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Job Scams and Identity Theft

Select an item of interest below:

Overseas Job Scams
Identity Theft
Package Forwarding and Reshipping Scams
Work-at-Home Scams

Overseas Job Scams

Job seekers, interested in overseas employment that promises high pay, good benefits, free travel and adventure, should beware that there are unscrupulous people who have devised elaborate and very convincing scams to defraud unwitting, and often desperate applicants.

Before allowing yourself to be swept away with promises of an exotic job opportunity, make sure you have thoroughly investigated the matter and know the potential risks involved in obtaining overseas employment.

Typical Overseas Employment Scams

Unlike legitimate employment firms that have permanent addresses, many unscrupulous operators provide only a post office (P.O. Box) or mail drop address. Although there are legitimate firms with P.O. boxes, job applicants should be aware that this practice, when used by scammers, makes it easier for them to avoid closer scrutiny.

In many instances, officials investigating a suspicious firm have encountered a "fly-by-night" operation. The scam headquarters, with little more than a desk and a telephone, may be based in one country, but operate in other countries, making it more difficult for investigators to track down the operation.

Typical overseas job scams, include:

  • Firms that charge advance fees usually advertise in newspapers and magazines. Their advertisements frequently offer construction jobs, one of the industries that is suffering from skills shortages. People who call the number given in in the advertisement are generally told that there are immediate openings available for which they are perfectly suited. and are told that they must pay a placement fee in advance before they can start.
  • These up-front charges can range from £30 to several thousand pounds (as in the case of jobs in Canada). Firms that charge such advance fees are often so eager to get their hands on your money and avoid using the postal service that they may send a courier to pick up the deposit, or request that it be sent by next day guaranteed or Special Delivery.

    However, more often than not, these firms have little or no contact with potential employers.

    You should not allow yourself to be conned by a firm's promise of a full refund if no job results from your application. Most of these companies that require advance payment are not around long enough for their customers to get any sort of refund.

  • Firms that charge a fee after they have provide a job lead. A scammer may 'invent' a job lead or use a third-party to masquerade as a potential employer, in order to obtain a fee.
  • Premium rate numbers. Calls to a premium rate number connected with employment opportunities may charge a high per-minute rate. In some instances, such operators may fail to disclose the cost of a call or, if advertised in a magazine or newspaper, may display it in fine hard to read print. As a result, callers may not be aware of how much they are spending. Some operators may even increase their earnings through imposing delays while the caller is on the line. A good example is where a message tells you that all operators are busy and asks you to wait as your enquiry will be dealt with very soon.

    In one case, a consumer answered an advertisement instructing job applicants to call an "0800" freephone number for more information. The message on that number directed the caller to dial a premium rate number to find out about job openings. The premium rate number, however, merely directed the caller to send a stamped, addressed envelope to receive further details of the job being offered. The consumer received only a one-page generic job application, and was billed £25 for the phone call.

    When calling a premium rate number, be sure you understand the charges before continuing with the call. You can check any premium rate number through ICSTIS, the premium rate service regulator.

  • Job lists. There are many firms that make no promises to place you in a job. They merely sell a list of job opportunities, providing little assurance about the accuracy of the information.

    The information may be sold via a newsletter that features photocopied help-wanted ads from newspapers around the world. Many may be several months old and have been filled. In addition, the ads may not have been verified to ensure that the jobs actually exist.

Avoid Employment Scams

Many jobseekers have lost money to disreputable advance-fee recruitment firms. If you decide to use an overseas job placement firm, the best way to avoid being scammed is to learn as much as you can about them.

  • Ask for references. Request both names of employers and employees the company has actually found jobs for. Scam artists will typically defend their refusal to provide the information, claiming it is a "trade secret." Or, they frequently claim that if they told you where the openings are, you would circumvent their services. These schemers may also cite privacy concerns as the reason for refusing to provide the names of people they have placed.
  • Check out reliability. Contact the local Office of Fair Trading and search the internet to find out if any complaints have been filed against the firm.
  • Find out how long they have been in business. Also, ask what is the firm's present financial situation. Compare the company, and the services offered, with other similar firms before you pay a fee.
  • Get all promises in writing. Before you pay for anything, request and obtain a written contract that describes the services the firm intends to provide. Determine whether the firm is simply going to forward your resume to a company that publicly advertised a listing, or if it will actually seek to place you with an employer. Make sure that any promise you receive in writing is the same as what was stated in the advertisement.
  • Research any information the firm provides to you before you make a commitment. Make certain the job actually exists before you pay a firm to "hold" a job for you, and definitely before you make plans to relocate.

