I’m sure that a week doesn’t go by where you receive a few emails in your spam folder about the wonderful opportunities that are available for you to work at home. In some cases, the e-mail promises a job that requires you to shell out money for the employment opportunity. Whether you’re a ‘check-cash go between’ for an international company, or a mystery shopper that doesn’t have to pay for anything you buy, the opportunities for fake work are endless. Just a few years ago when I was fresh out of college and deeply in debt (I’m still deep in debt, but a little less), I decided I was going to see what these scams were all about. I responded to a work at home offer with all of my moves planned in advance, in the hopes that if this was a scam, there was no way I was going to get burned.
Like most scams, I received an email stating that there was an opportunity for me to work from home and that my primary responsibility would be to cash checks. I could keep 10% of every check I cashed and the remaining 90% would be mailed out to the international company. They would provide international Fed-Ex envelopes so my expenses would be zero and that’s all there is to it. Pretty sweet deal, huh.
After sending them nothing more than my contact information (Name, Address, Phone Number), I was hired! Much to my surprise, I actually received a fed-ex overnight envelope a few days later and inside was an invoice from a company in Utah where it appeared a $2,500 purchase was made. The envelope also contained five $500 American Express money orders issued by Fifth-Third bank. To the scammers credit, the money orders looked 110% legit, with holograms, raised numbers, and the Trojan logo of AMEX. Truth-be-told for a split second, I thought that these money orders could be real and that I might have the easiest job in the world.
I moseyed on down to my local Wachovia branch and before cashing the money orders, asked a personal banker to research the authentication of them. Each money order had a 12 digit number on them, and Wachovia was able to place a call to somewhere (not exactly sure where) to find out if my business was legit. Unfortunately, the representative came back and said that the money orders were fraudulent and by law, they had to keep them to pursue the lead. I walked out of that bank without any money knowing once and for all, the job was too good to be true. A few days later I received an email from my employer asking if I had sent the 90% check back, and I replied simply “Only after you send real money orders”. Never heard from them again.
Due to the recent uptick in scams in the current job market, the Federal Trade Commission has launched a new program called “Operation Bottom Dollar.” In conjunction with local law enforcement, the FTC is doubling their current efforts to find and expose scam artists. A brief synopsis of Operation Bottom Dollar can be found in the FTC video below.
The operation recently held a press conference where David Vladeck, Director of Consumer Protection, passionately spoke about the goals of Operation Bottom Dollar. I’ve extracted one of the highlights of that press conference:
“Federal and state law enforcement officials will not tolerate those who take advantage of consumers in times of economic misfortune,” Vladeck said. “If you falsely advertise that you will connect people with jobs or with opportunities for them to make money working from home, we will shut you down. We will give your assets to the people you scammed, and, when it’s appropriate, we’ll refer you to criminal authorities for prosecution.”
The final video you see below details the problems that a consumer can run into when looking for a job and the most prevalent scams that are in the market today. Add a few real life examples and you’ve got an excellent source of reference the next time you’re on the job hunt.
Unfortunately, when the unemployment rate is as high as it currently is, the opportunities for con-artists rises because there’s a larger group of people to take advantage of. Desperate people are more likely to do desperate things, and that includes dealing with complete strangers in money making deals that seem too good to be true. Whether the opportunity is as a movie extra or an envelope stuffer, let you’re common sense guide you to the right decision. Do you’re homework and most likely, you’ll move on to something more legitimate.