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Employment scams on the rise | Community Alert

An old adage states, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.”

The Better Business Bureau is warning residents of increased reports of employment scams impacting communities across the state.

According to the bureau’s Scam Tracker, reports of employment scams nearly tripled between March and June.

“For the past two years, employment scam reports have increased significantly during the summer months both in Texas and across the US,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas. “Texas residents have reported nearly $50,000 in losses so far this year, and in 2021, 34% of all employment scam reports were submitted between April to August. BBB received nearly three times the number of employment scam reports in June from March this year.”

According to the Scam Tracker, six residents from the 78130 zip code, two in the 78132 zip and one in the 78133 zip have reported employment scams to the BBB in the last four years.

Although very few of these scams have been reported by New Braunfels area residents, BBB historical data indicates the season for employment scams is not over yet.

In 2020, consumers reported nearly $1.6 million lost to employment scams across the US which increased 34% to $2.1 million in 2021. While the number of reports only increased by 58 — the bureau received 3,130 reports in 2020 and 3,188 last year — the significant increase in money lost demonstrates how convincing these scams can be.

In addition, scammers are taking advantage of a recent shift to remote working opportunities by promoting fraudulent employment listings that offer remote work and introducing confusion about the hiring process for a remote position.

Not all victims of employment scams lose money, but the personal information they submit to a fraudulent employer puts them at an increased risk of experiencing identity theft.

Victims of employment scams may also find themselves inadvertently participating in illegal activity, particularly for positions involving package reshipment.

According to the FBI, reshipping scams can involve fraudsters who use stolen credit cards to buy expensive items and, instead of having the item shipped directly to their address, use a “reshipper” to send the package overseas.

Package reshipment positions may also be handling stolen goods or laundered money.

In addition to package reshipment, other typical versions of employment scams include:

• After being offered a position with a company, the employee provides all the required personal information, including banking information, address, Social Security number and other identification documents. Once submitted, the company ceases to contact the employee, and all attempts to establish communication go unanswered.

• The company provides the employee a check under the direction it is to be used to purchase work or training materials. After depositing the check, the company informs the employee that they were overpaid. It then requests the extra money be returned via non-traditional payment methods, such as gift cards, a wire transfer or mobile banking app. Eventually, the victim’s bank identifies the deposited check as fraudulent and removes the funds from their bank account, leaving the victim out how much money they ‘returned’ to the company.

• Employment is offered to the job seeker under the condition that they pay for and complete specific training, credentials, or qualifications required for the position. Conveniently, the company provides the required courses or directs the jobseeker to use a particular third party. After paying for the training, the victim never heard from either company again.

To help job seekers steer clear of employment scams, the Better Business Bureau provides the following tips:

• Some positions are more likely to be scams. Be wary of package reshipment, secret shopper positions, and any jobs with generic titles such as caregiver, administrative assistant or customer service representative. Job positions that do not require special training or knowledge appeal to many applicants, which scammers use to cast a wider net for potential victims. If the job posting is for a well-known company, check the company’s career page to see if the position is legitimate. It may be a scam if the job seeker can find the posting in multiple cities with the exact same wording.

• Beware of aggressive employment offers. Any pressure to sign or onboard immediately indicates that the company may not be legitimate. Choosing a place to work is an important decision that most legitimate companies understand requires time to consider. Be especially wary if the position is offered without an interview or promises a significant income if the employee pays for coaching, training or certifications.

• Do not deposit unexpected or suspicious checks. Be cautious with whom and how you share your personal information, such as banking information. Do not fall for an overpayment scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay an employee and ask for compensation by requiring money to be wired elsewhere.

• Evaluate work-from-home opportunities. The transition to remote work has created many opportunities for both legitimate and fraudulent businesses. While many work-from-home job openings are legitimate, it is essential to critically evaluate the hiring process of any company offering this type of employment. Be wary of companies that require the applicant to download a specific mobile app to communicate, conduct the entirety of the interview through text or chat, or do not provide a physical address for the business. BBB recommends verifying that the address matches the business and that the phone number is in service. It is a common practice for scammers to use addresses for residential homes or other companies and a phone number that is either fabricated or not in service.

In 2020, BBB estimated that 14 million victims with $2 billion in direct losses were related to job scams.

Last year, according to the 2020 BBB Employment Scams Report published by the bureau’s Institute for Marketplace Trust, job scams were the riskiest of all the scams tracked in 2018 and 2019.

The study found that the problem worsened in 2020. Losses reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center about employment scams were up 27% between 2018 and 2020.

The study also indicated that this fraud most commonly victimized people ages 25-34, with women filing 67% of complaints about this fraud.

The median financial loss reported by these victims was $1,000.

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