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BBB Advice: Look for Seven Red Flags when Searching for Jobs Online

6/2/2008

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In a recent report on job searching, The Conference Board noted that people are increasingly turning to the Internet as a key tool, noting that in 2007, 73 percent of job seekers reported using the online sources compared to 66 percent in 2005. While the Internet has made searching for jobs easier, it also provides an opportunity for ID thieves and scammers to take advantage of eager - and unsuspecting - job seekers. Better Business Bureau is providing guidance that will help people spot the seven most common red flags associated with online job search scams.

A 2007 survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 84 percent of U.S. workers are not in their dream job. Unfortunately, the search for a dream job can lead to becoming a victim of identity theft or other types of fraud. In 2007 alone, the Federal Trade Commission recorded more than 11,000 complaints about business opportunities including work-at-home scams, many of which were advertised online.

“BBB knows that the number of people who actually report being a victim of fraud when searching for a job is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “With a tough economy and tight job market forcing both businesses and job seekers to make difficult choices, BBB expects that instances of online job search fraud will continue to grow in the coming months as unemployment rates rise.”

Following are seven red flags BBB advises jobs hunters to be on the look out for when using online resources:

Red Flag: Employer e-mails are rife with grammatical and spelling errors
Most online fraud is perpetrated by scammers located outside the U.S. Their first language usually isn’t English and this is often evident in their poor grasp of the language which can include poor grammar and the misspelling of common words.

Red Flag:  E-mails purporting to be from job posting Web sites claiming there’s a problem with a job hunter’s account
After creating a user account on sites like Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, a job hunter might receive an e-mail saying there has been a problem with their account or they need to follow a hyperlink to install new software. Phishing e-mails like this are designed to convince readers to click a link within the message to fix the issue, but actually take them to a Web site that will install malware or viruses on their computer.

Red Flag: An employer asks for extensive personal information such as social security or bank account numbers
Some job seekers have been surprised to learn they’ve gotten a job without having to do a single interview. However, when the employer then asked for personal information in order to fill out the necessary paperwork suspicions were raised – and rightly so. Regardless of the reason or excuse given by the employer, a job applicant should never give out his or her Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or e-mail.


Red Flag: An employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home
While there are legitimate businesses that allow employees to work from home, there are also a lot of scammers trying to take advantage of senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, students and injured or handicapped people looking to make money at home. Job hunters should use extreme caution when considering a work-at-home offer and always research the company with their BBB first at www.bbb.org.

Red Flag: An employer asks for money upfront
Aside from paying for a uniform, it is rarely advisable for an applicant to pay upfront fees or make a required purchase to get a job. Most recently, the BBB of Metropolitan Dallas uncovered a scam where job hunters were told they had to pay $64.50 for a background check before they could be considered for a cleaning job. Predictably, after paying for the background check, the job seeker never heard from the company again.

Red Flag: The salary and benefits offered seem too-good-to-be-true
The adage holds true for job offers: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Phony employers might brag about exceptionally high salary potential and excellent benefits for little experience in order to lure unsuspecting job hunters into their scam.

Red Flag: The job requires the employee to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram
Many phony jobs require the prospective employee to cash a check sent by the company through the mail and then wire a portion of the money on to another entity. Reasons given for this requirement vary from scam to scam. Whatever the reason though, the check might clear the employee’s bank account but will eventually turn out to be a fake and the employee is out the money he or she wired back to the scammers.

For more reliable advice on job searching and for what to do if a job hunter becomes a victim of ID theft or fraud related to a job opportunity, go to www.bbb.org.

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