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BBB Trends: Looking for seasonal work? It’s out there but be sure you aren’t tricked by a scammer

By Mallory Weidenbacher
Better Business Bureau

The holidays are an opportune time to pick up seasonal work and earn extra money for gifts. The National Retail Federation predicts that retailers could add as many as 590,000 new temporary positions this holiday season. Since scammers never take holidays off, BBB encourages you to be cautious of employment scams out in full force this time of year.

How does it work?

Scammers post fraudulent job opportunities online that promise maximum pay for minimal effort or skill. Positions are usually work-from-home offers, secret shopper assignments or jobs with generic titles such as “customer service representative” or “shipping agent.”

After contacting the “employer” to apply, you will likely be offered the job without submitting an application, meeting the employer or having an interview. You might be asked to supply personal information, such as your social security number or bank account numbers. You will be advised it’s for taxes or payroll, but the fraudulent employer will actually use this information for identity theft purposes.

Once hired, you may receive a large check. The explanations your new employer will provide vary widely — they may claim to be pre-paying you for job supplies or providing your first paycheck. In all cases, the amount of the check is higher than necessary, and you will be instructed to deposit the check, keep the amount needed, and wire back the difference. When the check is deposited, the funds will appear to be available within days. However, forgeries can take weeks to be discovered. The check will eventually bounce, and you will be on the hook for the money you’ve spent from it —including the payment sent to the scammer.

It’s a scheme that would put the Grinch to shame, and many trusting consumers fall for it every year.

BBB offers the following advice for seasonal job-hunters:

● Be cautious of job postings with generic titles like “customer service representative” or “shipping agent,” as well as work-from-home positions or secret shopper jobs. These positions don’t require special training or licensing, and scammers use them to target people looking for quick work.

● Legitimate employers will never request payment upfront for a job. Beware of businesses that ask applicants to pay for job supplies, applications or training fees.

● Be wary if the hiring process doesn’t entail meeting anyone from the business. If a job offer is presented without an interview or is offered only via the internet or text, question the business’s hiring practices and do more research.

● Big money for small jobs should make you suspicious. If an employer is promising a high wage for simple tasks like reshipping packages, stuffing envelopes or answering phones, this is a red flag.

● If the offer is from a business you’ve heard of, confirm you are actually dealing with that business. Scammers can create look-alike websites and send emails from addresses that appear legitimate. If you find a position you’re interested in, cross-reference it with the business’ website to make sure the opening is also available there.

As always, visit bbb.org to check out a business before applying with them, and report any potential suspicious activity to scamtracker.org.

Mallory Weidenbacher is the Ad Review & Investigations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics by reviewing local advertising and investigating marketplace concerns about business practices.

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