If you want to work from home and are looking for jobs, read this blog. This is not one of our typical blogs. This is going to be long, with a lot of information, but Frankie and I thought it was absolutely critical that we share with you how online job scams work, and how easily you can fall victim to one if you’re not careful.
Stay with us through this whole process because you’re going to walk away feeling so much more confident the next time you look for a job online.
We are going to dissect an online job scam for you, taking you through the whole process. Why this one? Why now? Because it came into my mailbox a few days ago, and let me tell you, these people are pretty good at perpetuating a scam.
So, grab your cup of coffee and let’s dig into the guts of online scam.
What do online job scams hope to get from you?
This is the first question we need to address. What’s the point of a scam? Well, for jobs, we believe there are three main reasons for luring you in. First - money. They’re looking for cash, and they believe they can trick you into supplying it. Second - they’re fishing for data. If you apply to a job that’s a scam, you’re sending them your name, email, address and phone number. They can compile lists, and sell these lists to people who will then send all kinds of spam email to you. Or perhaps even regular mail. A third, and not as likely reason, is that they want to get work done for free. You do some “test” work for them and they don’t hire you. They get the work done, and didn’t have to pay anyone.
Who are online scammers looking for?
Anyone. Everyone. The more the better. But, the people they most want to find are those that are trusting, hopeful or desperate. When you are very trusting or hopeful, you ignore signs that are telling you that something is wrong. Being trusting and hopeful are actually good qualities. I’m extremely hopeful about a lot of things, but I also have to be aware and cautious.
As far as desperation goes, scammers love to prey on desperate people. You’re broke, you have to pay your bills. Along comes this too-good-to-be true job that will solve your problems. No matter how much money you may need, you should never walk into any situation blindly.
So, let’s go. Let’s talk about this recent job scam.
Step One: Introductions
I received an email for a job invitation over the weekend from a legitimate job site I’m registered with and have used for many years. It’s not unusual to get an invitation for a job. Here is the meat of the email:
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this email. It’s legit. It’s coming from the job site because the scammers have registered and posted a job there.
This job looks legit, right? At least as far as you can tell from the email. But, there’s a red flag there. Want to guess what it is? It’s the wage. How many customer service people do you know that earn $25 to $30 per hour. (And if you do know them, you should have them put in a good word for you, because that’s a great rate for being a CSR!)
Now, it’s possible that there’s a job like this, but not probable. Still, it warrants further investigation. So I logged into the website and read the full job description. Unfortunately I can’t post it here because it has been deleted. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) But I can show you this part of it. (And I’ll tell you why in a minute, too.)
It sounds like a pretty legit job description. And why would a scammer go through all the trouble to write all of this up for a fake job? Couldn’t they just put a short line or two? Yes. And a lot of them do. This one really put in a lot of effort.
So, now we have a great wage and a decent job description. So far, so good. So what do I do next? I look at who is posting. Again, the original post has been deleted, so I can’t show you what it looks like, but I can show you what I look like when I post a job on the job site:
And when you click on my name in the job post, a window pops up, telling you when I registered on the site. What jobs I’ve posted. Or paid for. Or have gotten reviews on. It gives a history. In our scammer post, there was a picture of a woman, a first name and last initial, but no history.
Now, this isn’t always a red flag, but it’s something to keep in mind. Scammers create an account and try to get as much as they can before they’re found out. So they’re never going to have a history.
What was tricky about this post was that it contained an actual image of a woman. So I decided to search the image. (Thank you, Google.) And I found her. It was her LinkedIn photo, and she was a Sr. VP of HR for a huge international Corporation. I reviewed her. I reviewed their website. I reviewed their job postings.
Remember that job description above? It was exactly what the Corporation has on their website for customer care rep. Hmmm…. This all seems so legitimate. So maybe this is a real job. Highly unlikely, and it’s at these times that all sorts of alarms are going off with Frankie and I. (Well, they start going off the minute we open an email.)
DOUBLE RED FLAG
Why would a company with it’s own corporate hiring department go on a remote worker job site? Doesn’t seem very likely, but who knows. Maybe they’re trying something new.
TRIPLE RED FLAG
The Sr. VP of HR for a multinational corporation would not be posting on this website.
Step Two: Provide a False Sense of Positive
So, we have an invite. The pay is great. The description is excellent. There’s a photo! This must be the real deal! It’s everything I could have ever hoped for! Oh joy! ;) As the applicant, you are thrilled. Your life is going to change for the better! You've shut off your scam radar and are now invested in this.
