When Virginia Key turned to the Internet for assistance in finding a job, she wanted to find one where she could work from home while taking care of her mother.
Key got more than she bargained for, however, as two job postings she came across in the past month turned out to be scams.
“In a sense, this turned into a job itself,” the North Augusta resident said. “It’s taken three weeks out of my job search.”
Key fell victim to a work-at-home job listing she found while browsing the CareerBuilder Web site. The opening for a business operations coordinator with a company called Edith LLC asked that candidates be punctual, responsible and computer-savvy.
The job promised to pay at least $2,200 monthly, and Key was sent copies of the company’s handbook, tax forms and registration papers.
But when she called what she thought was a potential employer, Key was asked to give bank account information. When she called the Better Business Bureau, she was told the business didn’t exist.
Anytime a job-seeker is asked to provide personal information, that should raise a red flag, said Jim Camp, the president and CEO of the Central South Carolina and Charleston Better Business Bureau.
“Don’t accept things at face value,” Camp said. “Know who you are doing business with.”
As unemployment rates remain high, scammers see an opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerable, said Gigi Turner, the regional director for the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA.
“They know there is a larger number of people looking for jobs than there used to be,” she said. “The economy today has provided the opportunity.”
Camp said his bureau sees fraudulent job cases on an hourly basis.
“We as humans are always looking for a good deal,” he said. “If it sounds too good to be true, pass it up, because it is too good to be true.”
Work-from-home job ads tend to be the most dangerous, Turner said.
Key encountered another case of online job fraud when an e-mail sent under the guise of CareerBuilder reached her in-box.
The message informed Key that she was eligible for an assistant manager position that she never applied for. The fictitious management firm required Key set up an online employee account for communication with the company.
Key notified CareerBuilder and was told by the company’s online security team to ignore the fraudulent ad.
“If the job post comes to you, you might want to ignore it,” Turner said.
There has been a substantial increase in phony job postings in recent years, said Pam Dixon, the executive director of World Privacy Forum, a California nonprofit organization that aims to educate the public about privacy issues.
“The biggest problem is it’s much more sophisticated,” she said. “Even the smartest people get pulled into it now.”
Dixon urges that job-seekers demand to speak to a potential employer in person or by Skype. The safest method to apply for a job online is to do so directly on a company’s Web site, she said.
In many instances, scammers will rip off a reputable Web site by slightly misspelling the address. A Web site that was created within the past year is also a cause for concern, Dixon said.
Web sites can be checked for legitimacy by visiting www.domainwhitepages.com, she added.
Job-seekers face a double-edged sword if they fall for a scam. Not only can they have their identities stolen, they also can face jail time for wire fraud or similar offenses.
Those who believe they’ve fallen for a job scam should report the incident to authorities, Dixon said.
“Those least able to help themselves – these are the ones who fall victim,” she said.