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Looking for a job? Be careful. Job scams increased during pandemic, BBB study finds

From the Better Business Bureau:

Employment scams are on the rise in the turbulent job market created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Better Business Bureau study finds.

BBB warns job seekers to verify employment offers to avoid illegal jobs, identity theft and fake checks to which millions are exposed annually.

The in-depth investigative study — Job Scams: BBB study finds job scams increased during pandemic, warns job seekers to verify employment offers to avoid illegal jobs, identity theft and fake checks — details the many forms employment fraud takes and the scams that often result.

Job scams have been a problem for years. In 2020, BBB estimated 14 million victims with $2 billion in direct losses related to job scams. Last year, the 2020 BBB Employment Scams Report by BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust found job scams to be the riskiest of all the scams they tracked in 2018 and 2019.

However, BBB’s study finds that the problem worsened in 2020. Losses reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) about employment scams were up 27 percent between 2018 and 2020 BBB Institute’s 2020 report on job scams found that this fraud most commonly victimized people ages 25-34, with women filing 67 percent of complaints about this fraud. The median financial loss reported by these victims was $1,000; in addition, they often reported loss of their time, as 32 percent were never paid for the work they did for an “employer” that turned out to be fraudulent.

Identity theft is a common outcome of job scams, as scammers often steal job seekers’ personal information to open bank accounts to further their fraud. BBB found 34 percent of victims provided their driver’s license number and 25 percent provided their Social Security or Social Insurance number.

Fake checks also frequently accompany job scams, and they continue to grow. This new BBB study finds that 36 percent of job scam complaints to BBB involved a fake check, with fake check complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) increasing by 65 percent between 2015 and 2020. In the two years since BBB issued an investigative study on fake check fraud, losses absorbed by banks themselves due to fake checks went up 40 percent to reach $1.3 billion.

Common fraudulent job offers involving fake checks include mystery shopping or secret shopper jobs, car wrap jobs, nanny or caregiver jobs, and small business jobs such as photography or painting houses.

Employment scam victims frequently become unwitting accomplices in other fraud, used as money mules, to mail fake checks, or to participate in reshipping scams, which represent 65 percent of the scam job offers reported to BBB Scam Tracker. Scammers “hire” victims from job boards, Facebook or Craigslist, offering to pay them as much as $2,500 to receive and then send on packages. These fraudsters often use stolen credit card numbers to order laptops, cellphones and high-end goods and have them sent to reshipping victims, instructing them to repackage the goods and providing shopping labels to send the packages to a new address, often in Russia. The accomplices who were hired for this fraudulent type of work are never paid, and their identities may be used to open bank accounts.

The FTC has taken action against job scammers, including a fake job placement company the agency sued in 2019. Associated scams such as reshipping schemes and money mule schemes have been a focus for state and federal law enforcement; in December 2020, the Department of Justice announced the results of a worldwide effort to deal with money mules, resulting in action taken against 2,300 people.