Looking for a job? Scammers are looking for you!

Unregulated online portals such as Instagram, WeChat, and Tik Tok are being used by criminals to lure job seekers. Stock photo provided by EMS

By Mark Hedin

It’s a sad fact of life: If it seems too good to be true, beware!

In this Wild West era of still largely unregulated online portals such as Instagram, WeChat, Tik Tok and others, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is battling a new crime wave: huge networks of criminals offering fake but real-seeming ways to make money.

“There’s a whole range of different, horrible business practices scammers use,” Kati Daffan of the FTC’s Marketing Practices division said at an August 9 press briefing hosted by the FTC and Ethnic Media Services. “These schemes are having an incredible impact.”

Already this year, the agency has fielded 26,000 fraud reports describing $223 million lost to fake job and “big opportunity” scams. And that’s just the ones that have been reported, she noted, adding later that fewer reports come in from Black or Spanish-speaking victims.

“We know that’s just a fraction of what’s actually happening to people,” she said.

The scams range from offers of what appear to be job opportunities to “coaching scams” that claim they’ll quickly teach you how to make money investing in real estate, the stock market, or various self-employment strategies. The FTC has more information on this particular type of rip-off available  at ftc.gov/IncomeScams.

Another common crooked strategy has been to get people to agree to mail out gift cards after receiving a check seemingly worth more than the value of those gift cards.

But here’s the problem: It’s not enough to see the deposit was made to your account; it takes banks days at least to actually clear that check deposit. And if the check proves to be no good, you have to pay that money back to your bank.

And meanwhile, guess what? Those gift cards you sent out went right back to the scammers and are almost impossible to recover by the time you learn their check bounced.

Sometimes something as simple as providing personal information winds up costing you. Sure, it seems reasonable that someone offering you a job might want your Social Security number, or information on where you bank so they can pay you with a direct deposit to your account, or other personal information such as your name and address, information for a background check, etcetera.

But the people requesting the information might only be doing so to then sell it to another criminal operation, and making their money that way. So be very careful about what you disclose until you’re confident you know who you’re dealing with.

In general, if you get emails, text messages or telephone calls from names or numbers you don’t recognize, your safest bet is just to ignore them.

Making a report won’t impact anyone’s immigration status, the FTC speakers said, and they strongly encouraged everyone to report any suspicions they might have  to ReportFraud@ftc.gov whether they’re the intended victim or only worried for a friend, neighbor or relative. — Ethnic Media Services

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