Summer job seeker scams and Secret Shopper scams

May 31, 2010 Those that have not yet lined up a job are likely to use Internet resources to pursue job leads. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Chicago and Northern Illinois cautions job seekers to avoid becoming targets for scam artists eager to take advantage of their inexperience.

Online job searches can be an efficient and productive way to pursue employment as apprehension is becoming an annual occurrence on campuses across the nation. But this year, with the economy still struggling students have a right to be more fearful than usual.

"It's important to remember that while jobs are becoming available, so are tempting scam offers," says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau. "Opportunities do exist, but today's graduates need to be ready to modify their plans to accommodate the drastic changes to the job market while not becoming victims to these offers. Remember, if it's an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Below are descriptions of common online job scams:

· The "personal" invitation. These are often ploys to garner personal data. This job scammer sends mass e-mails to long lists of recipients. The sender claims to have seen your resume on the Internet, notes that your skills match the requirements for their job, and invites you to complete an online job application.

· The ID verification scenario. If a company requests information on or copies of your driver's license, passport, bank account or credit card numbers, mother's maiden name, or your Social Security number to "verify" your identity during the interview/application process, you could be at risk for identity theft. Legitimate companies do not request this information prior to an interview.

· The inside scoop on federal jobs. There's no such thing. All federal government positions are publicly announced and federal agencies never charge application fees or guarantee that an applicant will be hired. Avoid Web sites that promise, possibly for a fee, to give you the inside scoop on how to get a Federal or Postal Service job.

· The payment-forwarding or payment-transfer scams. In this scenario, the scammer pretends to be an employer and uses ploys to request the job seeker's bank account information. They may tell job seekers it's needed to deliver their paycheck by "direct deposit" or promise high wages for a job that involves forwarding, transferring or wiring money from a personal bank account or from Western Union to another account. The job seeker, as part of their pay, is instructed to keep a small percentage of the money as payment. Often these end up with the job candidate committing theft and wire fraud and losing money since the original check does not clear.

· Opportunities abroad. Tempting, but only exploit a person's desires and provide no real opportunities in exchange for money or personal information. Legitimate businesses will not ask for money up front; use post office boxes, instead of office addresses; make promises of employment and guarantees of refunds; or charge fees for giving you a job lead.

Before you send any money or personal information when responding to job ads or completing job placement contracts, check on the company's Reliability Report and complaint record for free at

There are a variety of free and low-cost resources available to help you in your job search, including local and state government job service offices, libraries, universities and community colleges.

Mystery/Secret Shopper Scams

* While secret shopping is a real and valuable tool used by many retailers to get information about products and services anonymously, the truth is that a large percentage of the secret chopper ads that you see online are not legitimate and you will be asked to pay money to become a secret shopper. This should be the first red flag for when you attempt to apply for a mystery shopper position.

* Legitimate companies do not charge application fees and generally do not require any certification in order for the consumer to become a shopper.

* Fraudulent mystery shopping promoters frequently use newspaper ads and email solicitations, and attempt to create an impression that they are affiliated with or work for respectable and reputable companies.

* Most of the time there will be a catch, however. The website that you will be led might ask that you "register", and later on request a fee - usually between $20.00 - $100.00, in order to allegedly receive information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or baseless guarantees of obtaining mystery shopping positions.

* What many consumers get after paying these unnecessary fees are links to offers that either that exist, have already expired, or have nothing to do with legitimate secret shopping offers.

* When attempting to contact the promoter of the offer, either the business does not return phone calls, the consumer gets the run around, and/or no refunds for the upfront fees are available.

Consumers should be skeptical of any mystery shopping offers that:

- Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.

- Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.

- Sell "certification". Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require the consumer to be certified.

-Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.

- Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper's "help wanted" section or by email, as these may be bogus pitches.

Secret Shopper/Mystery Shopper Check Scam

* "Employment" ads have been surfacing with tag lines resembling those of mystery shopping opportunities, with claims of evaluating stores, businesses, restaurants, etc in exchange for compensation.

* Consumers responding to certain ads of this variety have been contacted by individuals from Canada, advising consumers that the service that was to be evaluated was money wiring through Money Gram.

* Shortly afterwards the consumers who responded to the ads received legitimate looking checks in the mail in the amounts of anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, with instructions to wire the funds to a person they were to claim was their relative.

* Included in the instructions the consumer would also find generic-looking forms with general questions regarding customer service, etc.

* The BBB would like to alert consumers that the offer at hand is part of the prevalent check scam going around the country, where consumers receive alleged lottery award notifications with legitimate looking checks addressed in their name and are told to deposit them in their accounts.

* The checks have no real funds backing them up, so if the consumer were to proceed, deposit the check, and forward a part of it for alleged fees and taxes, they would essentially be forwarding their own money to a thief.

* Besides forwarding their own money, many consumers who fall victim to the check scam wind up with insufficient funds and subsequent bank fees due to not having enough money to cover the amount forwarded.

* This is a classic check scam cloaked in widely seen mystery shopping offers, most of those having their own legitimacy questionable likewise.

* Consumers are urged to exercise caution when responding to employment ads online or in popular local publications.

* If anyone requests you to accept money and forward it to another party on their behalf, cease and desist contact with them immediately.

* If you have been victimized by the above or a similar sounding offer, let the BBB know by filling out the Tip us off to a Scam! submission form found on our main website.

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