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Job Hunting? Look Out for These Scams

A recent surge in job scams affects both job seekers and employers 

spinner image a woman standing on a table holding a computer while sharks swim around the table

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Employment scams are one of the fastest growing types of fraud. The recent surge can be traced to several post-pandemic factors that make these crimes even easier for criminals. In this episode, we will hear from a job seeker and an employer who’ve both been affected, as well as an expert who shares the red flags job seekers should be on the alert for.

spinner image infographic that reads: "The job description's fully detailed. I was very impressed. But I was alarmed, like why are they picking me?"
Full transcript


[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam. You can use these for the cold open:

[00:00:03] Anastasia Pleasant: "Oh, thank you for your patience. We can't wait to have you join our team. And the email and the website seemed legit. I looked at it, it was up, it seemed real. I got welcomed to board and then they were going to put me in touch with the supervisor,

[00:00:26] Ryan Staller: They had a logo on the job description, I mean the job description's fully detailed. It was impressive, two pages of text of what the job entails, what they're getting, how much they're getting paid, and what the company will provide for them. Was I impressed? I was very impressed. But I was also alerted, I was alarmed, like why are they picking me?


[00:00:50] Bob: Welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I'm your host, Bob Sullivan.


[00:00:54] Bob: This episode is a bit of an alert. We put it together because by all indications, there is a recent surge in online job scams, sometimes also called employment scams. The Better Business Bureau reported last year that job scams had made a resurgence, and The Identity Theft Resource Center said just this month that reports of job scams were up 118% in 2023 as compared to 2022. So we wanted to bring this story to you quickly. Today you'll hear from a couple of different victims; one a job seeker, one an employer, and you'll also hear from an expert about ways to protect yourself. Job scams aren't new, but post-pandemic, a lot of factors have conspired to make the crime even easier for criminals. So let's get started with Anastasia Pleasant, who not long ago had a high-flying media job in New York City, but after a divorce and a move to Florida, she finds herself in danger of being laid off.

[00:01:54] Anastasia Pleasant: I got this, what I thought was, and it was a great job. I learned a lot. It was working for a recruiter that worked for Apple, and we placed contract workers at Apple. There was a downturn in the technology industry, and I started there in April of 2022, and we would have these meetings with our contacts at Apple, and there wouldn't be any new work or positions. And right before Christmas in 2022, they laid off about 10 people out of 30, 35 people, and I was not part of that group. And then the downturn continued so it became completely clear that another round of layoffs were coming. So I started looking for a position at the end of March of 2023.

[00:02:58] Bob: Anastasia does what everyone does nowadays, she goes online looking for job leads, looking for a life preserver at this point. And quickly, one opportunity catches her eye.

[00:03:10] Anastasia Pleasant: It was an executive assistant remote, and it said that, you know, the hours per week were 35. It was supposed to be 1375 a week.

[00:03:26] Bob: So she writes to the company from the ad and nearly immediately the firm emails her more details and some questions.

[00:03:34] Anastasia Pleasant: Have you worked at home before? Do you have a computer? You know, whatever, all these, you know, basic questions if you're going to work remotely which I had done before for a long time.

[00:03:42] Bob: She sends in her answers. There's a quick virtual interview and within days, she gets another email with good news.

[00:03:56] Anastasia Pleasant: "Oh, thank you for your patience. We can't wait to have you join our team. And it, the email and the website seemed legit. I looked at it, it was up, it seemed real. So then it says, oh, they welcomed me to the team, a guaranteed finance pro and fill out this information, and then I got welcomed to board and then they were going to put me in touch with the supervisor, and that was on March 29th of 2023. And I was excited because I thought, oh my goodness, this is great because I know I'm going to get laid off, and I already have something lined up.

[00:04:48] Bob: And that's good, because Anastasia's instincts about her current gig were spot on.

[00:04:55] Anastasia Pleasant: Yes, I got a Teams meeting call from the Director of HR and Operations. Two women were my bosses, and they let me know that I was part of layoffs and they were really sorry. And one of my coworkers that I worked with remotely every day, we called each other immediately and she said, "Did you get the call?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "Me too." So there was, it was 10 of us. So the, the staff from December of 2023 to April, we went from 30 to 35 people and they laid 20 people off.

