Online job scams on the rise during coronavirus panic

With the Wuhan Virus causing massive job losses due to an economic shutdown and confinement at home, we find ourselves in uncharted territory.  If you are unemployed and desperate for work, be aware.  Employment scams are convincing and can be posted to the usual online job search sites.  What follows is an example of how these scams work.

Online job scams look legitimate and may include job offer letters from a highly respected company on the company's letterhead.  You are asked to sign and return the letter, indicating your acceptance of the position.  Afterward, you are referred to an online instant communication site like Zoom, Telegraph, or Google Hangouts.  Here you will interview with a company representative asking all the right questions, but be careful.

Once you are a perfect fit for the position, the company tells you to expect a certified check or cashier's check by Federal Express to purchase a laptop or other equipment with the company's software for use at home.  The check arrives the following day, and you are told to deposit the check into your personal bank account.  You are instructed to contact a third party for delivery of the company equipment using the funds from the cashier's check you just deposited.

After the purchase is made and funds are sent to the third party, the company or one of its partners will declare that the check was fraudulent and request a reversal of funds from your bank account.  Since you already sent the funds to the third party, you are on the hook for the amount of the fraudulent check whether you have money to cover it or not.  This also allows scammers access to your banking information.  You should never have to run money through your personal bank account to get a job.

If you get an email for a job online, research it thoroughly before taking action.

Call the company directly, and find out if the person sending the job offer letter and the person interviewing online actually works there.  Searching online might produce verification, but the online information may not be current.  It looks authentic, but the person in question does not work there anymore.  He may have never worked there, and the entire online profile is a creation.  Notice whether the signature on the offer letter includes any contact information, including the job title and phone number of the person who signed it.  Scammers can use photoshop and other software packages to create authentic-looking company letterhead.

When you get the check, notice if it arrives from a third party.  Most likely, it will.  Check the bank address.  I personally received an online offer from a health care company in Minnesota.  Research on the return address from the check-sender led to a European car parts shipping office in California.  The check was drawn on a bank in Louisiana.  These are red flags indicating a scam in progress.

Ask yourself these questions — if a company needed to hire you and you needed its laptop with its software, why would it not just send it to you directly?  Why the complicated rigmarole?

Finding a job is difficult enough.  It is made harder by higher unemployment levels created by the economic shutdown.  Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Potential scammers are salivating over this scenario.  Don't be fooled by their tricks.

E. Sarah Rhodes is the pen name of a Raleigh, N.C. freelance writer.

With the Wuhan Virus causing massive job losses due to an economic shutdown and confinement at home, we find ourselves in uncharted territory.  If you are unemployed and desperate for work, be aware.  Employment scams are convincing and can be posted to the usual online job search sites.  What follows is an example of how these scams work.

Online job scams look legitimate and may include job offer letters from a highly respected company on the company's letterhead.  You are asked to sign and return the letter, indicating your acceptance of the position.  Afterward, you are referred to an online instant communication site like Zoom, Telegraph, or Google Hangouts.  Here you will interview with a company representative asking all the right questions, but be careful.

Once you are a perfect fit for the position, the company tells you to expect a certified check or cashier's check by Federal Express to purchase a laptop or other equipment with the company's software for use at home.  The check arrives the following day, and you are told to deposit the check into your personal bank account.  You are instructed to contact a third party for delivery of the company equipment using the funds from the cashier's check you just deposited.

After the purchase is made and funds are sent to the third party, the company or one of its partners will declare that the check was fraudulent and request a reversal of funds from your bank account.  Since you already sent the funds to the third party, you are on the hook for the amount of the fraudulent check whether you have money to cover it or not.  This also allows scammers access to your banking information.  You should never have to run money through your personal bank account to get a job.

If you get an email for a job online, research it thoroughly before taking action.

Call the company directly, and find out if the person sending the job offer letter and the person interviewing online actually works there.  Searching online might produce verification, but the online information may not be current.  It looks authentic, but the person in question does not work there anymore.  He may have never worked there, and the entire online profile is a creation.  Notice whether the signature on the offer letter includes any contact information, including the job title and phone number of the person who signed it.  Scammers can use photoshop and other software packages to create authentic-looking company letterhead.

When you get the check, notice if it arrives from a third party.  Most likely, it will.  Check the bank address.  I personally received an online offer from a health care company in Minnesota.  Research on the return address from the check-sender led to a European car parts shipping office in California.  The check was drawn on a bank in Louisiana.  These are red flags indicating a scam in progress.

Ask yourself these questions — if a company needed to hire you and you needed its laptop with its software, why would it not just send it to you directly?  Why the complicated rigmarole?

Finding a job is difficult enough.  It is made harder by higher unemployment levels created by the economic shutdown.  Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Potential scammers are salivating over this scenario.  Don't be fooled by their tricks.

E. Sarah Rhodes is the pen name of a Raleigh, N.C. freelance writer.