Scam artists aren’t just going after workers' paychecks. With more folks out of work these days, they’re targeting the unemployed , too.
Job seekers who post their resumes online are being tapped, via unsolicited email, by supposed "overseas companies" to act as financial representatives in the U.S.
There are many variations, but essentially this job scam goes as follows: A bogus email offering a part-time work as a "financial manager," (or "local agent," "service representative," "CFO assistant," "business services representative" "shipping/receiving clerk," "regional assistant," etc.) is sent, sometimes with a mention or even the logo of a popular job seeking site, such as CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com.
The email, from a supposedly foreign-based company, seeks part-time American job hunters who are willing to process foreign checks, wire transfers or money orders. The emailers try to persuade you to use your bank account to deposit these checks, saying you'll get to keep a percentage (often 10%) of what is deposited.
The catch? According to the Better Business Bureau, instead of making money, unsuspecting job seekers are often duped and lose money. The checks sent are usually fraudulent or stolen. Not only do the criminals get the money wired from the victim’s account, but the victim may also have to repay the bank for the full amount of the bogus check and then possibly faces criminal charges.
Another red flag: These fraudulent companies seeking to "hire" representatives, according to Alison Southwick, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, often ask for checking account and Social Security numbers before they can start collecting payments. Identity fraud usually follows.
How to Protect Yourself
Both Monster and CareerBuilder review job postings before they make it onto the site, according to spokespeople for the companies.
However, if you’re looking for a job and want to avoid being scammed, here are some tips that you can use to keep your money safe:
1. Look out for “red flag” terms. Job seekers should avoid any listing that uses the terms “money transfers,” “wiring funds” or “foreign agent agreements,” says the Better Business Bureau.
2. Do some company research. Do not respond to a company before doing a little homework. You may be able to find general information with a quick Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) search. If you think you may have come across a bogus company, you can contact your local Better Business Bureau to find out if the company is legitimate.
3. Never volunteer your account information. According to the bureau, a legitimate employer will not request your bank account information as a condition of employment. So, if anyone asks for that information upfront, there’s a possibility they’re preparing to wipe you out.
4. Keep your personal and business accounts separate. If your job requires you to make money transfers, the money should come from your employer’s account, not yours, the bureau says.
And remember, as ScamBusters.org recommends, "Never agree to handle financial transactions for people you don't know or who offer you a job."