(WXYZ) — If you're one of the millions of people looking for work, be aware of job scams that are going around.
The Better Business Bureau released an in-depth investigative study showing job scams increased during the pandemic.
The BBB partnered with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and found losses from employment scams were up 27% between 2018 and 2020. The most common victims were people between the ages of 25 and 34.
Women filed 67% of job scam complaints, and the median financial loss reported by the victims was $1,000.
Octavia Downs, a single mom living in Redford, Michigan, recently launched her job search. An email from a particular company she didn't remember applying to caught her attention.
"It was for a customer service position, fully remote, and they were saying that they were offering me $35 an hour," Downs said.
Next, they sent her an unusual request. They asked her to download an app called "Telegram" and said that's how they were going to conduct the interview. Yes, an entire interview via text. She thought that was a red flag, too.
She cautiously continued and ended up with a two-day flurry of texts, complete with a job offer and a rundown of the software and office equipment she'd need to buy to get started.
They told her she'd have to mobile deposit a check from the company to pay for the supplies, but she'd have to print out the check.
"They said via a check printer. And I said, 'A check printer?! I don't have one of those!" she laughed.
Melanie Duqesnel, the president and CEO of the BBB in Eastern Michigan, said some of these scammers send checks to applicants asking them to send money to a third party or collect personal data to steal money from your account.
“Before you sign anything and provide any personal information, take a moment. Look at the internet for a phone number and call that employer directly and say, ‘Hey, I’m in the process of being interviewed for this position. What positions are you hiring for?’ And you might find out that that position doesn’t even exist," Duqesnel said.
Downs reported her experience to the BBB, and thankfully, she didn't lose any money.
Other tips to avoid job scams include:
- Consider creating a separate email address when posting a resume on job boards
- Consider setting up a second bank account, simply to handle pay for jobs where you haven't met the employer in person
- Be cautious about providing personal information such as birth date, social security number, and other financial information
- Do not respond to calls, texts, emails, or links from unknown numbers
- Be wary of work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and re-shipping packages
The BBB said its research found half of the scam targets were seeking work-from-home opportunities.