[00:05:44] Bob: Oh boy.

[00:05:45] Anastasia Pleasant: So.

[00:05:46] Bob: And even though you had another job, that still kind of sucks, right?

[00:05:49] Anastasia Pleasant: It was just awful, because I was making good money, and I had benefits and I liked the work, you know, and I was learning all this really cool technology from Apple, you know, working on Slack and Teams and you know whatever, um, Quip, Box, all these technologies that I wouldn't have had exposure to, and I felt very blessed to be learning and utilizing all this new software.

[00:06:21] Bob: But while that's a bad day, Anastasia has that ace up her sleeve. Her new employer wants her to start right away and she gets her first task immediately.

[00:06:33] Anastasia Pleasant: They told me to go get check refills from Staples or Office Depot, and they told me what to get. And then they emailed me a PDF for a check to print out and deposit for $3800 on March 29th of 2023, and I was told the funds would be available the next day. And then they told me that the money was for partial payment for training and also to get a, a computer and software that would be compatible with their company. And I put the money in the account.

[00:07:17] Bob: Soon Anastasia's bank credits her account for the check she has deposited. And then she's instructed to send the money to a vendor she's told will send her a company computer.

[00:07:27] Anastasia Pleasant: So what happened is, I wired the money because I thought that's who was going to send me the computer and, and whatever. And I didn't get it.

[00:07:41] Bob: She doesn't get a compute. But that's not all. Days go by and she looks at her online bank account and notices the check her new employer sent her has now been returned. So the funds she deposited have been taken away and worse still, the bank has taken the amount of the wire out of her account now. She's down $3800. She gets in touch with her boss right away.

[00:08:09] Anastasia Pleasant: I called him, I said, "What is going on?" He said, "Oh, Anatasia, we're going to make sure that we rectify this. I can't believe it. I'm embarrassed to work here."

[00:08:20] Bob: He might be embarrassed, but Anastasia is starting to really worry. By now, Anastasia has received a couple of checks from this new company, and each time followed their instructions to wire the funds to a vendor, and the pattern repeats.

[00:08:36] Anastasia Pleasant: The wires went through and the checks bounced. They all happened really quick.

[00:08:41] Bob: Did you get an email from the bank? How did you find out the checks bounced?

[00:08:45] Anastasia Pleasant: I didn't anything from the bank. I found out just by looking at my bank account online.

[00:08:50] Bob: You just suddenly looked and saw that the $4000 that was put in had been taken out?

[00:08:54] Anastasia Pleasant: Yep.

[00:08:55] Bob: Oh my God.

[00:08:56] Anastasia Pleasant: You'd think that the bank would get in touch with you. You know if you have an American Express card or something, if there is something that seems off with your purchasing or whatever, they call you right away or they text you.

[00:09:13] Bob: It's a crazy time for Anastasia. Remember, she is in the middle of losing her full-time job, literally the same week as these checks arrive.

[00:09:23] Anastasia Pleasant: 1-2-3-4 ... there were 5 wire transfers, and the wire transfers equaled $20,848.00.

[00:09:34] Bob: This just sounds like such an intense time for you.

[00:09:38] Anastasia Pleasant: It totally was intense, and I did not realize what a tidal wave had hit me. (chuckles)


[00:09:46] Bob: The total she'd cashed was more than $20,000. Each time her account was credited the amount of the check, then the credit was reversed. And then, the bank took cash out of her account to cover the wire. But that is more than she had in her checking account. So the bank starts looking to recover its money another way.

[00:10:09] Anastasia Pleasant: So all the sudden, I'm at a negative balance, I had like $10,000 in my checking account, and I had an overdraft protection, and when I went beyond what was in my checking account, they drained my savings account to cover the overdraft in my checking.

[00:10:31] Bob: So now, this new job has drained her checking account, and it's starting to drain her savings account. Anatasia's terrified, but also confused. The money did appear in her checking account, but then it was removed by the bank after the check bounced. And because she'd already wired funds in a separate transfer, the bank takes that amount from her money.

