Our economy has taken a beating during the coronavirus shutdown. The efforts to blunt the spread of the virus has resulted in the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. Massive governmental stimulus packages attempted to lessen the blow to those, who, through no fault of their own, were suddenly thrust into financial turmoil. Millions of Americans were suddenly looking for ways to earn an income. Then, to top it off, we were instructed to limit our exposure to COVID-19 by staying home.
Businesses that could, allowed employees to work remotely. Working from home became a common practice, but millions of people still had no reliable income. The situation has all the components necessary to be fertile ground for unscrupulous scammers’ work-from-home schemes.
Ads on social media, online job sites, texts and emails lure the vulnerable with promises they will be able to be their own boss and earn thousands of dollars per month. Fraudsters often claim no experience is necessary because the victim will have access to “experts” that will coach them. Victims are then pressured to pay for the “opportunity.” The FTC says that once you pay, the scammers step up the pressure, claiming you won’t succeed unless you pay for more pricey services.
Unfortunately, many people who pay for these “businesses” are left with nothing but less money and often substantial debt. For example, one scam offers money in exchange for completing at-home Internet searches on popular search engines and submitting filled out forms. In order for the victim to get paid, the con artists say they will need the victim’s credit or debit card information. Once they have that, it’s goodbye money!
According to Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody, college students have been especially vulnerable to work-from-home schemes. They are stuck at home anyway. Moody says her agency has received reports that student victims receive emails appearing to come from a college or university looking for people to work from home. While posing as a representative from the university, scammers collect personal information from the victim. Just as in the previous example, the scam requires the victim to pay a fee to get started and told to wire money or to cash a counterfeit check the victim will receive. In the counterfeit check part of the scheme, the victim receives a large check and is told to cash it, keep part of the money as payment, then send the rest back to the scammer. In most cases the bank accepts the check at first. However, in a few days the bank is notified the check is fake and requires the victim repay the money withdrawn, often seizing it directly from the victim’s own account.
There are a myriad of other work-from-home scams, but all seem to have two common characteristics: promises of big income working from home and the “opportunity” involves up-front fees or giving credit or debit card information.
If you are contemplating a work-from-home offer, protect yourself from possible scams by following these guidelines:
1. Be very suspicious of up-front fees or requests for your credit card information.
2. Research the company before accepting or investing in any job offer. Does the company have a professional website? Is there legitimate contact information? What are others saying about their experiences with the company?
3. Finally, never send money in cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers in order to secure the job. Legitimate employers aren’t going to require that.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.