BBB Advises Skepticism when Job Hunting Online

March 29, 2009
Looking for a job? Need to supplement your income?

Many people are turning to the Internet in search of full- and part-time jobs. Opportunities abound and many are legitimate. And many of them aren’t. In fact, employment scams are a $400 billion industry, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

So go take a look at your online junk and spam folders. What do you see? Let’s take a look at a few common possibilities:

Mystery shopper opportunities! Getting paid to shop! Does it get any better than this? While there are bona fide companies that hire mystery shoppers to test customer service at retail and service businesses, there are 10 times as many that are scams. It works this way. You agree to be a mystery shopper, the scammer sends a check or wires money and you’re told to deposit the money into your account, purchase an item or use a service, keep a percentage as your fee and return the rest.

Sounds easy enough, but here’s the catch: The funds either do not exist or have been charged to a stolen credit card. Because the funds have been deposited into your personal bank account, you are liable for the whole kit and kaboodle when it’s learned that the check is phony or the credit card stolen. You are out the money you spent shopping and you are out the money you “refunded” the scam artist. This is not a good way to get ahead financially.

And how about those work-at-home job offers? You, too, can get rich processing rebates, assembling stuff, starting an online business, and my favorite, stuffing envelopes. Right? What all of these have in common is they are almost always a scam. Oftentimes you’re instructed to send in a fee. What you get are instructions on how to place ads just like the one you answered. Or sometimes you’re told you need to purchase an expensive set of workbooks or tutorials and/or materials. Trying to get your money back — after realizing the job is a scam — is akin to finding gold on an iceberg. It’s not gonna happen.

How can you tell a real job from a scam?

Your Better Business Bureau offers this tried-and-true advice: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do you really think you’re going to make $450 a day stuffing envelopes? If that were true, we’d all be doing it! Do you really think someone is going to send you $3,000 to go shopping? It’s a nice fantasy, but that’s all it is.

Other job scam signs: The job comes with a price tag — you have to “pay” to get hired; and you’re told to supply your Social Security number along with bank and credit card numbers and maybe a scan of your driver’s license — all the information needed to steal your identity.

Start With Trust. For more tips on avoiding scams, and to check out Luanne Kadlub’s blog, visit