The beginning of summer brings an influx of job-seeking students looking to capitalize on their free time by earning money over their three-month break. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of these students find employment in the accommodations and food service industry. However, due to the complications associated with COVID-19, employment opportunities in this industry fell by more than 2.2 million between 2019-2020. While the food service industry projects growth, it is still measurably less than pre-COVD-19 levels, causing would-be employees to look elsewhere for summertime employment.
In 2018-19, employment scams were the No. 1 riskiest scam in North America, replaced by online purchase scams in 2020, according to BBB’s 2020 Scam Tracker Risk Report. The report also identified that students and individuals ages 25-34 were the most susceptible and likely to be victimized by employment scams. Surprisingly, 65 percent of reported employment scams related to becoming a “warehouse redistribution coordinator” or some similar title involving the reshipment of packages, some of which involve stolen goods. In many cases, scammers impersonated well-known retailers, like Amazon and Walmart, to appear legitimate.
With the amount and significant variation of employment scams, BBB conducted a study focused specifically on these scams in 2020. In an article released when the study was published, Melisa Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, said employment scams have changed both their historical targets and how victims are exposed.
“This research was timely as we found that more than half of scam targets were seeking work-from-home opportunities,” said Trumpower. “As more people search for flexible employment opportunities following the coronavirus outbreak, they need to know that scammers are out there in force and targeting those most in need. Employment scams don’t just affect those who lose money. For every victim who lost money, at least one other worked without pay, and yet another lost personal information that could lead to identity theft.”
To avoid employment scams targeting students looking for summertime employment, follow these tips provided by your Better Business Bureau:
Some positions are more likely to be scams. Be wary of package reshipment and secret shopper positions, as well as any jobs with generic titles such as caregiver, administrative assistant or customer service representative. Positions which 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 job posting page to see if the position is legitimate. If the posting can be found in multiple cities with the exact same wording, it may be a scam. Jobs which advertise themselves as “high pay and flexible schedules” are extremely appealing to students searching for summer jobs, a fact that scammers use to their advantage. Be cautious of postings that use this type of language.
Beware aggressive employment offers. Any pressure to sign or onboard immediately is a sign 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 large income under the condition 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, the service should provide a complete contract for the cost of their services, what the service includes, who pays for the service (either the jobseeker or employer) and what happens if the recruiter fails to find a position.
For more information about employment scams and to access BBB’s 2020 Employment Scams Report for free, visit BBB.org/EmploymentScams.
If you’ve been a victim of an employment scam, report it on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided may prevent another person from becoming a victim.