[00:10:51] Anastasia Pleasant: Even though it appears like, you know, how it says like it's pending, and then it's in, kind of thing, or whatever, actual, it looked like it was actual and then they said, "Oh, well after the fact, it was actually a fraudulent check." I said, "But it looked like it cleared." And they said, "Well that doesn't matter."

[00:11:14] Bob: Yeah, I mean your balance would have said whatever, you know, $4000 plus whatever was in, in the account.

[00:11:21] Anastasia Pleasant: Right.

[00:11:22] Bob: I, I hear you struggling to find the words to describe this, because no one knows this. So banks can actually claw back money from checks they decide are fraudulent for weeks or months after the fact, even after it looks like you have the money.

[00:11:35] Anastasia Pleasant: Yes.

[00:11:38] Bob: Anastasia goes to the police, but it's too late. And then the financial implications start to become clear. She's suddenly unemployed, and essentially, all the cash she had in her bank accounts has been stolen. A cascade of bad things start to happen.

[00:11:57] Anastasia Pleasant: I had some credit cards that were at 0% that were very manageable, but because my bank account was cleaned out, I couldn't make payments on the credit cards, so I had to do debt consolidation. And then I had a Roth IRA, and I was able to take money out of there, and I took everything but $500 out. I only had like a couple thousand dollars in there. And then I go to Florida unemployment and I had been making a decent salary at my previous jobs for a year, they only give me $225 a week, and it turns out it was only for 7 weeks.

[00:12:44] Bob: Hmm.

[00:12:45] Anastasia Pleasant: So then after that, that's when I had to go to the Roth IRA and that was like 4 grand gone just to pay the mortgage. Pay, pay the utility bills. Buy food. And then my, my partner, he, my better half I should say, he uh, he paid the mortgage for two months and my brother gave me $1500, and a childhood friend gave me $1000, otherwise I would have lost my house.

[00:13:21] Bob: Ugh...

[00:13:22] Anastasia Pleasant: Yep.

[00:13:24] Bob: If you can believe it, things are even worse than that for Anastasia. The bank starts sending her collection notices for the negative balance.

[00:13:33] Anastasia Pleasant: Oh yes. Today's been a great day, or yesterday. I got one letter from PNC saying that they appreciate the opportunity to address my concerns, but they said that they don't agree, and I did not provide enough information. Meanwhile, I sent the police report from the Stuart Police Department, and then also I got a collection notice today. PNC is going after me for the money that they took out of my account with a collection service. And they're trying to negotiate with me about the money that was from the scam that now I evidently owe them.

[00:14:18] Bob: Oh my God!

[00:14:20] Anastasia Pleasant: Yep.

[00:14:21] Bob: But what is, how much is the collection notice for?

[00:14:22] Anastasia Pleasant: Um, the one, oh, and now they're trying to negotiate. And now they're saying that the one I got, oh, discounted amount. They're going down to like 5 grand. The other one I got, that's dated 2/13, the other one I got was for 7,600, almost 8 grand. And I have not responded to these collection service notices, I just ignore them. And now they're down to, oh, it was 7630, you know whatever, and now they're down to 4578.

[00:15:03] Bob: And of course, she's now unable to borrow money to help with her situation.

[00:15:08] Anastasia Pleasant: And then I told you, Bob, because I missed payments on my, I had a couple 0% credit cards, and I missed payments on all them. So I had to go into a debt consolidation program. So my credit score has gone, I had excellent credit, like 750 or higher, my credit score has dipped down to 503.

[00:15:32] Bob: So just to try to explain to somebody who, who's listening to this, when you finally sit down and realize, you know, kind of the extent of what's happened, you've lost your job, $20,000 is, is missing somewhere, the bank's blaming you, well what does that feel like?

