When opportunity knocks: tips for identifying and avoiding common job scams

Don’t let easy money scams turn you into easy prey.

It’s always tempting to make some quick cash, especially when money is tight. It’s important to be mindful that scammers are also looking for money-making opportunities and you don’t want your job prospect to be their next target. No matter what situation you’re in, stay safe and watch out for these common money-making schemes.

Identifying and avoiding 6 job scams

Someone from a familiar-sounding organization (Care.com, Sittercity.com, Craigslist.com, etc.) may solicit you for employment via email. It’s suspicious to be accepted for hire without an in-person interview, but doubly so if you receive a check before you begin working—say, “for supplies,” or as an “advance on expenses related to upcoming care.” If you deposit that check, a dishonest employer might ask for all or some of the money back, and you might quickly learn that both the employer and the check were fake.

Mystery shopping can be a legitimate job in which retailers or restaurants hire shoppers to secretly shop or dine and then provide feedback about their experiences. Remember that legitimate mystery shopping assignments should not require you to pay for anything, such as training or certification. They also should not send you a check to deposit for purchases or ask for any overage to be given back as a “fee,” whether by mail, wire, gift card purchase, or other form of return payment.

Honest placement agencies, recruiters, temporary agencies, and staffing services are compensated by the companies looking to hire qualified candidates. If you are asked to pay a fee to receive job placement services, or if you are asked for personal information, such as your driver’s license, Social Security number, or bank account number, move on. You are not dealing with an honest hiring agency.

Anyone interested in working for the US government or postal service should begin their job search by visiting at USAJobs.gov, or visit usps.com/employment. Applying for a federal or postal job is always free; one should never pay to apply. However, ads promising jobs with the government or postal services should not be considered legitimate.

You may be promised a significant amount of money for a vendor to shrink-wrap your vehicle with advertising. After depositing the check sent to you, which is more than the promised amount, you will be asked to wire the excess money to the shrink-wrap vendor (or pay the vendor with a gift card). However, within several days or even weeks later, the check will bounce, and your financial institution will inform you that the check was fake. As a result, you will be responsible for the entire amount of the check, plus a fee.

If you are offered or land a job after only communicating via text or email, it is likely a scam.

What to do if you’ve paid a scammer…

Contact the company that issued the gift card and let them know it was used – and it is a scam. There is no guarantee, but they may be able to refund your money – especially if you have the gift card itself and kept the receipt.

Contact the wire transfer company and let them know about the fraudulent transfer. There is no guarantee, but at least request a reversal of the wire transfer.

Contact your financial institution where the funds were withdrawn from and ask for guidance. Also, depositing cash into a Bitcoin or Cryptocurrency ATM is commonplace too, so be aware of these requests which are also likely.

If you used a credit card or debit card issued by SCU, or if the scammer made an unauthorized transfer from your bank account, contact us right away by calling 888-599-2265. This phone service is available 24/7/365. If you call outside of our normal business hours, please listen to the prompt and press the appropriate key.