How to spot an employment scam online

The check sent for you to 'begin' the job is fake and will leave you holding the bag - possibly opening you up to criminal charges (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
The check sent for you to 'begin' the job is fake and will leave you holding the bag - possibly opening you up to criminal charges (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - "Three days a week. 15 hours a week. $500 a week."

That's the job offer posted in an unsolicited email that popped up in Rhonda McFarland's inbox. The email, claiming to be generated by a legitimate company, indicated she received the offer after the employer reviewed her resume posted on ZipRecruiter. "$500 a week, don't have to go to the office, stay at home, sounded too good to be true," McFarland said.

That's because it's not true.

The WMC Action News 5 Investigators determined the real company named in the email had nothing to do with it. A scammer had commandeered its name, infiltrated ZipRecruiter and solicited McFarland to rip her off in an employment scam.

Randy Hutchinson, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, said employment scams are the third riskiest scams, right behind home improvement scams and fake check scams (remember that one because it comes into play here). "Most of these originate overseas and cannot be easily traced," he said.

Hutchinson said these are the tell-tale signs of an employment scam:

* GOOD PAY FOR LITTLE WORK. The hours, the days, the $500 for little effort...all suspicious.

* POOR GRAMMAR. The offer emailed to McFarland is littered with misspellings and grammatical errors.

* CAN'T MEET EMPLOYER/NO INTERVIEW. The so-called employer either won't meet you in person or continually delays an in-person interview.


McFarland decided to play along. She kept an email and text dialogue going with the scammer. Then the scammer sent her the final component of this employment scam: A CHECK TO CASH OR DEPOSIT IN ORDER TO START THE JOB.

Hutchinson confirmed the check is counterfeit. He said it's a ruse to get her to bounce a check, use legitimate funds out of her account to buy goods for the scammer, then ship them to the scammer to be sold in her name as stolen merchandise. She would be left holding the bag. "Ultimately, it's a scam, and in some cases, you may be exposing yourself to criminal charges," he said.

"OK, nice to know," McFarland said. "It was a fake. It was a fraud."

These scams aren't unique to ZipRecruiter. We have found scam solicitations generated after consumers posted resumes on other legitimate job-networking sites, including CareerBuilder, Monster and LinkedIn. ZipRecruiter's Corporate Communications Manager Scott Garner emailed this statement about employment scams:

"We at ZipRecruiter take great pride in our role in bringing together job seekers and employers.  We are also acutely aware that there are bad actors out there who, whether on job boards or on other platforms for internet commerce and communication, seek to use the cloak of anonymity provided by technology to take advantage of others.  And while we are pleased that our growth has enabled a dramatic increase in both the number of people we can help and the quality of our service, we are also cognizant that we have become more visible not only to legitimate participants but also to bad actors.  

That is why we have implemented, and continue to refine and improve, our systems to address this important issue.  On the front end, we use proprietary detection software and have stringent client on-boarding processes to vet potential posters and deny access for those who fail to pass our screens.  On the back end, we re-run our detection software on job listings as they're posted and have customer service representatives available seven days a week to investigate and weed out suspicious posts.

Still, no system is perfect, no matter how sophisticated or well intentioned.  That is why we take steps to educate job seekers about how to spot suspicious activity and encourage reporting of all such activity to us so we can investigate and take prompt remedial action.  Any such reports should be sent to our dedicated e-mail address:"

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