Struggling Economy Makes Environment Ripe For Job Scammers

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If you are among the many Americans desperately looking for work, then you also might be among the growing number of victims who have fallen prey to job scams.

Jobs that promise "easy money," "flexible work from home hours," or advertise "no experience necessary" are just some of the ways con artists posing as fake employers get you on the hook to either steal your identity or make a quick buck.

A recent AOL jobs survey found that one in 33 people has personally been a victim of a job scam, such as a fake opportunity for employment where the job seeker is asked to pay a fee in advance, and one in nine people report knowing someone who has been scammed.

Repeatedly scammed

Bethany Mooradian, author of "I Got Scammed So You Don't Have To," has been scammed so many times that she has made it her life's work to help others avoid scams while on the hunt for employment.

"I was in college the first time I got scammed," Mooradian says. Looking for extra cash, she sent in $19.95 to join an envelope stuffing business. "All I got back after I sent in the check was a letter stating that I needed to run an ad for other people to join and pay their $19.95."

This classic pyramid scheme has evolved and now focuses on getting people to work from home and post online ads. Bethany said that she never did anything about it, because everything was done through the mail and she had "no idea who was behind it," much less whom to file a complaint with.

Mooradian's second duping came in a completely different guise, but still managed to bilk her out of some money. She answered an ad for a home caretaker position and was told that the couple was from overseas and that she would have to pay $75 upfront for them to run her background check. This all sounded reasonable to Bethany so she sent the money, via money order, as specified. "I actually got suspicious after I sent the money and drove by the address where they said they lived, but it didn't exist."

Scams are more sophisticated

You would think that being scammed once would preclude you from being scammed ever again, but that's not often the case. Today's con artists have more complex and developed schemes than ever before. The Internet also protects scammers' identities and gives them a broad reach.

Another problem is that when people do get scammed, they feel embarrassed and don't know who to ask for help.

Mooradian says that the upshot to being scammed is that it has really opened her eyes into determining what kinds of jobs are legitimate. "The best advice I could give," she says, "would be to educate yourself on how to research companies and to take any job posting or e-mail with a grain of salt. Assume it's a scam until you prove otherwise."

How to avoid scams

Being unemployed, is frustrating and a blow to your ego, but there are ways to protect yourself ahead of time, so that you do not miss any red flags about jobs that give you false hope.

Jeremy Miller, director of operations for Kroll Fraud Solutions, recommends following these tips to ensure that your next job hunt is for a legitimate, and not bogus, job.

1. Proceed cautiously with career websites.

It pays to do your research and make sure that the website you are using is credible. Just remember that no one can guarantee what happens to your resume after it has been accessed or downloaded by a potential employer or recruiter.

2. Learn how to spot bogus job ads.

You might be applying for a fake job if the ad:

  1. Offers considerable pay with few duties.
  2. Promises wages in cash.
  3. Contains no physical address for the company or contact person.
  4. Requires you to open a bank account or dispense personal information upfront.

3. Think before you post!

"What many people do not realize is that the more information you reveal online, the greater your chances of having that information accessed by the wrong person," Miller says. He recommends carefully considering what information you post on your profile page.

"If you wouldn't give out your personal information to a stranger on the street, then you may not want to post it online either."

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