[00:15:48] Anastasia Pleasant: It makes you stop believing in yourself. Everything that you've worked for for your entire life is gone. I felt like such a failure. How did I let that happen to myself? I'm not stupid in, in my head. I'm like, how did that happen? It's not like I'm not aware. But it happened, and you know it's affected every part of my life. Definitely. Definitely has affected every part of my life. I'm not the same person that I was before, Bob.

[00:16:26] Bob: Oh God. It does affect every part of your life.

[00:16:30] Anastasia Pleasant: You know I've been with my um, boyfriend for 9, 9+ years, and you know I had a great career in New York, really successful, won awards, uh working as a photo director and moved to Florida after getting divorced and was able to buy a townhouse in Jupiter, very lovely. And then, you know, met this lovely man, and when this happened, and get this, he's an accountant with his master's degree. And I'm living with him, and this happens to me. He lost all faith in me. He didn't believe in, you know, not only do I not believe in myself, now my mate is not believing in me. Either. Second guessing everything I do. It's ... I ... I have to believe that I'm going to move forward and things are going to be okay. But here I am at 61 years old and I owe all this money to the credit cards, and I'm, my, my credit score's at zero. PNC's going after me for money. I'm like, oh my God! Am I going to be, do I have to declare bankruptcy over this? That's where I was last week.

[00:18:01] Bob: She's pondering declaring bankruptcy as a last resort, and she's still filling out every form she can think of looking for help.

[00:18:10] Anastasia Pleasant: Today was my day; I re-filed another complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I re-filed a complaint with the FBI. I'm talking with you today. This is almost a year later. I just want to be done with it, and I need to see what happens in the next few weeks, and I have to decide, am I going to declare bankruptcy to make this all go away? I, I, I just might have to. That breaks my heart. I never thought I would have to face that.

[00:18:50] Bob: Anastasia does eventually find another job, but it isn't easy.

[00:18:57] Bob: How long did it take before you found another job?

[00:18:59] Anastasia Pleasant: August 24th is when I started.

[00:19:02] Bob: Wow, so all summer, all spring, all summer.

[00:19:03] Anastasia Pleasant: Yep. It was a very painful summer.

[00:19:09] Bob: But she's still trying to keep her chin up.

[00:19:12] Anastasia Pleasant: I have just decided that I'm going to be positive and just say thank you for my new job. You know working for people who love me and I love them, and let's make it happen. Gotta move on. I'm finally at the point, I'm ready to move on from the depression and awfulness.

[00:19:35] Bob: Ready to move on from the depression and awfulness. It's not easy and it's not uncommon. As we mentioned at the start of this episode, reports of job scams are exploding. In fact, the identity theft resource center told us that just from December of last year to January of this year, reports are up 500%. Our next guest is on the other side of this scam. He's a different kind of victim.

[00:20:03] Ryan Staller: So my name is Ryan Staller, and I run a digital marketing agency here in Fort Myers, Florida, and it's called NetOne360.

[00:20:11] Bob: Ryan isn't looking for a job or even for employees for that matter when the job scam deluge hits him a few months ago.

[00:20:20] Ryan Staller: I started receiving emails in my spam folder, because once a week I go through my spam folder on Friday. And I see emails, people asking me in spam if this job posting below, or this job application or whatever they were sending them, is it valid, is it true? For the first couple of times I ignored it, there were maybe two or three in my spam folder. I ignored it. I thought, they were spam, I'm not going to touch it, I'll let it go. The following week, I was starting getting out of nowhere, about 10 to 15 emails per day, people asking me, is this true? Is this legit or is this fraud? And at that point I stopped and I'm like, okay, let me backtrack here and see exactly what's going on.

[00:21:02] Bob: So how does he find out? He applies for a job at his own company.

