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Employment scams hurt desperate job seekers, BBB says

A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Employment scams, especially work-from-home fakes, are not new, but with 40 million Americans out of work, including more than 1.4 million in Illinois, mostly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most job searches taking place online, scammers are upping their game, said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

The BBB released a study showing that more than half of people who lose money to employment-related scams are already jobless and in severe financial stress.

“People are desperate and don’t have enough money to make ends meet at the end month,” Bernas said. “They’re going to try to do anything to get a job. And unfortunately, the scammer knows that, and will take advantage of them.”

Bernas said scammers will often impersonate and even use the letterhead of legitimate companies such as Target or Amazon. Job hunters should apply directly through a company website to help make sure that the job in question is listed.

Job seekers should also be wary of certain red flags. For example, most jobs are not open to everyone regardless of qualifications, legitimate companies don’t hire on the spot with no interview, and you shouldn’t have to spend money upfront.

“Some of the victims reporting to the BBB may end up giving their personal information, which can be used for identity theft,” Bernas said. “Or they send money to scammers for training or equipment. Another variation is where they will send you a check, for equipment or something, or for you to buy something as a ‘secret shopper.’ Then they tell you they overpaid, so please return the difference.”

Most victims don’t realize that banks have up to 30 days to verify a counterfeit check so when the check inevitably bounces, the victim will be liable for both the counterfeit check and the money that was sent off.

The BBB reported the average loss is $1,000.

For information on scams and how to avoid them, visit bbb.org.

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