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After losing a job in her field of veterinary pharmaceutical sales last year, Marci Strouch, 47, of Delray Beach, Florida, did what most other job seekers do these days: She began visiting online job-search websites, where you can apply for positions and connect with employers who are interested in your skills and experience.
It wasn’t long before Strouch received a text message from someone claiming to represent a major medical lab company who asked if she’d be interested in a job there. Although the position was in data entry rather than pharmaceutical sales, “It was really good paying, full benefits, work from home — you know, all those things,” she recalls. She decided to go for it.
But then things began to get weird. The supposed recruiter asked Strouch if she had Skype, and connected her with a hiring manager to do a job interview right then and there. Taken aback, Strouch responded that she wasn’t camera-ready, so the hiring manager agreed to a text exchange instead. But the manager’s odd syntax — “the English wasn’t even correct,” she says — made her uneasy. She quickly did a Google search on the firm and found a page warning applicants about scammers who used the company name. She took a screenshot and sent it to the hiring manager, who suddenly went silent.
An all-too-common crime
While job-search websites can be valuable tools, they’re also attractive hunting grounds for scammers who pose as legitimate employers, then draw their victims into various schemes. Their goal: to get job seekers’ personal information or money, or to make them unwitting partners in crime.
In 2022, victims of business and job opportunity scams filed reports with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on losses of $367 million — up almost 76 percent from 2021 — with a median loss of $2,000. They are among the top five most common scams reported to the agency last year (the “Fraudulent Five,” as the FTC puts it).
How fake-employer scams work
While job opportunity scams have been around for many years, they accelerated during the pandemic, when virtual job interviews for remote, work-at-home positions became more common, according to Better Business Bureau (BBB) spokesperson Josh Planos. Without an in-person meeting, it’s easier for scammers to pass themselves off as legitimate employers.
“If you put yourself in the shoes of the scammers, the last thing they would want is for you to meet them in person, or to see them,” Planos says. “What’s the easiest way to avoid that? You stage the interview remotely, where you have a virtual position available.”
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