[00:21:09] Ryan Staller: And what happened was is that I decided to play the game. I sent, one of the people that sent me the email, I actually went to, to the source of where the email came from, at, I forget the exact full name, but it was something, and I contacted that gentleman, and I said, "Hey, I received this job application. I am looking for this job, I am interested. What is the next steps?" Next thing you know, I went through the process where I started getting this, I was in a 45-minute Google Chat with this person asking me all kinds of questions, "What type of audio do you have at home, what kind of computer network do you have at home? Do you have a computer, what kind of computer do you have? Are you capable of, you know, using Photoshop? What experience do you have? Please..." And some of the questions got really into detail. "Tell us about your web development experience. Do you have the ability to do this? Yes or no.' It was very involved. But it really was insulting because it wasn't as involved as what we do, right? And it kind of made me look bad, but at the end of the conversation, it basically says, "We're going to send you a form. You're hired. We're going to send you a form so we can get your banking information for direct deposit. And what we're going to do is we're going to send you $2,000 in your account so we can send you, set you, set you up with a computer, monitor, keyboard, et cetera." Okay, and, and I stopped it, obviously I didn't do that. But at the end of the day the reason why I did it was to see if I could figure out a way to get to the next step with them and see, and try to track them, and see if I can report them to the authorities. But once I, I actually made the mistake, in the, in the e--, I sent a message about 35 minutes into it, I said, "Why are you posing as my company?" And then the call dropped and they blocked me on Google Chat.

[00:22:52] Bob: What Ryan does learn is how the criminals made their job postings look so realistic. They essentially were stealing his domain, or at least domains that looked like his.

[00:23:05] Ryan Staller: Right, it was, but if you go to, and of course me being who I am in the industry, I went to, and it goes to a Go Daddy parked page and a website. So they were literally just using it as an email address. They had a logo on the job description, I mean the job description's fully detailed. It was impressive, two pages of text of what the job entails, what they're getting, how much they're getting paid, and what the company will provide for them. Was I impressed? I was very impressed. But I was also alerted, I was alarmed, like why are they picking me? And, and I realized that probably I was targeted just because I had careers on my website, or job postings that were very similar to the job postings on Indeed that these people were looking for. It was, it was an easy target, and I just had, I probably was just the pick of the litter at random.

[00:23:56] Bob: Yeah, you were talking to someone who was a criminal who had, to some extent, targeted your company. Were you nervous at all about that?

[00:24:03] Ryan Staller: I was nervous, I started going to my bank account. Yeah, I was, I didn't at the time, I didn't know the level of what they were doing. I didn't know if they were, I had to check my bank account and see if money was taken out of my bank account. No, I mean there's two things. Once I realized that my money was safe, I was happy. And the, my first initial, initial reaction was, somebody hacked into my website and targeting people who go to my website and apply for jobs. I went into the website, it's not the case, nothing was on there, and then I, and then I started doing more research and I figured out, no, I looked deeper into using a completely different domain for an email address that wasn't even tied to me that I don't even own. And what I did was I actually, they bought all the domains through HostGator. I forwarded all the content to HostGator in their fraud department, and then I think within, within five business days, they contacted me and said, "We shut it down."

[00:25:01] Bob: But for many people, it was too late. Ryan figures hundreds of victims interacted with the criminals.

[00:25:08] Ryan Staller: They literally purchased two or three domains on behalf of my company whether it's careers, whether it's .US, whatever it was, and they went hard and they were soliciting probably, if I had to guess, probably 75 to 100 people a day.

[00:25:21] Bob: That's crazy. I mean, first of all, you go from a trickle to a, a small flood. You're getting 10 or 15 emails, and I'm sure that was only a fraction of the people that they were approaching.

[00:25:33] Ryan Staller: Oh yeah. Most peop--, and I'm assuming that most people probably went into the spam, uh, but you know people were desperate for employment, I guess, and they followed through.

[00:25:44] Bob: And he knows directly of at least two people who had thousands of dollars stolen from them.

[00:25:51] Ryan Staller: And I noticed what, what happened was because a few days later I had a woman out of Atlanta calling me, yelling at me on the phone telling me that, "You stole my money, I want my money back." And I was like, "I have no idea really what you're talking about." And then she went through it, and then I realized that it was the same exact thing of what I went through a few, a few days ago. And I told her, call your authorities, um, have your authorities call me directly, have your banker call me directly, I will handle this for you. I will take care of everything. Just let me know what I need to do to help you. Unfortunately, from what I found out was that this actually happened to probably, the victims I'm saying, probably about 3 to 4 people.

