The holiday season is here and people are applying for seasonal work. But when you're filling out that online job application, be careful of employment fraud. The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, considers it one of the top five riskiest scams this year.
Katherine Hutt, the chief communications officer at the Better Business Bureau, told Newsy: "Scammers are opportunists. And they know that if retail is up ... that's where they'll be targeting their scams."
The National Retail Federation expects seasonal hiring to grow to at least 530,000 positions this year — which could mean prime time for scammers to make their move and defraud people who are looking for jobs.
Hutt: "We're expecting to see more employment scams December than perhaps we've seen in the past. … That's a real concern for us, ... especially going into the holiday season, when people can least afford to lose money."
In most cases, candidates are offered high-paying jobs with flexible, remote work hours. Scammers send a fake check to be deposited, and you're asked to buy additional work equipment from their vendor. The check may look like it's been deposited, but it'll take weeks for a bank to verify it. By then, it's too late. The check has bounced, and you've already wired that money.
Hutt: "They'll also create websites that look a lot like the company that they're impersonating. And the problem is when you apply for a job, you give away a lot of information: You give your name, you give your address, birth date and, if you get hired, you give them your bank information so you can do direct deposit. ... If a scammer can successfully convince you that they are a hiring company, you give them all the information that they need for identity theft. So that's why this is a particularly risky scam."
Last year's Better Business Bureau report found employment fraud was the No. 1 riskiest scam. Eighteen-to-34-year-olds and 45-to-54-year-olds were the most susceptible. In 2017, the average victim lost $800. In 2018 that increased to $1,200. Scammers often pretend to be famous brand names. Last year, it was Amazon. Hutt says it's because the company had been in the news while it was looking for its second headquarters.
Hutt: "What we're concerned about for December is, we know what companies have been in the news recently. That's who the scammers will most likely impersonate. For instance, the Toys R Us is closed. ... Well, now they are opening some of those stores in time for the Christmas holidays. And so I wouldn't be surprised to see scammers impersonating Toys R Us."
Some tips to avoid these scams: Double-check the URL of website where you're applying to and make sure it's really affiliated with the company. Be wary of online jobs that pay outrageously well. And if a company is asking for money up front for supplies or training, consider that a huge red flag.
Hutt: "The tactics that they use are the same over and over again. So if you're aware of the tactics and you understand them, you're much less likely to be scammed."