    Some job seekers have been asked to meet at a particular place to fly to their new jobs, only to find no airline tickets, no job, and also, no more company.

  • Check with the embassy of the country where the job is located. Make certain that, as a citizen of another country, you are eligible to work there.
  • Ask if you will be eligible for a refund if the job(s) are unacceptable or don't work out for any other reason. If the company has a refund policy, ask for specific written details that spell out whether you can expect a full refund, and if there are any time limits for receiving the refund.

    Read the fine print. A disreputable company may include 'red tape' that protects its interests and not yours.

    One common scam is to include a requirement that jobseekers check with the firm on a regular basis. Clients who unwittingly fail to make the required contact forfeit their rights to a refund. They are sometimes not told this until they ask for the refund.

If You Are Scammed

If you have been victimized by an employment scam, you can help prevent these types of incidents from recurring by reporting it to the proper authorities. They may be able to put the operator out of business and, in extreme cases, heavily fine them or even imprison the culprits.

If you believe you have been defrauded, you can file a complaint with the:

  • Office of Fair Trading in the area where they operate;
  • The Police;
  • Any trade body they may belong to, although it is highly unlikely that they will belong to a trade body if they are perpetrating fraud.
Tips To Remember
  • Be highly sceptical of overseas employment opportunities that sound like they are "too good to be true."
  • Never send cash in the mail, and be extremely cautious with firms that require a money order. This could indicate that the firm is attempting to avoid a traceable record of its transactions.
  • Do not be fooled by official-sounding names. Many scam artists operate under names that sound like those of long-established reputable firms.
  • Avoid working with firms that require payment in advance.
  • Do not give your credit card or bank account number.
  • Read the contract very carefully. Have an solicitor look over any documents you are asked to sign that look dubious.
  • Beware of an agency that is unwilling to give you a written contract.
  • Do not hesitate to ask questions. You have a right to know what services to expect and the costs involved.
  • Do not make a hasty decision. Instead, take time to weigh all the pros and cons of the situation. Be wary of demands that "you must act now."
  • Keep a copy of all agreements you sign, as well as copies of checks you forward to the company.

Extracted from a report by and Copyright of the Council of Better Business Bureaus

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers and uses it for their own personal gain. Identity theft takes many forms. Almost in all cases, victims are left with a ruined credit or criminal history and the complicated task of regaining their previously good status. Identity theft is an evolving crime and criminals are finding new and more sophisticated ways to steal and utilise information.

One particular scam involves the victim receiving an email from a person posing as a human resource director with well-known companies after responding to a posting on a job board. The email implies interest in the applicant and requests a background check as part of the employment process. The scammer claims the applicant will start work in three weeks and requests that a background check be performed immediately. The victim then provides the required information and as a result can spend the next five years cleaning up his/her credit history due to the criminal abuse that ensues, using his/her identity.

Yes the scammers are getting fairly tricky, however you will lessen your chances to falling victim by following these tips:

  • Do not under any circumstances disclose a Social Security number. A Social Security number is not necessary for an employer to carry out a background or credit history check. If a company insists on the number before processing an application, you should research the company to verify its legitimacy.
  • Never give out financial information. Employers very rarely need a prospective employees personal financial information. You should be very cautious of a company requesting bank account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal financial information.
  • Check the companys contact information and visit their website. You should verify that a company is legitimate before continuing with the application process. This can be done by checking the address and telephone number the company has provided and making sure their website is operational.
  • Look for indications that the advertisement or job offer is bogus. Many online scams contain misspelt words and bad grammar. Also, an employer using an e-mail address that is not linked with the companys domain name can be an indication of potential fraud.
  • Be cautious of job postings from overseas employers. A legitimate overseas company should have the resources to conduct business without using a privately held bank account. Overseas companies also have proven to be very hard to investigate and prosecute.

Package Forwarding and Reshipping Scams

Reshipping scams involve the receiving and reshipping of merchandise ordered online, to locations usually overseas. The shipper is an unwilling participant and the merchandise has been paid for with stolen or fraudulent credit cards.

Two methods are used frequently to entice victims to unwillingly take part in this scam. The first is through the use of help wanted advertisements posted on popular Internet job search sites. As part of the process, the prospective employee is required to provide personal information, including social security number and date of birth. Once "hired," they immediately begin receiving packages and are responsible for repackaging and shipping this merchandise abroad.