[00:26:29] Bob: He spoke to a second victim too. Both said they wired about $2000 to their new employer. And while in the end Ryan wasn't at risk of having any money stolen, he was worried about something else, perhaps more important than money.

[00:26:45] Bob: So at, at the end you're, you didn't, no money was stolen from you, but you still had to have this har--, pretty harassing phone calls from people. That sounds like a really uncomfortable, unfair experience.

[00:26:55] Ryan Staller: Yes, especially the one woman who was yelling at me. She didn't believe me. She was yelling at me saying, "I'm going to call the police on you. Give me my money." Um, that was painful. But really at the point my biggest thought was, is my brand here in jeopardy? And what do I need to do? How do I need to fix this going forward? Is this something I need to rebrand? What do I need to do and really that's when I put the alert on my website that way no more, no one becomes a victim, and I really thought it through, and I said to myself that, you know, I talked to myself a lot about this stuff, and uh time. Time is going to let it go away. And that's why I went to my local authorities, I reported them to the company that they bought the domain from. They shut them down. I took the necessary steps myself to shut them down without even trying to identify who they really are, 'cause I knew I was nev--, once I figured out they were out of the country, I had no shot.

[00:27:47] Bob: And perhaps most important, he decided to warn potential victims in the best way he knew how.

[00:27:54] Ryan Staller: And I put a notice on my website, which is still on my website today saying that, you know, "This is a scam alert. Do not," you know, "we're not hiring at this time." Please ignore everything. And once I did that, within 48 hours, it stopped.

[00:28:09] Bob: The website warning seemed to work.

[00:28:13] Ryan Staller: It died, it died after that and I haven't heard anything since, and it's still on my website, and the reason why it's still up there is because per the advice of counsel, really, keep it up as long as you can until we start hiring again. And plus, we're redoing the website which will launch very soon. So then we can take it away. But for about a period of 10 days, it was a total nightmare. It felt horrible. It felt like, how much is this going to cost me, is this the end, do I need to rebrand? I, for about a good 24 hours I was always thinking about what was going to happen? Are people going to come after me? Was law enforcement going to come at my door? What is going to happen? And I really had peace of mind when I went to my local authorities and made them aware of what was happening, and they told me that they can't do anything for me until something happened, but they did flag it, and they put in the system and flagged it in case local authorities or out of state contact them to get, to get to me, right? It was horrible, it was, I really thought that I was like, oh my God, what do I do now?

[00:29:11] Bob: Hmm, but you did go to much more trouble, I think, than um, than most people would. And I thank you for that. I did, I went to your website, and there's a big notice that says, "We are not hiring at this time. If you've been a victim of a crime, please contact local law enforcement." So uh, but on behalf of everybody, thank you for doing that.

[00:29:28] Bob: What did Ryan learn from this experience?

[00:29:30] Ryan Staller: From this process is that people really need to do their due diligence when they receive an email to apply for a job. They need to do their homework. They need to take a look at the URL where the email's coming from. Type in that URL into a website. If there's no website, that's a flag. If there's no voice call, audio call, or video call, whatever it is, that's a flag. If it's only text, that's a flag. Say no.

[00:29:55] Bob: Is there any other advice that you have on the tip of your tongue there?

[00:29:58] Ryan Staller: Don't panic. But if, if you're a victim, you know, stop and take a moment and think about what's transpired and figure out if it's something that you actually did or you're being, becoming a victim, and just don't panic. Because I made the mistake of almost going down the road of panicking. And like I said, for about 24 hours I thought everything was crashing down on me, and then I woke up the next morning and I'm like, you know what, the heck with these people. I'm going to figure everything out. And that's what I did. And I said time will tell. So I think the goal is, if you're a victim of a scam, call your local authorities, but don't panic. It's upsetting, but don't panic. I always, you know, I'm of the, like I have a 9-year-old daughter, and I look at her and I always say to her, "Life could be a lot worse."

[00:30:41] Bob: That's true, yeah, yeah. Perspective is really helpful in all these situations.

[00:30:46] Ryan Staller: Perspective is everything to me.

