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Avoiding Job Offer Scams

Fake employment offers can tap your bank account and your identity

The daily commute is the bane of existence for many working stiffs. But when you’re unemployed, covering some miles can seem a small price for a steady paycheck. That mindset may help explain two burgeoning scams that build on classic job cons.

The Car Wrap Rip-Off

You’re told you can earn up to $600 a week for simply sporting a decal or large vinyl wrap on your car to publicize a company’s name and logo as you do your everyday driving.

But the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center suggests that you hit the brakes if you get such an offer.

Here’s why: Once you answer the ad and provide personal information and details of your vehicle, you may receive a check or money order. It’s your payment, you’re told. But the dollar amount is larger than you’d expected. You’re instructed to deposit the check in your bank account, and quickly forward the difference to a person who supposedly designed the wrap.

The check later proves to be counterfeit — and you’re on the hook for the money you sent to the scammers.

Clues you can use

  • Although legitimate car advertising opportunities exist, the FBI warns that scam offers are typically posted as ads on the Internet, as opposed to on the legitimate website of a product manufacturer or marketing company.
  • Company names recently used by fraudsters include Coca Cola, Monster Energy and Red Bull drinks, and Carlsberg and Heineken beers.
  • In general, you should know that when a deposited check is immediately credited to your account, all it means is that your bank is fronting the money until it processes the check. That can take up to two weeks, and if the bank finds the check is phony, you’re liable for any money you’ve withdrawn.

The Travel Cost Con

If you posted your résumé online — or even if you haven’t — you may receive an email announcing you’ve been picked for a great job. You’re asked for your Social Security number so that the employer can do a required “background check.” Or you’re told to provide your bank account number for direct-deposit of your future salary.

Give either of these numbers, or other personal information, and you’re ripe for identity theft or phantom bank account withdrawals.

But now we’re seeing a travel-related variation of this long-established scam. A telephoning fraudster claims to be a human resources rep from a well-known company. The caller wants to interview you, but you’ll need to take a flight to a company office. We’ll make a reservation for you at our corporate discount rate, you’re told. Please pay for the flight yourself and we’ll reimburse you.

The HR huckster asks for your credit card number or instructs you to wire payment. You’ve been had. There’s no job, and your money and number are now in bad hands.

Clues you can use

  • Never believe any offer or interview request concerning a job you haven’t applied for.
  • If job candidates need to travel, legitimate companies usually pay the cost. If they don’t, it’s unlikely they’ll ask for your credit card. If they use a particular travel agency, you’ll be given that contact information. You should then authenticate the agency through an online search.
  • Carefully check the addresses of incoming job emails. Scammers often use free email accounts that include a well-known company’s name. For instance: A legit email from that company would read It should also include the name of a person you can contact by phone. But look up the number on the firm’s website. Don’t rely on a number in the email.

Also of interest: Travel scams to watch out for.

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