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BBB research: Employment scams in COVID-19 pandemic hitting those already suffering financially


In the wake of COVID-19 business shutdowns, a Better Business Bureau study shows that employment scams continue to be the No. 1 riskiest scam to job seekers.

The most common “scam job” offer? According to 65 percent of respondents, the “job” was related to reshipment of packages, often involving stolen goods. Titles used include “warehouse redistribution coordinator” or similar positions. In many cases, these scammers impersonated well-known retailers like Amazon and Walmart to appear legitimate, posting jobs on major online employment platforms with few prerequisites or requirements.

The BBB Employment Scams Report examines findings from an April 2020 survey of 10,670 U.S. and Canadian consumers reporting employment scams to BBB Scam Tracker. The study was launched after COVID-19 forced business shutdowns across North America, leaving hundreds of thousands of people jobless.

The BBB Employment Scams Report shows that nearly three-quarters of those who lost money to employment scams are already in financial crisis, and don’t have enough money to cover monthly bills. In addition, more than half of people targeted by employment scams (53 percent) reported being unemployed at the time of the encounter.

The April study results showing employment scams being the most risky of cons reinforces findings from the 2018 and 2019 BBB Risk Index, released in the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. The index measures exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss based on reports to BBB Scam Tracker.

BBB launched a new research project after the COVID-19 pandemic launched countless business closures causing massive job losses. The study was aimed at better understanding how employment scams are being perpetrated, who is being targeted, the overall impact of these scams, and how to help people avoid losing money to them.

“This research was timely as we found that more than half of scam targets were seeking work-from-home opportunities,” said Melisa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report. “As more people search for flexible employment opportunities following the coronavirus outbreak, they need to know that scammers are out there in force and targeting those most in need.”

The report also highlights those who are most at risk for employment scams:

-Students and individuals ages 25-34 were more susceptible and likely to be victimized.
-Those ages 45-54 and 65+ reported higher median dollar losses.
-Military spouses and veterans were more likely to fall victim than non-military consumers, and reported losing significantly more money to employment scams.

Survey results reinforced that consumer education is a critical component of fighting back against these scammers. Those who avoided losing money were much more likely to report previous knowledge of employment scams and tactics (20 percent versus 7 percent).

For tips on how to avoid employment scams, visit BBB.org/EmploymentScams.

To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker. To learn more about other risky scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips.

From BBB

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