Payment for services usually arrive in the form of a third party cashiers check instead of a regular cheque. Additionally, the cheque is usually for an amount in excess of what had previously been agreed. The employee is instructed to cash the cheque and electronically forward the excess amount to an overseas bank account. After the transaction is complete but before the cheque has "cleared", the bank realises that the cashier's cheque is invalid. The employee is then responsible to reimburse the total amount of the fraudulent cheque.

By this point, the employee realises that they have not only fallen victim to a scam but that the operators of the scam are now in possession of their personal information.

The second method used to facilitate reshipping scams involves the use of the Internet. Unknown subjects participate in chat rooms pretending to look for a friend or romance. After carefully forging a trusting relationship, the scammer explains that his/her country will not accept direct business shipments from (for example) the United States. The subject asks if the victim will permit him/her to use the victim's address to receive and reship some recent online purchases. As soon as the victim agrees, packages begin to arrive for reshipment. Several weeks pass with the victim dutifully sending on the merchandise. Eventually, victim merchants contact the "friend" and explain that the recently shipped merchandise was purchased with a fraudulent credit card.

Work at Home Scams

Work-at-home scammers advertise in classified ads, through flyers, or over the Internet. What they all have in common is that the company will ask for a fee before you can start working. The company may claim the fee is for registration, a deposit on materials, or payment for instruction books or courses on disks. Here are three very common scams:

Medical Billing Work: These scams advertise that there is a new and growing market for individuals to work on home computers preparing bills for doctor's offices. The company may offer to sell special software and training materials for anywhere from £50 to several thousand pounds. It may promise that once you have ordered its software and learned to use it, it will then provide you with clients. All too often, the buyers find that there are no willing clients and they are required to try to find their own clients. Other companies do tell buyers that they will have to find their own clients, but say that this won't be difficult. However, the buyer usually can't find any doctor's office that will use his or her services. The medical billing field is dominated by a number of large and well-established firms and, as a result, very few people who purchase a medical billing business opportunity are able to find clients or recover their investment.

Envelope Filling or Addressing: This long-running scam offers to pay £2 or £3 per envelope you address or stuff. You send the company money for your start-up kit. They promise to send you a list of companies that want you to do the work. What you actually get is a list of companies that either do not exist or do not pay people to stuff envelopes. Or you receive instructions on how you can place ads like the one you answered and get unsuspecting consumers to send you money.

Home Based Typing / Data Entry: Typically, you must send in a (non-refundable) fee for more information on this 'superb opportunity'. You then receive a booklet, ebook, disk or CD with information instructing you to place home typist adverts like the one you replied to, and sell copies of the "information" to those who reply to you. This means you would likewise become a scammer! Sometimes, these companies will enlist you in an affiliate program which you end up marketing by typing adverts, your success depending wholly on your own marketing knowledge and expertise.

Sewing /Craft / Assembly Work: These work-at-home scams may ask you to pay for a book or a list of companies that will pay you to do crafts such as sewing or frame-making in your home. You may have to send money to purchase the work materials. When you contact the companies on the list, you find they don't pay for that kind of work.

Avoiding Work-At-Home Rip-Offs

  • Be highly sceptical of any "company" that advertises a work-at-home opportunity and requires advance payments or deposits on any instructional booklets, brochures, kits, programs, mailing lists, directories, memberships in cooperative associations, or for any other reason they can think of as an excuse to ask for money in advance.
  • Be particular sceptical of potential earnings that sound too good to be true, or promises of a regular market or steady salary that are are unsubstantiated. If an opportunity sounds too good to be true then it usually is!
  • Use some common sense (often called the most uncommon sense). In these days of mailing automation and high-speed printing, it is unlikely a company would pay several pounds for each envelope you fill and mail when this could be done by a machine for a few pence and faster too!
  • Ask questions about what you will have to do exactly in order to earn money with the programme, who will pay you, will you be paid by commission only, will you be asked to purchase supplies and pay for the postage?
  • Before entering into any work-at-home agreement, call the Office of Fair Trading to see if complaints have been filed against the company you are considering doing business with. Keep in mind, however, that illegitimate companies often advertise heavily for a few months, collect their fees and then close up shop and move on before anyone has a chance to file complaints, or they often change their names thus concealing their previous tracks.

You can find details on any limited company registered in England or Wales through Companies House, including a copy of their last filed accounts for a small charge (currently £1.00).



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