BBB Scam Alert: Young adults and recent graduates are common targets for employment scams

The summer season is an exciting time for many young adults as they enter the workforce following high school or college graduation. Unfortunately, not all job postings found online are legitimate and many fraudulent employers specifically target young adults with entry-level professional positions that offer a high salary and flexible working hours.

BBB’s 2023 Scam Tracker Risk Report found employment scams are the second riskiest consumer scam in the nation with a median loss of $1,995 and a 5% increase in exposure as compared to the previous year. In Texas, consumers reported more than $750,000 lost to these scams since 2023. Across all age groups, employment scams tend to impact those between 18-34 years old the most.

While the majority of reports BBB receives are regarding fraudulent employers promoting data entry or package reshipment positions, graphic designer, secret shopper, and human resources offers are also frequently used. All reports include a work-from-home or remote working capability, often with flexible working hours and an hourly or monthly pay significantly higher than standard.

Contact is made most often through email from someone claiming to represent a made-up or impersonated company who came across the recipient’s email through a job board, LinkedIn, or in response to an application they sent in. Shortly afterward, the conversation will move to an online messaging system such as Skype or Telegram to arrange and conduct an interview. The interview is conducted entirely through text and finishes with an immediate job offer starting the very next day. After accepting the job offer, employment scams progress down different paths depending on the position and industry.

To help identify fraudulent jobs for the most common types of positions, BBB provides the following breakdown for two broad categories:

Data Entry, Administrative Assistant, Clerical or Secretarial Positions

Fake checks are a common tactic for these positions in an employment scam. Once an offer is accepted, the scammer claims that the company will provide them with a check they can use to set up their home office. The check is either emailed or mailed directly to the employee’s address, and they follow instructions to deposit it into their account and provide proof afterward. Once deposited, the scam may progress down two different paths:

  • The representative claims that a mistake on the check resulted in the employee being overpaid. They often blame this on a logical typing error, such as accidentally adding an extra zero, so $300 became $3,000. The scammer asks the new employee to return the extra money immediately through a direct payment method such as mobile banking app, gift card or wire transfer.
  • The representative will direct the employee to a third-party vendor they must use to purchase their office equipment. The website often appears legitimate, and the employee can easily find all the required products. When it comes time to pay, the total cost precisely matches the amount of money provided in the check, and the employee inputs their banking information to finalize the purchase.

In either case, the victim’s bank eventually detects the check as a fake, and the employee loses the amount of money they returned or used to purchase the office equipment, which is never received. When they try to contact the representative again, all messages go unanswered and social media profiles previously used to establish credibility are deactivated. Additionally, banks often freeze, or in worst cases cancel, the accounts associated with a fraudulent or counterfeit check deposit as a precautionary measure, resulting in additional challenges the victim must overcome when recovering.

Package Reshipment, Quality Inspection or Product Distribution Positions

All these positions require from an applicant is a valid home address and their time, making them very appealing to a wide range of people. They often advertise a base monthly pay between $2,000 – $4,000, with additional bonuses per package shipped to its next destination. Most victims who encounter this scam receive and ship packages as they expect until it comes time for their first paycheck – only they never receive any money. When they attempt to log in to an employee dashboard, they find their account locked and all their messages go unanswered.

According to the FBI, reshipping scams can involve con artists who use stolen credit cards to buy expensive items. Instead of shipping the item directly to their address, they use a “re-shipper” to send the package overseas. Package reshipment positions may also be handling stolen goods or laundered money, resulting in victims of this scam unknowingly participating in illegal activity.

Avoiding Employment Scams

Evaluate work-from-home opportunities. The transition to remote work has created many opportunities for legitimate and fraudulent businesses. While many work-from-home job openings are honest, 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.

Verify contact details. BBB recommends verifying that the address provided matches the business and that the phone number is in service. It is common for scammers to use addresses for vacant lots or other companies and a phone number that is either fabricated or not in service. At a minimum, verify that at least two contact methods will get you in touch with company representatives.

Research the company. Spend time researching a company’s reputation and legitimacy before agreeing to work for them. Check to see if they are listed, and search online for reviews from previous employees or customers. If the offer is coming from a well-known company, check their official job board to verify the position is listed and use the posted contact methods to reach out to the hiring team.

Be wary of immediate offers and start dates. 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. If the hiring team threatens the job will go to the next candidate unless you make an immediate decision, it might be best to walk away.

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