As the national unemployment rate hovers at 10%, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns job seekers to beware of scammers.
New jobless claims in mid-August unexpectedly spiked to 500,000, the Labor Department said, an increase of 12,000 over the previous week. And a July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found nearly 45% of unemployed Americans had been out of work for more than 6 months.
"The dismal employment rate means that a lot of people are desperate for work and may be grasping for any job,which creates a great opportunity for scammers," Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said in a statement. "Not thoroughly researching a job opportunity can make a bad situation even worse and a victim can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars to any number of job-related scams."
Fortunately, job hunters can protect themselves and their bank accounts from scammers by watching out for the following seven red flags when looking for work:
1. The employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home
While many legitimate businesses allow employees to work from home, lots of scammers are trying to take advantage of senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, students and injured or handicapped people. Job hunters should use extreme caution when considering work-at-home offers and always research the company with their BBB first
2. The employer asks for money upfront
It's almost never advisable for an applicant to pay upfront fees or make a required purchase to get a job. BBB often hears from job hunters who paid a phony employer for background checks or training for jobs that didn't exist. Always research the job thoroughly before opening up your wallet. Also be wary of job placement companies that ask for large upfront fees to find you a job.
3. The salary and benefits offered seem too good to be true
The old 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 work and no experience necessary in order to lure unsuspecting job hunters.
4. Employer emails are rife with grammatical and spelling errors
Online fraud is often 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.
5. The employer requires you to check your credit report
After posting resumes online or responding to online job listings, many job hunters received what they thought was good news: an email from an interested employer. There's a catch, though: In order to be considered for the job, the applicant has to get a credit check through a recommended website. The truth is, the email is just an attempt to get the job hunter to divulge sensitive financial information or sign up for credit monitoring services.
6. The employer is quick to ask for personal information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers
Some job seekers have been surprised to learn they've been hired for a job without 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, a job applicant should never give out his or her Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or email and do so only after confirming the job is legitimate.
7. The job requires you to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram, or receive and forward suspicious goods
Many phony jobs require cashing a check sent by the company through the mail, then wiring a portion of the money on to another entity. Reasons given for this requirement vary from scam to scam. Whatever the reason, the check might clear the employee's bank account but will eventually turn out to be fake. BBB also warns against receiving and mailing suspicious goods, such as electronics or luxury items, overseas.
7 tips on how to look for work without falling for scams