Why Are Recent Employment Scams Fooling So Many People?

Most scams are pretty transparent. An email arrives with a tempting subject line, but you know, deep down, that what they promise is simply too good to be true. Why do “beautiful Russian women” want me to contact them? Why was I so lucky that they decided to send me their pictures? Why are people I never heard of dying and leaving me millions of dollars? Why?

Well if it’s so easy to spot a scam, then why are so many people falling victim to employment scams? Well, the basic answer is greed or desperation. Employment scams offer unusually good pay for unusually little work. It’s enough to get some people interested in reading the email that eventually traps them in the scam. That said, some of these scams are sophisticated enough to fool even the normally wary.

So let’s look at one of these emails that you may receive. It may come with a company logo and may refer to a resume that you have posted on some popular job search site. At first, it may be a simple message. Here is one example.

Hello Good Day. I am Mr. Jerry Nathan From ( Indeed Recruitment Team ).. Our HR Dept has reviewed your resume published on Indeed. Your resume has been reviewed and Approved. You have been scheduled for an interview. Reply back if interested for more details on the job position. Thank you.

This may also be sent as a text message. If you reply, you will probably be told to use some messenger service, such as Yahoo Messenger, to be interviewed. Occasionally, they will ask you to call a number for an interview. Don’t worry. No matter what you say at the interview, you will eventually be offered the job.

The type of job varies, but recently scammers have been focusing on shipping or logistics jobs. The job names change but the work remains the same. Some victims have even been given contracts to make them feel more comfortable. The scammers know that the victims will try to find a website connected to the company, and, not surprisingly, there will be one. The website may even have an https header which may further lower the suspicions of the victim. Scammers have been known to make use of legitimate websites as well. The scammers may even refer to their own job posting on a job seeker website and a link to it may be placed in the email, so as to make the offer appear more legitimate. The job will always be well-paid and the work will seem relatively easy and straightforward.

The victim may be asked to fill out some employment forms which will ask for personal information. Some victims have claimed that they were asked to fill out an application for a w2 form for tax purposes. This will give them the victim’s social security number. Once they have enough information, they can apply for a credit card in the victim’s name – but that’s not the main purpose for the scam.

Recently, employment scammers have been recruiting “shippers”. The work is as follows. If you are a victim, they will ship you packages which you must repackage and send on to certain addresses. The addresses are usually overseas addresses. Why any legitimate company would need people to do this should raise suspicions, but if you have followed the scam to this point, you will likely continue. You will be paid per package and will receive a payment at the end of each month.

Shortly after filling out all of the forms, you will receive your first package to reship. The package will come to your address but will often be under a different name. Often, the scammers will give you a ‘trial period’ which means you must show you can send the packages as ordered. The merchandise will not be expensive. Why? Because some victims realized they were being scammed and kept the packages for themselves. Thus, rather than lose valuable merchandise, they will see if you send some inexpensive products first and if you qualify as a bonafide victim. When you send your first expensive merchandise, you become officially part of the scam. Most victims will stay until their first paycheck and will do whatever they are told to do because they simply need the money. Only when they don’t receive the money and don’t get any answers to their questions, do they begin to suspect that something went wrong. In fact, many victims don’t really investigate the scammers until they don’t get paid and it is far too late.

This is what the victims should have done. Look more carefully at the company website. Don’t accept it as valid simply because it has an https address. That won’t necessarily mean it’s safe. You can get a certified address for free or buy cheap certificates that will do the job. (see my post) Is the https header in green? Probably not. Here is a fake website that is used to validate a fake company in an employment scam.

explicit

It may seem valid until you read the English. Do you really believe a serious company would allow such clumsy language use to appear on its homepage? A check on the site will show that it is about a year old. If you navigate to other pages you will see that they made a key mistake when they copied information from another shipping website to legitimize their business. Here is how the information appears on the Explicit Logistics page.

explicit cargo

Notice how the company name changes to Freight Logistics. Oops. That’s because there really is a company named Freight Logistics, which has this information on its page. See any similarities?

freight logistics

What I’m saying here is that before you take a job with any company; give their website a more than casual view.

Sometimes, scammers ask victims to pay a ‘training fee’ which they will reimburse in the first paycheck. Others have been told to log into a special site to get their assignments from a personalized dashboard. This gives the scammers a more ‘professional’ look. Once logged in, victims can see their assignments. They will be told where to pick up and where to send packages. They will also see how much money they’ve made and when they will receive their first paycheck. Sometimes, they may be promised bonuses for sending packages quickly. But, as one victim noted, “you will receive weekly updates of your pay for work completed, and a set pay day for your first check. On your set pay date you will be deleted from the work panel and no longer contacted and will not receive a response.” The scammers simply move on to the next victim. This particular victim spent over $2,000 sending packages.

Most people lost $2,000 to $5,000 in this scam. The most I found recently reportedly lost was $40,000. This was from a business that was scammed. They purchased products in advance and were paid through a checking account. After the scammers got what they wanted, they canceled payment on the check. But losing money may not be your main problem.

If you send stolen merchandise overseas, you may receive a visit from the police or FBI.
Some victims claim they received a call from the police after mailing several packages. Apparently, the merchandise you shipped was purchased with a stolen credit card and all signs point to you being the one who stole it. That’s when the fun really begins. You may be charged with distribution of stolen goods, defrauding customs, and mail fraud. You are the only one they will be able to trace and may face up to 20 years in prison. The real perpetrators will continue their scam unharmed, using new victims.

To avoid being scammed, avoid any job offers that can be filled by any unqualified person. Job offers for caregivers, mystery shoppers, repackagers, shippers, administrative assistants, and customer service reps are commonly scams, especially if they don’t require any special qualifications. Work at home jobs should be approached with great caution.

You may have seen the job posted on some job seeker site. You may even have a resume on those sites. The scammers will often use this information to entrap you. They may direct you to fake web pages. They may send you useless contracts and ask you for personal information. Job offers are often for about $4,000 a month for working 20 hours a week. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Any company that asks you to pay any money up front should be avoided, even if they say they will reimburse you. They won’t. You are just giving them money. You may be given a chat-style interview through some messenger app or Google Hangouts. If the interview really doesn’t get down to details, or if their use of English is poor; think scam. This goes for phone interviews as well. Ask the interviewer for details about the operations of their company. For example, all shipping companies will know about the WCA network, but do the interviewers?

Don’t think that just because they have a website means they are a real company. For some reason, this is the number one reason why victims believed their scammers legitimate. They may even send you to a real website that they don’t control. Some companies have complained that they were being contacted about job openings that they never had. Check out the URL with a domain checker tool. If the site was recently created, it is likely fake.

Many employment scams go unreported. If you use a job site, check the forums for others who may have had experience with the company you want to work for. Generally speaking, though, if you are at all suspicious, look for another employer.

About Steve Mierzejewski

Marketing consultant for InZero Systems, developer of the next generation in hardware-separated security, WorkPlay Technologies, TrustWall and Mobile bare-metal virtualization. I've worked in Poland, Japan, Korea, China, and Afghanistan. I'm a writer, technical editor, and an educator.
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