CHICAGO, IL – July 29, 2014 - Thousands of individuals across northern Illinois are still unemployed. With prospects for getting a job remaining somewhat bleak, job seekers bite at any opportunity they feel may land them work. Given that scenario, the environment is ripe for scammers. Reports of “job opportunity” scams continue to come into the Better Business Bureau (BBB) from people seeking employment and who are at best left disappointed when the job turns out to be a hoax.
The types of scams vary; offers are usually found on Craigslist, ads in local newspapers or contacts made online.
Tonya Thomas of Chicago responded to an offer that she found on Craigslist advertising a well-paying position as a security guard with Sky Security Opportunity, located at 500 N. Michigan Ave Suite 600 in Chicago. This location is a “virtual office” which can also be described as a “mail drop”. “They called me in for an interview and told me to bring $160 in cash for a background check. When I went into their office it looked kind of odd and empty but they told me that I was guaranteed a job after the background check so I gave them the money. I never heard back from them.”
During her job search Arianne Clarke of Rockford, IL says she contacted IllinoisJobLink.com, a legitimate online job search tool of the Illinois Department of Employment Security. “After I made that contact I received an email from email@example.com signed by Deborah Shepherd who said she was from IllinoisJobLink.com and was scheduling interviews to be done via yahoo messenger.” Following instructions, Ms. Clarke set up an IM account, an interview was done and she was hired. “I was then told I would need to purchase special software to do the job and they would forward a check to pay for it. I did some online checking and found the check that would be sent to me was bogus and would bounce.”
“The outlook.com email address used in Ms. Clarke’s case is from a free service often used by scam artists because it is fairly anonymous and would be difficult for law enforcement to trace.” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Had she not been vigilant and done some investigation, Ms. Clarke could have lost hundreds of dollars.”
In another job scam, Miranda Lynn Neuohr of Ottawa, IL says she saw an ad in the Times Newspaper advertising an opportunity for a personal assistant job for an 80 year old man. “I sent a letter of interest and received a reply from ‘the son’ stating they needed someone honest and with a good sense of humor.” The ad also stated that the man was a veteran of the United States, he liked to travel the world and was currently hospitalized in Delhi, India. “I told him (the son) a little about myself and I got the job. But, he wanted to ship a motorized wheelchair to my house. I responded saying it was in my best interest to decline. I googled the email address and saw the job was listed in both the Ottawa area and Macomb County paper.”
Bernas notes, “When something doesn’t feel right to you, the best thing to do is listen to your gut feeling, as it seldom steers you wrong.”
No matter where the job opportunity comes from there are essential things individuals should do to protect themselves. The BBB recommends:
The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices. The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service. Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.