Looking for a job during pandemic stay-at-home orders? Beware employment scams


By Kathleen Furore, Tribune Content Agency

Just when you've started to get the hang of working from home during the coronavirus crisis comes this sobering news from The Better Business Bureau (BBB): The coronavirus outbreak can make people more vulnerable to employment scams and it expects to see an increase in the number of cases.

Even before COVID-19 disruptions and escalating unemployment claims, scams were prevalent: According to pre-pandemic data from FlexJobs, there were approximately 60 to 70 job scams for every one legitimate work-from-home job. What can you do if you're looking for opportunities while sitting in front of your home computer?

"Scammers are incredibly tuned into the fact that some job seekers are desperate to make money," says Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. "These scammers will use this opportunity to pounce on and try to trick new professionals who may not be accustomed to looking for remote jobs. Especially right now, as scammers become more sophisticated and see opportunity, it is critical for job seekers to educate themselves on how to stay safe."

How can you avoid becoming a victim of a job scam during these trying times and after? FlexJobs offers the following tips:


1. Identify warning signs

Being able to identify warning signs of job search fraud is essential to avoid being scammed. In fact, according to a recent FlexJobs survey, 15% of respondents said they avoided being scammed because they recognized some of these common signs:

  • A sense of urgency, or pressure from the recruiter to accept the job immediately.
  • A request for personal financial information early in the interview process. That information might include your social security number, bank account, home address, phone number and date of birth.
  • An offer of a lot or money for not a lot of work
  • Rags-to-riches stories that showcase high-flying lifestyles.
  • The promise of quick money and drastic income changes overnight.
  • Glaring grammatical or spelling errors in the posting.
  • Purported endorsements by countless celebrities or public figures.
  • A personal contact email address (e.g., johnsmith3843@gmail.com) or one that mimics a real company's email address (e.g., johnsmith@dellcomputercompany.com)
  • A request for money to pay up-front expenses.
  • Compensation that's based on the number of people you recruit.
  • An immediate job offer -- one that comes without verification of past work experience or a request for references.

2. Consider the keywords

"Work from home" and "work at home" are most commonly used by scammers, while keywords like "remote job," "virtual job" and "telecommute job" are used more by legitimate employers, information from FlexJobs explains. In addition to "work from home" and "work at home," the following keywords are red flags to beware of:

  • Free work from home jobs
  • Quick money
  • Unlimited earning potential
  • Multi-level marketing
  • Envelope stuffing
  • Investment opportunities and seminars

3. Research the companies

Try to find out if the recruiter/hiring manager contacting you really exists. The Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) and the Federal Trade Commission's Complaint Assistant (ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1) are two reliable resources to contact if you think you're being scammed.


4. Connect with the company directly

If someone you're working with won't tell you the name of the company, it could be a sign that you're in the middle of a scam. "So contact the company that you might be working for to verify that A. the job recruiter is working for them, and B. the job you're applying for exists," tips from FlexJobs suggest.


5. Question the communication

Even though almost everything is done online these days, be suspicious if you're asked to do an interview via email or instant messaging. "Most often, you might be initially contacted by email, but after that, you should still have a phone or video interview--or both," tips from FlexJobs stresses.

See more at: Tribune Content Agency

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