Remember the StartJobs story? A four-month investigation by AIM Group uncovered one of the more memorable job scams in recent memory. Unsuspecting job seekers who applied to openings through the site were funneled into a process requiring invasive questions, like mortgage debt, to be answered. Those who completed the process were rewarded with an onslaught of sales emails and text messages.
“[StartJobs] promises that site visitors will ‘get hired faster,’” wrote June Arney, a reporter for AIM Group, back in November. “But while it aggregates job listings, it’s clear the company is actually built around identity capture. Users who click on legitimate-sounding job postings are taken to sites unrelated to the listing. They are then asked to provide information far beyond what a recruitment site should require or capture.”
According to a recent warning from the Better Business Bureau, StartJobs is likely the tip of the iceberg. Turns out scamming people under the guise of a job opportunity is hotter than ever. The holidays, in particular, are highlighted as particularly hot for bad guys and gals.
“Scammers are opportunists,” said Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau. “So the more that legitimate companies advertise open positions, the more these shady operators will post job scams.”
The Better Business Bureau says even though many businesses require extra help with the holiday rush and often seek temporary employees, people should beware of fraudsters who attempt to collect personal information. They make the following recommendation for job seekers:
- Apply for a job in person or by going directly to the retailer’s website (not following links).
- Be wary of anyone requiring you to submit personal information over the phone or online before meeting for an interview.
- Be suspicious of a job that requires you to pay for equipment or software upfront.
According to the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker, this year through October, more than 3,700 incidents were reported across the country, which is more than double the 1,800 or so recorded during the same time last year.
“Most employment scams are not for traditional jobs,” Hutt said in an interview with CNBC, adding that fake positions could be a work-from-home job or a secret shopper opportunity. “Anyone can be a victim or a target. We’ve seen these scams cross all levels of incomes and required skills.”
Military veterans and their spouses are some of the most popular targets as well. The Better Business Bureau says that it receives thousands of reports every year from active-duty service members, military families, and veterans through its crowd-sourced scam reporting tool. Fifteen percent of those reporting an employment scam lost money. The median loss for vets was $1,715, nearly double that reported across all consumers from February 2016 to August 2018.
“They told me to go and buy Best Buy gift cards ranging from 10 to 500 dollars and use my credit card to buy and then I would be reimbursed with a bank account they gave me to pay it off … the next day I received a text message from my bank stating that the payment on my credit card failed,” one veteran wrote to the Better Business Bureau.
Sadly, even though the holidays are especially enticing times to prey on people, job opportunity scams are nothing new and can’t be stopped. I’ll add that things like this ultimately help big brands that people trust and help support the argument that job seekers will gravitate toward corporate websites and bypass job boards. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, where there’s some level of transparency and anonymity is tougher to pull off, are better positioned than a niche job board or startup.