Better Business Bureau is warning Texas residents of increased reports regarding employment scams impacting communities across the Lone Star State. BBB Scam Tracker reports nearly tripled between March to June 2022 and historical data indicates the season for employment scams is not over yet.
“For the past two years, employment scam reports significantly increased during the summer months both in Texas and across the U.S.,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas. “Texas residents have reported nearly $50,000 in losses so far this year, and in 2021, 34 percent of all employment scam reports were submitted between April to August. BBB received nearly three times the number of employment scam reports in June from March this year.”
In 2020, consumers reported nearly $1.6 million lost to employment scams across the U.S. which increased 34% to $2.1 million in 2021. While the number of reports only increased by about 50 (2020: 3,130 | 2021: 3,188), the significant increase in money lost demonstrates how convincing these scams can be. The recent shift to remote working opportunities has given rise to scammers promoting fraudulent employment listings that offer remote work, introducing confusion about the hiring process for a remote position. While not all victims of employment scams lose money, the personal information they submit to a fraudulent employer puts them at an increased risk of experiencing identity theft. Many also lose valuable time working for an employer that never pays them for their work.
“I was offered a lot of money to work from home, which sounded like a great option, and they were very prompt with email responses, ‘training material’ and other communications,” reported one Austin-area resident. “[The company] is not operating out of the Austin address they gave me, and they claimed to have other offices in Japan, Italy and Boston. All of the addresses are legitimate, but for other companies and businesses. I have called the number provided to me as a contact, and it is a Google Voice number. I am unable to reach anybody from the company.”
Unfortunately, victims of employment scams may also be inadvertently participating in illegal activity, particularly for positions involving package reshipment. According to the FBI, reshipping scams can involve fraudsters who use stolen credit cards to buy expensive items and, instead of having the item shipped directly to their address, use a “re-shipper” to send the package overseas. Package reshipment positions may also be handling stolen goods or laundered money. In addition to package reshipment, other typical versions of employment scams include:
• After being offered a position with a company, the employee provides all the required personal information, including banking information, address, Social Security number and other identification documents. Once submitted, the company ceases to contact the employee, and all attempts to establish communication go unanswered.
• The company provides the employee a check under the direction it is to be used to purchase work or training materials. After depositing the check, the company informs the employee that they were overpaid. It then requests the extra money be returned via nontraditional payment methods, such as gift cards, a wire transfer or mobile banking app. Eventually, the victim's bank identifies the deposited check as fraudulent and removes the funds from their bank account, leaving the victim out how much money they ‘returned’ to the company.
• Employment is offered to the job seeker under the condition they pay for and complete specific training, credentials, or qualifications required for the position. Conveniently, the company provides the courses required or directs the jobseeker to use a particular third party. After paying for the training, the victim never hears from either company again.
To help job seekers steer clear of employment scams, Better Business Bureau provides the following tips:
• Some positions are more likely to be scams. Be wary of package reshipment, secret shopper positions, and any jobs with generic titles such as caregiver, administrative assistant, or customer service representative. Job positions that do not require special training or knowledge appeal to a wide range of applicants, which scammers use to cast a wider net for potential victims. If the job posting is for a well-known company, check the company’s career page to see if the position is legitimate. It may be a scam if the job seeker can find the posting in multiple cities with the exact same wording.
• Beware aggressive employment offers. Any pressure to sign or onboard immediately indicates that the company may not be legitimate. Choosing a place to work is an important decision that most legitimate companies understand requires time to consider. Be especially wary if the position is offered without an interview or promises a significant income if the employee pays for coaching, training or certifications.
• Do not deposit unexpected or suspicious checks. Be cautious with whom and how you share your personal information, such as banking information. Do not fall for an overpayment scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay an employee and ask for compensation by requiring money to be wired elsewhere.
• Get contracts in writing. Employee requirements, qualifications and job duties should be in writing. If using a recruiting service, it should provide a complete contract for the cost of their services, what it includes, who pays for their efforts (either the job seeker or employer) and what happens if the recruiter fails to find a position.
• Evaluate work-from-home opportunities. The transition to remote work has created many opportunities for both legitimate and fraudulent businesses. While many work-from-home job openings are legitimate, it is essential to critically evaluate the hiring process of any company offering this type of employment. Be wary of companies that require the applicant to download a specific mobile app to communicate, conduct the entirety of the interview through text or chat, or do not provide a physical address for the business. BBB recommends verifying that the address matches the business and that the phone number is in service. It is a common practice for scammers to use addresses for residential homes or other companies and a phone number that is either fabricated or not in service.
If you have been a victim of an employment scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim.
For more information and to access BBB's 2020 report focused on the impact of employment scams, visit BBB.org/JobScams.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.