In these challenging economic times, con artists are preying on unemployed or underemployed New Yorkers with a variety of job-placement, work-at-home, and educational scams.
The New York State Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection is strengthening its efforts to warn New Yorkers about employment and training-related scams by issuing alerts as well as tips and suggestions on how to avoid becoming a victim.
WHO IS THE TARGETED VICTIM? E-mail users
WHAT IS THE SCAM? Scammers are circulating an e-mail that purports to be from a human resources director who is offering a job based on a resume they found on the Internet. The e-mail, citing past "bad experience," asks the recipient to click on a link, go to a website, and provide a "credit safety inspection." However, the link is actually to a phishing website, and personal information that is input can be used to commit identity theft. At no time does the e-mailer provide specifics about the job.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE? Refrain from clicking on links in an unsolicited e-mail. Delete these e-mails. If you are expecting an e-mail from a potential employer, verify that the e-mail is legitimate, by phone or other means, before responding.
WHO IS THE TARGETED VICTIM? Perspective students
WHAT IS THE SCAM?
As millions struggle to find a job, earning a diploma or an advanced degree is one way to stand out from the crowd. The Division is warning consumers against online programs that offer fast and easy high school diplomas or college degrees. Some of these institutions are not accredited, provide credit for "life experience," and offer phony transcripts.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE? Consumers should look for the following red flags to help identify this type of diploma mill:
Make sure the college or university you are enrolling in is accredited from one of the six regional accreditation boards. The U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited post-secondary schools.
In addition, the Division urges students looking to attend private career schools, also known as proprietary schools, to learn a trade or to prepare for a business occupation, to make sure their school is licensed by the State. There are about 450 licensed private "proprietary" schools in New York, offering training leading to the possibility of a career as a Medical Assistant, Certified Nurse's Aide, Barber, Cosmetologist, Esthetician & Nail Technologist, Personal Trainer, Computer Programmer, Auto Mechanic and many others. These schools, which offer certificate or diploma programs, are required by law to be licensed, and must meet rigorous State standards.
To obtain further information about choosing a private career school, to find out if a particular school is licensed, or to see if complaints have been filed against a school, contact the Education Department's Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision or call (212) 643-4760 or (518) 474-3969.
WHAT IS THE SCAM? Scammers using cell phone calls and text messages are targeting unsuspecting unemployment insurance recipients in order to steal their benefits. People statewide, especially those receiving unemployment insurance benefits, have received text or cell phone messages that say something like "The Department of Labor has limited or deactivated your benefit card starting with (first 4-6 digits of card). Call: (various phone numbers) to reactivate." If the recipient of the text or cell phone message calls the number, they are asked for their full benefit card number and PIN. Once the scammer has that information, the victim's account can be accessed and funds stolen. Most, if not all, of the scam messages have been received on the Sprint network.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE? The New York State Department of Labor is working with Chase, the bank that issues debit cards on which unemployment recipients receive benefits, to address the situation. If you get a call or text message advising you that the Labor Department has limited or deactivated your credit card, DO NOT call the number provided. Neither the Department of Labor nor Chase will ever call and ask you for your debit card account information.
If you receive one of these messages, don't respond: delete it. If you have already replied and have given out your debit card PIN, call the customer service phone number on the back of your debit card for help. The Department of Labor is working with Chase to have stolen money restored to victims' accounts. For more information, check the Department of Labor's website.
WHO IS THE TARGETED VICTIM? Twitter.com users
WHAT IS THE SCAM? Through twitter messages, e-mails and websites, job hunters are being told that they can make money from the comfort of their home using Twitter. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that the large print for such offers may promise big returns but the fine print can cost the recipient every month.
One e-mail advertisement, for example, reads: "Twitter Workers Needed ASAP, You're Hired! Make Extra Cash with Twitter; as seen on USA Today, CNN, and ABC... Apply Now!" The e-mail links to EasyTweetProfits.com, a company based in Surrey, England. EasyTweetProfits.com claims you can make $250-$873 a day working at home with Twitter. The website offers a seven-day free trial of their instructional CD-ROM for $1.95 to cover shipping. Buried in the lengthy terms and conditions are the details that the trial begins on the day the CD is ordered -- not when it is received -- and if the consumer does not cancel within 7 days of signing up, they'll be charged $47 every month.
Phony blogs by fake individuals have been created as testimonials to the success of Twitter-money-making programs. For example, Make-money-on-twitter.com is supposedly touted by a Derrick Clark of Virginia. On this website, the author brags about making up to $5,000 a month posting links to Twitter. The blog also includes an image of the check Derrick received for posting links on Twitter, but the exact same photo of the check has been used countless times on other phony blogs for various other suspect work-at-home jobs. This blog links to TwitterProfitHouse.com, which similarly claims you can make $250-$873 a day working at home and offers a seven-day free trial of their instructional CD-ROM, for $1.99 shipping. Again, however, reading the fine print shows that the trial period starts once the CD has been ordered and the consumer will be billed $99.99 every month if he/she doesn't call the company to cancel.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE? Job hunters should to be aware of the following red flags when searching for a work-at-home job online:
WHO IS THE VICTIM? Online job seekers
WHAT IS THE SCAM? Work-at-home schemes tend to attract innocent individuals, causing them to become part of disreputable operations without realizing they are engaging in illegal behavior. Victims are often hired to "process payments," "transfer funds" or "reship products," which involves receiving and cashing fraudulent checks, transferring illegally obtained funds for criminals, or receiving and shipping stolen merchandise. Other victims sign up to be "mystery shoppers," who then receive fraudulent checks with instructions to cash the checks and wire the funds to "test" a company's services. Victims are told they will be compensated with a portion of the merchandise or funds. Job scams often provide criminals the opportunity to commit identity theft when victims provide their personal information, including bank account information to their potential "employer." The criminal/employer can then use the victim's information to open credit lines, post online auctions, register websites and open other types of accounts in the victim's name to commit additional fraud.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE? Verify that the business with which you are dealing is legitimate by contacting the authorities, including the State Department of Labor and/or the Better Business Bureau. Be wary of potential employers who ask for personal information such as your Social Security number or financial information prior to an interview. Also, be wary of employers asking for placement fees or other charges as a condition of your employment.
WHO IS THE TARGETED VICTIM? Job seekers
WHAT IS THE SCAM? Some retailers evaluate the quality of service in their stores by using mystery shoppers to get the information anonymously. Scam artists are using newspaper ads, e-mails and websites to offer phony job offers to be a mystery shopper. Victims are sent a bogus check and instructed to deposit the check; keep a small amount as pay and to purchase merchandise as a mystery shopper, and to wire the balance to an address in another country. The check, however, is counterfeit, and when it bounces, the victim is left on the hook with the bank for the value of the check -- typically in the thousands of dollars.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE? The Division is warning job seekers to ignore these letters and checks. Remember that no legitimate employer requires its employees to send money. When hired to do a job, the employee receives the money; not the employer.
Last Modified: May 06, 2011