WISCONSIN (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Taking advantage of people already in a tough spot, scammers are honing in on Wisconsinites out of work, looking for a job during the pandemic.
It's a perfect environment for thieves with many of the unemployed looking for new jobs, online.
One Wisconsin woman received an email from who she thought was a staff member at Alverno, her former college. The offer was to work from home as a personal assistant for a doctor. This consumer became skeptical when she received a check and then was asked to send money back.
For another Wisconsin consumer, it was all about doing her own research. Keary Fennel it was posted her resume on some of the job boards and got an email about an opportunity.
An artist offered the Menasha resident $700 a week to work part-time from home as a personal assistant.
"I'm a researcher. I love to research information so right away I looked at his email," Fennel told us. She said, "I took the @gmail off and I Googled that and Googled his name."
She discovered the company and artist were real, but Fennel took an extra step and contacted them. She found out there was no job.
"If you're looking for a job you also have to be out there looking at job scams and what's out there so you can watch out for yourself," she pointed out.
According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center the employment scam cost Wisconsinites more than $1.5 million in 2018 and 2019.
And the Better Business Bureau reports this as the number 1 scam in the U.S. for the past two years.
"We're finding 75 percent of people who fall for employment scams are in financial difficulty. They don't have money to make bills every month," said Jim Temmer, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Wisconsin.
Temmer told us 2020 is also on track to be a bad year for this scam. A BBB study found these criminals target people mostly on job boards but also on social media, many times posing as real companies.
Most of the job offers come with a fake check, where you're asked to deposit it and send some money back.
"You're taking money out of your own account and sending it. You're going to find out from the bank maybe a week later that the check that you put in, there were no funds to cover it," Temmer said.
Things never went that far in Fennel's case. She walked away after finding out the offer was not legit. Fennel has a warning for other job seekers about these online criminals: "They're getting smarter, you know, they're getting better, they're getting wiser."
The other Wisconsin consumer was also cautious. She refused to do anything until the check cleared her bank account, which it never did.
Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself when looking for a job online:
DO YOUR RESEARCH
- Always confirm the job listing on the company's website.
WATCH OUT FOR ON-THE-SPOT JOB OFFERS
- Beware of job offers made too quickly or without an interview.
DON'T FALL FOR FAKE CHECK SCAMS
- Never send money *before a check clears your bank. According to the BBB study, 36 percent of those who reported this scam received a fake check.
NEVER GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION
- During the "hiring process" many scammers will ask for bank information and/or your social security number.
Read the full BBB report, here.
Report a scam, here.