Employment scams were the riskiest scams in 2018, according to the latest report from the Better Business Bureau, Tech-Savvy Scammers Work to Con More Victims: 2018 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report (BBB.org/RiskReport).
Employment scams had more instances and higher losses than in previous years when it ranked the third riskiest. The report is based on data supplied by consumers to BBB Scam TrackerSM (BBB.org/ScamTracker) and is based on the BBB Risk Index, a unique algorithm that calculates exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss to offer a more accurate assessment of scam risk.
“This was a surprise,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report. “It’s the first time since we began this report three years ago that one scam dominated across so many demographic subgroups. It was the riskiest scam in three of the six age groups, and for both men and women. It was also the riskiest scam for military families and veterans, and students.”
Digging into the Risk Report shows one possible answer: Amazon was in the news a lot in 2018 with its high-profile search for a second headquarters. It was also the sixth most impersonated organization mentioned in BBB Scam Tracker reports, after not even making the top 15 in previous years. In 2017, only 24 BBB Scam Tracker reports were employment scams that mentioned Amazon. In 2018, that jumped to 564.
“Scammers are opportunists,” says Trumpower. “Whatever is in the news or being talked about on social media, they see as an opening to pose as or hijack a recognizable and respected organization or brand.” The Internal Revenue Service is the leading impersonated organization, and other government agencies together rank second. Other leading brands that scammers impersonate include Publishers Clearing House, Microsoft, Apple, and the Better Business Bureau.
Amazon, a BBB Accredited Business, has only one authorized job application site: amazon.jobs. Any other link is a scam, said Trumpower.
“Employment scams are particularly egregious because they prey on people who are already feeling pinched and may be desperate for work,” she said. “If the scam gets far enough, scammers collect the same information that real employers do – address, birth date, Social Security number, bank account – everything needed for identity theft.”
How to Spot Employment Scams:
- Some positions are more likely to be scams. Always be wary of work-from-home or secret shopper positions, or any job with a generic title such as caregiver, administrative assistant, or customer service rep. Positions that don’t require special training or licensing appeal to a wide range of applicants. Scammers know this and use these otherwise legitimate titles in their fake ads. If the job posting is for a well-known brand, check the real company’s job page to see if the position is posted there. Look online; if the job comes up in other cities with the exact same post, it’s likely a scam.
- Different procedures should raise your suspicion. Watch out for on-the-spot job offers. You may be an excellent candidate for the job but beware of offers made without an interview. A real company will want to talk to a candidate before hiring. Don’t fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask for money to be wired elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers. And be cautious sharing personal information or any kind of pre-payment. Be careful if a company promises you great opportunities or big income as long as you pay for coaching, training, certifications or directories.
- Government agencies post all jobs publicly and freely. The U.S. federal government and the U.S. Postal Service never charge for information about jobs or applications for jobs. Be wary of any offer to give you special access or guarantee you a job for a fee – if you are paying for the promise of a job, it’s probably a scam.
- Get all details and contracts in writing. A legitimate recruiter will provide you with a complete contract for their services with cost, what you get, who pays (you or the employer), and what happens if you do not find a job.
The ten riskiest scams of 2018 were: employment, online purchase, fake checks/money orders, home improvement, advance fee loans, romance, tech support, investment, travel/vacation, and government grants.
For more highlights from Tech-Savvy Scammers Work to Con More Victims: 2018 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, download the infographic at BBB.org/RiskReport .
For the full report, go to BBB.org/RiskReport.
To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
To learn more about different scam types, go to BBB.org/ScamTips.