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Employment scams on the rise during COVID-19: Better Business Bureau

The bureau said that identity theft is a common outcome of job scams, as scammers often steal job seekers’ personal information in order to open bank accounts to further their fraud.
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There has been a rise in employment scams in the “turbulent job market” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Better Business Bureau (BBB) study.

Job scams have been a problem for years, the BBB said in a statement on Thursday, noting that, in 2019, there were an estimated $14 million victims with $2 billion in direct losses related to the job scams.

The problem worsened in 2020, when complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre nearly doubled and job scams were among the top five of BBB’s list of riskiest scams across Canada.

The bureau said that identity theft is a common outcome of job scams, as scammers often steal job seekers’ personal information in order to open bank accounts to further their fraud.

In fact, the BBB found 34 per cent of victims provided their driver’s license number and 25 per cent, their Social Insurance Number.

The bureau also found that employment scams most commonly victimized people aged 25 to 35, with women filing 67 per cent of complaints.

Victims often reported loss of their time, with 32 per cent never paid for the work they did for an “employer” that turned out to be fraudulent.

The median financial loss reported in the Canadian Risk Report was $500, according to the BBB.

In B.C., there’s been an increase in reports about job scams with a cryptocurrency twist.

In these cases, according to the BBB, scammers have been reaching out to jobseekers across B.C. using fake company names and websites, and asking them to conduct cryptocurrency transactions as part of their employment duties.

Fake cheques also often accompanying job scams – such as secret shopper, car wrap, nanny or caregiver jobs – a trend which continues to grow and, according to the new study, made up 36 per cent of complaints to the BBB.

Another trend is reshipping scams, which represent 65 per cent of scam job offers reported to the BBB Scam Tracker.

According to the BBB, scammers “hire” victims from job boards, Facebook or Craigslist and offer to pay them as much as $2,500 to receive and then send on packages containing items such as laptops, cellphones or high-end goods purchased with stolen credit card numbers.

The BBB said these victims become unwitting accomplices, are never paid and their identities may be used to open bank accounts.

Anyone who may be the victim of a job scam is asked to report it at BBB.org/scamtracker or to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

The BBB also has several tips to avoid employment scams:

  • Research the job offer. Call or go directly to the actual company's website for contact information to verify the job posting. Check on businesses offering jobs at BBB.org. Also do an internet search with the name of the employer and the word “scam” to see if there are reports involving job scams.
  • Examine the email address of those offering jobs to see if it matches the protocols used by an actual company. Be alert to gmail business email addresses.
  • Consider creating a separate email address when posting a resume on job boards or applying for jobs. This can help detect “offers” from scam employers you did not contact.
  • Consider setting up a second bank account simply to handle pay for jobs where you have never met the employer in person.
  • If you are paying for the promise of a job, it’s most likely a scam.
  • Be wary of vague job descriptions and double check mystery shopping or secret shopper positions. Work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages are likely scams. Also, be very cautious of jobs that involve receiving and forwarding money.
  • Don’t fall for a fake cheque scam. BBB is not aware of any legitimate job offers that send cheques to applicants and ask them to send money to a third party.
  • Be cautious in providing personal information such as your full address, birthdate and financial information in your resume or to unverified recruiters and online applications.
  • Even if you do the work, it still may be a scam.
  • Do not respond to calls, text messages or emails from unknown numbers or suspicious addresses.
  • Do not click any links in a text message from a number you do not recognize. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked