check and sent the funds, are responsible for the fraudulent check and will lose the funds that were sent. For many, when the funds from the fraudulent check deposit are reversed, it causes the account to become overdrawn, often by thousands of dollars, leaving the unsuspecting victim on the hook to pay the money back.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB, 2023), employment scam, such as the one described above, was the 2nd riskiest scam reported by consumers in 2022. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC, 2022) indicates that nearly 95,000 Americans reported that they were affected by a business or job opportunity scam in 2022. The scams resulted in a reported total loss of $374.6 million, which averaged to $3,951.19 per incident.
With frauds and scams on the rise, there is no better time to learn how you can best protect yourself and your money from bad actors! Next time you, a family member, or friend is approached with an opportunity too good to be true, consider the following:
Ø Was the employment opportunity unsolicited?
o Scammers will often send a job opportunity email to thousands of individual’s emails obtained from across the internet. Read the email for grammar issues or misspellings of words. This is a sign that the email comes from a bad actor and is a red flag.
Ø Did you actually talk with someone before the job offer was made?
o Because working from home and remote jobs are becoming a more common factor in today’s business environment, it’s easy to think that an interview could be handled via email, text, or messaging system. However, reputable companies still conduct interviews face to face, even if that means using computer applications such as FaceTime or Zoom. If the offer is made without ever physically speaking with your new employer, that’s a red flag.
Ø What did research about the company reveal?
o Even if you find a job posting on websites such as Indeed or Glassdoor, the job may still be a scam. Research the company. Go to their website on your own and determine if the position can be located within their listing of open career opportunities. Many scammers may include a link to a fake website that is made to look like a true business’s web page. Finding the website or phone number for the company on your own can help determine if your communications are with the true company or a scammer.
Ø Is the company asking for your information without conducting a formal interview?
o Scammers will make it appear as though you are going through the hiring process and ask for personal information such as your Social Security Number and banking information to finalize the employment process as well as set you up for payroll direct deposits. Never provide this information if the contact was unsolicited and before you are certain the company is real. Always make certain that you have spoken face to face with a company representative before providing any personal information that a scammer can use to steal your identity or money.
Ø Are you receiving money before having to perform any work?
o Companies who employ remote workers will send equipment for you to use once you’ve accepted a position and have signed all the necessary paperwork. Most do not send money for the purchase of work supplies since computers and equipment need to meet their standards and be fitted with appropriate security software at the company’s main office. If your job offer includes a check that you need to deposit immediately, especially when you are asked to forward some of the funds, this is a red flag and a scam. No reputable business will send you money and ask you to forward it to another person.
Remember, a company should never make you feel pressured to provide them with information or take immediate action, such as sending them money, to offer you a job. If something seems too good to be true, involve a friend or family member. Ask them to go over the facts with you or to help with research. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and protecting yourself can prevent you from falling for a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars!
For more information on how to protect yourself, visit bbb.org/AvoidScams. If believe you have been targeted by a scam, file a complaint with the FTC using their website or calling (877) 382-4357.
BBB. (2023). 2022 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. Retrieved from BBB Foundation: https://bbbfoundation.images.worldnow.com/library/8923baa8-e503-45c9-9f2c-c57995ed4a2e.pdf
Federal Trade Commission. (2022). Fraud Reports. Retrieved from FTC Consumer Sentinel Network: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/federal.trade.commission/viz/FraudReports/FraudFacts