June 13, 2024


Fashion takes it to the next level.

Help Wanted – Job Seeker Beware

5 min read

Posted on Craigslist, the job posting read, “We currently have a part time Administrative Assistant position in Boise. This assistant will provide extensive clerical support in many different tasks and duties. Must have proficient computer skills and able to run errand for shopping. Must also be able to pass a background check and drug test.”

A single mother seeking employment, Oregon resident Shelly M. applied for the job. The reply from the supposed employer stated that he wanted an employee who could handle his personal and business errands in the employee’s spare time, and if possible, do data entry and receptionist duties. Other required duties included shopping for electronic and clothing gifts, paying bills and providing mail services. The mail services involved receiving forwarded packages and mail, picking packages up at the post office and reshipping all packages, mail, and purchased goods to designated locations.

The employer would provide Shelly with a check in advance, and his personal UPS account number to pay for the shopping and shipping. She would work 15 to 20 hours per month and the pay would be $320 per week. He stated that he was working in Egypt and couldn’t do an in-person interview with her, and he requested all of her personal information.

He hired her through e-mail, and didn’t mention the background check, drug test, clerical duties or data entry. Her first assignment would be e-mailed to her the following Monday and she was required to check her e-mail three times daily. If Shelly hadn’t gotten suspicious and had continued with this work-at-home job, she would have been guilty of committing several crimes.

At first glance, this job posting could appear legitimate; however, the job is actually an employment “reshipping” scam where the perpetrator hires a “mule” to purchase goods with money obtained by cashing a counterfeit check, and receive and reship merchandise purchased with stolen credit card numbers obtained through phishing scams, Trojan attacks and database hacking. The UPS account used for shipping is also stolen.

If the unwitting accomplice gets paid at all, it is with a counterfeit check in excess of the amount of his wages which requires him to wire the surplus back to the scammer still posing as employer. The victim can get arrested for receiving and shipping stolen merchandise, using a stolen UPS account, and negotiating a counterfeit check.

The perpetrator goes unpunished for the crimes because by using fake names, corresponding from another country, and using partners to help him pull off his employment scams, he’s hidden under many layers which enable him to remain anonymous and free to scam other job seekers who respond to his fake job posting. He also has the victims’ personal information which he uses to open credit card accounts and perform other fraudulent acts.

For millions of unemployed people, technology simplifies the employment search process by letting companies put job postings and applications online. These same resources also enable fraudsters to post fake employment opportunities with the intention of separating job seekers from their money and identities, and tricking them into doing their dirty work. Trusting people who fall for employment scams often end up paying back thousands of dollars to banks for counterfeit checks, and some end up serving prison time for committing crimes although unintentional.

Fake job postings can be difficult to distinguish from a legitimate job opportunity; however, if the job seeker knows what to look for, the chances of getting scammed are much slimmer. Many variations of employment scams exist, and legitimate companies that post job postings online sometimes require an upfront fee and personal information. The responsibility falls to the job seeker to determine if the job posting is genuine.

What things should a job seeker look for to avoid getting hooked in an employment scam?


Does the job pay an amount that sounds too good to be true? The $320 per week promised to Shelly doesn’t make sense for working only 20 hours per month. The breakdown of that figure amounts to $16,640 per year, $1386 per month, and $69.30 per hour which sounds much too good to be true for an administrative assistant position.

Upfront Fee

Does the employer require any upfront fee via an electronic wire service? Money wired isn’t traceable or recoverable, and any job posting or offer that requires that money be wired anywhere is definitely phony.

Grammatical Errors

Does the job posting or description contain many grammatical errors and misspellings, contain capitalized words that shouldn’t be, or have words missing which make the sentences choppy? For some employers, English is a second language so even legitimate job postings can have grammatical errors; however, a lot of grammatical errors in job posting or e-mail usually indicate a scam.

Contact Information

Does the employer use an e-mail address from a free provider such as gmail.com, hotmail.com, or yahoo.com? Legitimate companies normally don’t use free e-mail addresses; they use an e-mail address that matches the company name and website.

Fraudsters always provide fake contact information. Avoid companies that have only a P.O. Box and no physical address. Employment scammers who provide a physical address often provide the address of a drop box located at a company that provides drop box services. What location does the employer give for the company? While legitimate companies in foreign countries do post jobs, fraudsters post fake jobs from everywhere. An e-mail trace revealed that the scammer in Shelly’s employment scam corresponded from a computer in Nigeria.

Fraudsters use pre-paid cell phones and pre-paid calling cards that are untraceable, so the location of a phone number isn’t the actual physical location of the scammer. For example, the Phone Portability Act allows a person to live in one state but keep a phone number from a different state. Scammers located overseas often have United States phone numbers.

Other tip-offs that the job posting might be an employment scam:

  • It’s urgent that the job seeker apply for the job, or accept the job offered right away.
  • The employer states that he is away on business or attending to an emergency in another country so that a face-to-face interview isn’t possible.
  • The job or contact person sounds strange and details can’t be substantiated.

Employment scams depend on desperation, and the vulnerability and naivety of job seekers. If a job seeker knows what to look for in online job postings and how to avoid the fake ones, she won’t be the employment scammer’s next victim. Google names, addresses, e-mail addresses and any other information provided in the job posting and in follow-up correspondence. If something doesn’t look or sound right, chances are high that it’s an employment scam.

Copyright 2011 Patti McMann. All rights reserved.

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