WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — There are millions of job openings across the nation, but you have to be careful because there are also many phony ones. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) said one scam is on the rise during the pandemic. In this particular scam, the victim could face legal consequences, including significant fines and even jail time.
“I got a text from who I presumed to be a young lady that told me they were interested,” said one man who wanted us to keep him anonymous. He’s looking for a new job, and he’s opening up about what allegedly happened to him back in August.
We asked him about the job interview.
“It seemed fairly normal,” he said. “I hadn’t had an interview in a very long time, but they seemed like regular questions.”
However, the interview wasn’t in person, and it wasn’t done over Zoom or Skype. Instead, the person on the other end did this over a text messaging app.
“They told me they were using the Telegram app because they were trying to figure out different ways to hire people because of COVID,” he said, adding that he thought it was unusual.
The person on the other end told him he got the job, or so he thought.
“So they sent me the check,” he said. “I got it on Wednesday. They told me to deposit it into my account, and then they would give me further direction on what to do.”
The check appeared to be for $4,500, and the person on the other end told him to buy work equipment. He cashed the check and thought the money was in his account. Then the person asked him for money to buy what he thought was work equipment through one of its vendors.
“So, I sent that $2,000 to them, and then probably within a half-hour, maybe an hour, they asked me for another $2,000,” he said. “I didn’t respond to that. I just decided to go to my bank to find out if there were any issues with the check or anything like that.”
It turns out that $4,500 never made it into his bank account, but the $2,000 he sent them was gone.
During our interview with the Better Business Bureau of Kansas, we brought up the fact that the checks sent to victims appear to be real, and some victims think the money is in their bank account, but it’s not.
“So for the victim, by the time you get that call from your bank that the check that you deposited was fake, you’ve already sent the funds away; therefore, you’re on the hook to paying back the bank,” said Denise Groene, state director of the BBB of Kansas.
That’s not all. The FBI could potentially prosecute the victims for passing a fake check. That’s because when you sign your name to that check, it’s a way of telling the bank you know where the money is coming from, and you know it’s legit.
“While we don’t see it extremely often, it really can become a case where you, as a money mule, unknowingly can be prosecuted for this illegal activity,” Groene said.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that employment scams went up 27% between 2018 and 2020, with 16,879 complaints and $62,314,015 in losses. However, the BBB estimates that job scams affect 14 million people with losses of $2 billion.
Scammers will target Americans with phony job offers and fake checks as a way to try to steal your identity. Many times, they will use third-party apps. In this case, the scammers used the text messaging app “Telegram,” where the scammer controlled the messages.
“Any legitimate employer is going to want to at least talk to you, whether that be on the phone or through Zoom or Skype, so they get a good feel if you’re the best candidate for the position,” Groene said.
“I definitely was looking at doing an at-home job, but now it’s just made me bypass those types of jobs because I don’t know what’s real and what’s not,” the man said.
It is a harsh monetary lesson for him, and he is still looking for a job.
“I didn’t know how they could feel good about themselves for ripping people off that didn’t have any money to begin with,” he said. “I thought that was pretty sad, but hopefully, they’ll be caught.”
BBB’s safety tips for job seekers
- Always do background research – try to find the job listing on the company’s website
- Be wary of work-from-home, shipping/warehouse opportunities or secret shopper positions
- Watch out for on-the-spot job offers
- Don’t fall for a fake check scam
- Be cautious sharing personal information or any kind of pre-payment
- Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true
- Be wary of vague job descriptions
Some people do not realize they are part of a job scam until they start doing the work. The BBB says that is what happens in 32% of employment scam cases. Read the full BBB Job Scams Study.