One of BBB’s Top 10 Scams this year was the Mystery Shopper Scam. It’s an employment scam where individuals are led to believe they have been hired by a company to perform evaluations of a given business. The ‘employer’ sends a fraudulent cheque to the new hire who is asked to deposit it into their bank then forward money to the next ‘secret shopper.’ The cheque, of course, bounces leaving the victim out of cash. Fake jobs like these are often found through ads on websites like Craigslist.
A new version of this scam has popped up a few times on BBB’s new Scam Tracker web page.
“This new employment scam is the similar cheque cashing tactic that the mystery shopper scam uses,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland B.C. “The supposed new hire is sent a cheque for over four thousand dollars to begin work as an Administration Assistant working from home for www.skyeconsult.com. They’re instructed to deposit the cheque, buy office supplies, and then send the rest back to the company. Remember, if you get taken by one of these scams you are still responsible for the money you withdrew against the fake cheque.”
Sky Consult claims to be a security monitoring company with an office in the Bentall Centre in downtown Vancouver, a quick check found this to be false. BBB also discovered several different versions of the website under different URLs and locations. All with the same build and content.
“The idea that you got a job with hardly an interview, and they tell you to send money back to the company should be instant red flags to job seekers,” adds Kelly. “The cheques issued by these fraudsters are often labeled as if issued by legit companies. The latest one was from Iogen Inc., an Ottawa-based company that deals in renewable fuels. They were surprised when we told them their brand was being used this way and they have no previous relationship with Sky Consult. Covering these cheques in the logos of trusted companies gives them an air of legitimacy.”
Here are some potential employment scams to be aware of:
• Up-front fees for a job: The scammers ask for a fee and personal banking information claiming admin fees and direct deposit requirements.
• The fake cheque. The scammer sends a large cheque to be deposited immediately for supplies, the victim is instructed to send the rest to another employee or back to the company, often in the form of a money transfer or prepaid VISA card.
• The “personal” invitation: You received an unsolicited email from someone who claims to have found your resume online and it matches their job requirements. Likely a ruse to get personal information out of you.
• The ID verification: A job prospect sends an email asking for your driver’s licence, passport or other forms of ID to verify your identity. Real job offers won’t likely require this information much less ask for it online.
• Overseas job opportunities: High-paid jobs abroad that require little or no experience are too good to be true. Don’t fall for it.
• High-paying work from home jobs: They sound nice and take out the commute, but you’ll likely be on the hook for supplies and offered little pay.
Tips to avoid the pitfalls:
• Promises of huge salaries with minimal effort. This could be a sign of a “work at home” or pyramid scheme. Remember, if everyone could make good money working from home, everyone would do it. And pyramid schemes are illegal and not sustainable over time.
• Google the company. This gives you a better idea of what the company does, what they are about and how to contact them. Be wary of companies with no online “footprints.”
• Visit the company’s website or LinkedIn page. Doing this can help you find where the company is located, how they hire job seekers, what people have to say about the business, what the office culture is like, their business practices, accomplishments and other information which may prove useful in a job interview.
• Be leery of online job postings with grammar or spelling errors. Such errors are often a sign the job isn’t legitimate.