[00:30:48] Bob: In many cases, victims find job listings on major websites that end up being scams. So job seekers should know that even if a post appears on a service like Indeed, that doesn't necessarily mean it's legitimate. Indeed told us in a written statement that it "does all it can to free its service from scams and scam job listings." And it offered these tips to job seekers. "Never send any form of payment to a potential employer you apply to on Indeed. Never accept money upfront for work you've not performed. Look for verifiable company email addresses and be cautious when pursuing positions with salaries, perks, and flexibility that seem too good to be true." And Indeed gave us this statement, "Indeed puts job seekers at the heart of everything we do. We have a dedicated search quality team who goes to extraordinary lengths deploying a variety of techniques to assess the suitability and validity of job listings. Indeed removes tens of millions of job listings each month that do not meet our quality guidelines. In addition, Indeed will not do business with an employer if their job listings do not pass our stringent quality guidelines. We encourage job seekers to report any suspicious job advertisements to us or, if they feel it necessary, to make a report to the police. We encourage all job seekers to review our guidelines for a safe job search." Anastasia wanted to offer some advice to job seekers too.

[00:32:18] Anastasia Pleasant: They did it over email and that's uh, scam lesson 101: Do not accept a position that interviews you over email, Team chats, Messenger, whatever. That they're, they're all scams. I've become an expert at it, and my advice is, if people are looking for a new position, if somebody wants to interview you via email, via a Teams chat or text, or another one is, there's a messenger app called Wire Messenger, they're all scams. And make sure the emails are correct, but all that if somebody doesn't want to talk to you or have a Zoom or something, it's a scam. Now you've got to be afraid to open up an email. So I would just be hypervigilant and also be careful and do not reveal stuff in social media about yourself. Just be very careful. Be very aware.

[00:33:29] Bob: And is, is there anything specific you want to say to someone who's looking for a job online?

[00:33:33] Anastasia Pleasant: Oh, what I would say is don't agree to any interviews that are not via Zoom or in person and double-check if it's a real company. And good luck. (laugh)

[00:33:50] Bob: And good luck. Don't we all need that?

[00:33:52] Anastasia Pleasant: Oh, my goodness.

[00:33:55] Bob: Knowing what a minefield it is out there for job seekers and the special circumstances that people who are looking for jobs must endure, we thought it important to talk with an expert about this. Carly Roszkowski is Vice President of Financial Resilience Programming at AARP, where she oversees the work and job issue area.

[00:34:14] Carly Roszkowski: Looking for a job can be stressful; it can be a vulnerable situation for consumers. Sometimes with our older consumers, they're, they've been maybe out of work for longer or due to their situation or their financial situation, they might be more desperate to return to working to make sure their income stream is continuing, and so yeah, it can be sort of a relief that they finally found a job and one that they, you know, were excited about, one that sounds so promising and you know some of these, these job scams are, you know, offering six figures for working at home, or have your work/life balance and your flexibility that you need if you're a working caregiver, and it's, going through that job search where there's ups and downs, and you finally have this great offer and this promising job where you, you're going to feel challenged and you're going to be needed, you can be more susceptible to these scams.

[00:35:13] Bob: She's seen the data about skyrocketing scams too.

[00:35:17] Carly Roszkowski: Yes, unfortunately, we have seen that job scams have skyrocketed in the last few years, um, and accord to the, the Federal Trade Commission, that is what they are seeing as well, mostly work from home scams.

[00:35:31] Bob: Is there a, a reason that work from home scams would be seeing a rise right now?

[00:35:36] Carly Roszkowski: Yes, after the pandemic, there was a rise in more and more job seekers wanting that flexible work/life balance, and more flexibility with their career and their job, and so work from home and remote work or hybrid work, um, has been on the rise and is more desired by all job seekers of, of all ages as well.

[00:35:58] Bob: So, so people are looking for these things and that just makes it easier for criminals to, to offer people what they think they want, right?

[00:36:03] Carly Roszkowski: Yes.

