Tosha Waggoner, 33, of Newport would love to land a job. But she wasn’t sure that depositing a $6,000 check that arrived out of the blue was the right way to get one.
Admittedly, her job hunting prospects have been bleak after she gave birth to a daughter in April, when many businesses had closed their doors during the pandemic. Her fiancé isn’t working either, but he’s going to a union trade school for masonry.
They could use the money, like most people during the economic downturn.
“It was a straight up check,” Waggoner said.
The instructions, sent in August by a supervisor named Michael, indicated that she’d need to deposit the $6,000 check to buy gift cards, take photos of the numbers on the gift cards and send them to Michael. And there was something involving a Bitcoin account, too.
After all was said and done, Waggoner was told that she would get to keep about $330 of the $6,000 for her pay.
More than a few things about that check made her think twice: Who, after all, sends $6,000 checks out of the blue? And who needs a Bitcoin account to hold a job?
Fake job offers are flooding email accounts and mailboxes, according to consumers who are looking for work. Many typically involve better-than-expected pay, gift cards, a quick online interview — and yes, a check out of the blue.
One hot scam asks mystery shoppers to see whether COVID-19 safety procedures are being practiced at Walmart and elsewhere.
Consumers report being sent checks of $1,475 and being told they’ll make $425 for shopping at two Walmart stores and a bank. The checks look like they’ve cleared the bank in a couple of days — but weeks later the checks are discovered to be fakes, long after the consumer has lost hundreds of dollars to the scam.
No legitimate business, of course, is going to pay in advance and then ask you to send a MoneyGram to return some of the money or buy gift cards or pay for supplies.
“These kind of job scams have always been popular but criminals are doubling down when they know millions of people have lost their jobs during the pandemic,” said Amy Nofziger, director of the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Fake jobs look like a perfect fit
Someone who is looking for a job shouldn’t overlook the possibility that a con artist can create the perfect job just for you, based on your education and skill set before sending you a text or email.
“A lot of time when people are looking for jobs, they will publicly post their resumes,” Nofziger said.
The fraudsters now know if you’ve just graduated with an arts degree or you’re interested in the social services field.
“When they target you with a tighter arrow, you’re more likely to think they really want me because they did their research on me,” Nofziger said.
Some offers sound like they’re from real nonprofit organizations, government agencies or actual businesses. But the con artists are only impersonating the real deal.
Sometimes, students report getting an email that looks like it’s from their college’s Job Placement and Student Services office.
Con artists are dangling all sorts of promises and potential paychecks during the pandemic as many consumers find themselves out of work longer than expected.
You might be offered a chance to work remotely or take advantage of flexible hours, something that can sound quite tempting if you’re short on cash and now must play hall monitor for your school-age children who are taking online classes at home.
Many lose big money after phony promises
The employment scam can be one of the riskiest scams for students, young consumers, military spouses and others, given the level of monetary losses and percent of reports that involve actual victims, according to the Better Business Bureau.