Sadly, online job scams targeting older adults have been an issue for years. However, in a pandemic job market, cybercriminals are working overtime to devise schemes that exploit job seekers’ need for financial security.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Americans lost more than $62 million in employment scams in 2020. In addition, with federal unemployment benefits ending this month, that number is expected to rise as more people head online to look for work.
Online hiring scams can be hard to detect because scammers advertise job opportunities the same way legitimate employers do—via online ads, job sites, and popular social networking channels. They promise job seekers opportunity and hope but are carefully designed to the applicant’s personal information or deceive them into sending money.
Online Hiring Scams
Here are just a few examples of online jobs scams targeting older adults and a few ways to avoid becoming a victim.
Bogus LinkedIn job offers
Last year the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identified and shut down a scam on LinkedIn in which a company sent potential job candidates a direct message promising a high-paying job still unpublished to the public. The catch? Potential candidates were asked to pay a fee of up to $2,500 to set up the interview. Variations of this scam, using LinkedIn as a channel, may be in play.
Some scammers are getting especially bold and posting job openings using the names, logos, and even staff names from legitimate companies to lure unsuspecting job seekers into fake interviews. After a questionnaire or interview, the company informs the applicant they have the job. From there, they collect personal information as if it’s part of a legitimate onboarding process—only the job doesn’t exist.
A popular scam involves a company offering job seekers a six-figure income working from home with the promise you can “be your own boss “and “set your own schedule.” The catch: Job seekers must first purchase a starter kit or some form of online coaching package to qualify for the “opportunity.” After that, the company can disappear or charge the consumer thousands of dollars more for training that never comes.
According to the BBB, some scams include job seekers submitting personal information to potential employers only to have that information stolen and used for fraudulent schemes. Some scams even involve online interviews that appeared legitimate; only the interviewer didn’t appear on camera. The bogus employer asks for personal data during the interview, including banking information needed for direct depositing a paycheck.
Spot & Stop a Scam
Awkward hiring process
If an employer attempts to hire you by text, email, or a photo-only video interview, beware. Legitimate employers, no matter how small, will have a professional hiring process. Job Search Safety Tips: 1) Call the company to make sure the job offer is legitimate. 2) Verify the name of the company contact through LinkedIn and verify the person with whom you are communicating 3) Consider comprehensive security software to protect your devices from malware sent via phishing emails from potential employers.
Request for money
A legitimate employer will not ask for money from a potential or new hire. Nor will they ask you to purchase “training” or cash a check for “software” as part of your employment. Job Search Safety Tip: Check the BBB’s Scam Tracker for scams connected to a company.
If an employer sends you a cashier’s check or even a corporate check, know it may not be real, even if your bank accepts it for a deposit (it won’t clear). Various fake check scams can pull in unwitting victims through job posts that advertise positions for merchandise resellers, virtual assistants, mystery shoppers, car wrappers, caregivers, and photographers.
Request for personal financial info
If an employer immediately asks for personal data such as your SSN, birthdate, driver’s license number, etc., chances are it’s a scam. Job Search Safety Tip: 1) Bank-routing information is for direct deposits after you’ve met an employer in person. If you are applying for remote work, wait for a signed offer, be sure to verify the company and the offer before sharing financial information. 2) Consider using a Virtual Private Network, to share any kind of private information regarding employment.
Urgency and pushiness
Job scammers target people who are stressed and desperate for work. If the potential employer seems to be pushing you to give information, send money, or take the next step, it may be a scam. Job Search Safety Tip: Slow down and ask yourself, “Does this sound right?” Seek out the opinion of a friend or relative if needed.
Resources for Seniors
Need guidance? Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline toll-free at 877-908-3360. Stay aware of scams targeting seniors at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
Report job fraud
If you are the victim of a scam or attempted scam, report it to the FTC, IC3, FBI, and IdentityTheft.gov.
Finally, remember that legitimate job boards such as Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn can contain fake companies, bogus jobs, and positions that look incredible that will cause incredible heartache for a job seeker that forges ahead without caution.