So what happens next? You apply. And so I did. Let’s just see what happens when you apply. What was going to come next?
Step Three: Sealing the Deal
The next morning at 4:51am EST I received a message from Ms. Sr. VP.
I’ve removed the name of the Corporation because they are merely victims of this story, and they don’t need to be brought into the scammer’s mess anymore than they already have been.
I hope you’re having a blessed weekend? Okay, I can forgive a punctuation typo. It happens. But “blessed?” No. No corporate executive ever tells any stranger in an email to have a blessed weekend unless you’re working for a church or televangelist.
DOUBLE RED FLAG
The email address is a version of the company name and then @usa.com. Usa.com does provide email addresses for its users. And companies do use email addresses that aren’t personal emails for recruiting. But rarely, extremely rarely, do they use any non-company address for correspondence.
I play along. This is fake. It has got to be fake. But it’s good. Why so good? Why so many details? I reply back to the automatic message sent via the job website. But it doesn’t get through. Apparently the job was deleted.
Typically when the job board deletes a scammer post, they let the applicants know so that the applicants can be aware and protect themselves. But that didn’t happen. Which made this all the more interesting. Most likely the scammers got out before they got caught and reported.
So I sent my email to @usa and waited.
Step Four: The Reveal
33 hours later I get a new email (sorry it's so small):
This was the best part of the scam (if there can be a best part). Attached to this email were two PDFs. One was a list of all employment laws. The other was eight solid pages of everything I wanted to know about the Corporation and the job with Corporation letterhead. It told me I was going to get $25/hr during training and $30/hr afterwards. I can work morning, noon, or evenings. It even told me that their local techs were going to come to my house and install a whole set of office equipment for me: Macbook, Shredder, Laser Printer, Laminator, plus all the software.
It was detailed like crazy. I’m guessing that they took it from the actual Corporation. Perhaps someone that used to work for them has been masquerading as the Corporation to scam people. Who knows how they got their hands on this information.
I’m all in at this point. It keeps getting better. The next day I add“Mr. Michael” to my Google Hangouts chat. I’ve removed his last name because he is a real person - another executive at the Corporation. I found him on LinkedIn. (I search everyone and everything!) This discussion was hilarious for me, and I was chatting with Frankie at the time about it. I probably should have milked it further to see what information I could pull, but let’s face it, I had REAL work to get done.
Within 30 seconds of adding him to Hangouts, “Mr. Michael” contacted me. How many execs do you know that respond back within 30 seconds? None. Ever. :) Here’s where it all comes together.
Like my short answers? If you are suspicious of anything, do not provide information. Keep it short and simple.
And here is where the grab happens. Here’s where you find out what they really want.
A-ha! Now we know what this whole ruse has been about. $313. That’s the final red flag. I have worked for some pretty big companies in the past, and none of them have ever told me I had to pay for the software on my computer. And don't you like all the rambling and repeating sentences? Nice copy/paste.
They are tricky about it. $313 is an odd number. It’s not like it’s $500. It’s a sizable amount, but not so much so that someone couldn’t get it together and send it off to...who knows where.
So I finally have to call the bluff:
And this is where “Mr. Michael” just falls apart. The horrible grammar of ending every sentence with an “ok” is bad enough. But we’ve brought God back into this scam (I’m sure that’s a sin) again. It’s over, Mr. Scammer. I should have had him call me so I could see what number (if any pops up) and what the person on the other end sounded like, but I was done.
I asked him about the weather in Houston arbitrarily, because the real Michael isn't anywhere near Houston. :) I just wanted to see what the response would be.
So, there it is. A beautifully crafted online scam. The scary part about this is that there will be plenty of people that will get suckered into this process and hand over a bunch of money for the hope of having a job with good pay.
Look, not every job out there is a scam. There are REAL, LEGITIMATE work at home jobs for you out there. We are living proof of that. And we have never paid hundreds of dollars to any mysterious chat box to get our jobs.
Be careful. And please share this with anyone you know who is looking for remote work. And if you find something and you’re not sure about it, stop by Facebook and ask us. We’ll be happy to dig into things for you. Maybe we find something and maybe we don't.
A great rule of thumb is this: Never pay for a job!
(As a side note, I have reached out to The Corporation on Facebook and have just connected with the real Mr. Michael on LinkedIn. I want to send him all of the information so that he and the company are aware that his identity is being stolen (along with Ms. VP) and that of the Corporation. Always report scams.)
Frankie and Andrea take turns sharing stories. Just good talk over a cup of coffee.