[00:36:05] Bob: It also seems to me that in a work from home jobs five years ago even, uh, were pretty rare, only certain specific kinds of fields would, would permit them and now it's much more common, and that also makes it, make the, these fake listings more believable, I think.

[00:36:20] Carly Roszkowski: Yes, you're correct. There, because there's more desire for it from the consumer, but it's also a desired balance for the employer where they're getting additional job candidates or just a bigger, deeper pool of candidates when they're able to offer a remote, fully remote job or, or a hybrid opportunity.

[00:36:41] Bob: I asked Carly to talk about the kinds of scams AARP is seeing.

[00:36:46] Carly Roszkowski: So, some of the, the red flags that we have seen, but some things to look out for are job titles that are more likely to be a scam are things like mystery shopper, or work from home, stuffing envelopes. Others that we've seen, personal assistant, or virtual remote assistant. We've seen them for a graphic designer program coordinator, program manager, but also phrases like work from home and earn a six-figure salary, or a guaranteed job placement buying agency, or paying for access to government jobs. So you should not pay for access to any job listings, including government jobs or, or post office jobs. We also tell consumers to be cautious if there is a personal email address associated with any job posting. It's sometimes a sign of a scam and, and should raise questions of why there isn't a business or nonprofit or educational email address associated with that job listing. Some of the other information we've gotten from potential job scams out there that ask for no skills or experience required, that might be a red flag. Uh they're offering high pay for little work. And language that says it's a surefire business opportunity that will pay out quickly. And again, any position or job description that talks about paying upfront for materials, training, certificates or, or directories, and where an employer might ask for sensitive information like your Social Security number before you're even officially hired, are huge red flags for the consumer.

[00:38:28] Bob: So what can people do to protect themselves?

[00:38:32] Carly Roszkowski: Some of the things you can do is doing an online search using the company's name plus the words “scam-review-complaint," those types of words if you're, if you're at the beginning of your job search and you're just not sure that this one has, you know is a scam. Again, you can work with your state Consumer Protection Agency or the Better Business Bureau in your community asking lots of questions. But if you have experienced financial loss or identity fraud through one of these job scams, we do tell folks to please report it to law enforcement. You can also share the information with the Federal Trade Commission, and you can get resources both from the FTC, which has a lot of, of resources on their site, but we also have a ton of resources at

[00:39:27] Bob: One important note from Carly; many people when they're actively job hunting apply for dozens, even hundreds of positions. That can create an opening for criminals.

[00:39:37] Carly Roszkowski: We inform consumers to make sure they're keeping track of all the jobs they're applying for, and then making sure that they see an email address in the posting when they apply. Look at the email address if you're getting correspondence from that person who's writing to you. If the name of the company is correctly spelled in that person's email address, and making sure there, if there's any typos, errors, or misspellings, or grammar, or any kind of awkward language that might seem off. It might be a scam, or you might want to look further into the company, into the job listing, um, and do a little more digging or research.

[00:40:13] Bob: I'm glad you said that because I know when, you know, sometimes you're applying for dozens of jobs and you lose, you can lose track of who you've written to and, and that can make this all the more confusing, right?

[00:40:24] Carly Roszkowski: Yes, yes, I mean usually there's multiple jobs you're applying for, multiple job board sites you're on, and so it can, it can be quite cumbersome and overwhelming, um, when going through that job search or trying to remember, recall some of these jobs that you've applied for.

[00:40:43] Bob: And if you think you've been a victim of a crime...

[00:40:47] Carly Roszkowski: We encourage that the job seekers report any of these suspicious job advertisements, both to law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission or our AARP Fraud Watch Network, but also to the job board that they might be finding these on. Uh we want to make sure that no other consumers are interacting with any of these, these criminals that are posting these, these job scams. And the more reporting that we can have, the more education that can be out there for, for consumers moving forward.

[00:41:21] Bob: AARP has more resources for job seekers at For The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.


[00:41:36] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Our email address at The Perfect Scam is:, and we want to hear from you. If you've been the victim of a scam or you know someone who has, and you'd like us to tell their story, write to us. That address again is: Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Becky Dodson; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.


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