It takes a special kind of scumbag to prey on people desperately looking for a way to support their family and pay their bills. Whether you need a job or you’re just looking to make extra cash, be aware that many job listings are posted just to rip you off.
Not all crooks wear ski masks and lurk around corners. Most crooks are people you’ll never see. They are nameless, faceless entities who lure trusting people into willingly handing over money with big promises of riches that never pan out.
I look at internet job boards all the time. I’m in HR. I like to see what kind of jobs are out there and what is being offered. My former career was with the Better Business Bureau so I’m pretty good at knowing whether or not a job listing is legitimate. The free job boards are the worst. Scammers make offers that sound somewhat reasonable. If they didn’t, their scams wouldn’t work.
Here’s a few of the most common scams disguised as jobs or legitimate money-making opportunities:
Work-at-home schemes – First let me say that most of us know someone who works from home. I think that’s why this age-old scam still working. Let me assure you that anyone you know that legitimately works out of their home did NOT reply to an ad about stuffing envelopes, assembling products or medical billing. These ads typically ask you to send something like $29.95 to get information or a starter kit. You pay and either get nothing or you get information on how to place these scammy ads yourself to rip people off. Historically, this type of scam has targeted the elderly, disabled or stay-at-home moms who would love to earn some cash but need the convenience of staying at home. With the economic and job market changes in recent years, everyone is a target.
Pyramid Schemes – In a pyramid scheme, the participants make money by recruiting other people to participate in either a surefire investment opportunity or selling some sort of product. It’s called a pyramid scheme because the visual representation of each level of participation builds a pyramid. It starts out with one person who recruits 10 and each of them recruit 10 and so on.
The investment scenario begins with one scammer who recruits 10 people to “invest.” They each give $50 or $100 bucks and then they are told to go out and find 10 recruits and do the same thing. This cycle continues until there’s just not enough new recruits to sustain the pyramid so everyone at the bottom level loses their money.
The product-based scenario is the exact same concept but it is disguised as a legitimate distribution opportunity. It begins again with one scammer or “distributor” at the top who has some sort of product that he/she recruits people to sell. The recruits each pay several hundred dollars to the distributor for their start-up kit. The distributor gets a portion of the start-up kit fee and a percentage of their recruits’ product sales. Those recruited are told to go recruit more people because the real money is made in receiving a cut of the starter-kit and sales of your recruits. As with the investment pyramid, sustaining the exponential growth is impossible and the pyramid collapses, leaving the last participants with empty pockets.
Mystery Shoppers – There are companies that legitimately provide mystery shopping services for companies but they are typically associated with some other service such as marketing or merchandising. These types of listing typically require some sort of registration, certification or background check fee. In any case, there is no job and you have lost money.
Starting an internet business – There are dozens of variations of this scam. It boils down to someone preying on your hopes and dreams of being in business for yourself. These offers generally state that for an initial investment you will be given all the tools you need to succeed, including coaching by experts at the company. You’ll typically encounter high-pressure tactics by those trying to get your investment. Getting your money as quickly as possible reduces the chances you’ll investigate and find out it’s a scam.
Government Jobs – This scam has victims believing that by paying a fee, they will gain access to otherwise unlisted federal jobs or study materials for the U.S. Postal Service assessment test. Just out of curiosity, I ordered one of these U.S. Postal Service test study guides. While I’m sure not all offers are the same, I received a basic aptitude test in logic and non-verbal reasoning. It included number comparisons, patterns and some deductive reasoning. I have no idea how the test I was sent compares to the one used at the Post Office. Even if it’s the same, it is not the type of test for which you can study so it’s really worthless. As far as secret federal jobs go, that’s just bologna. The federal government’s official job site is www.usajob.gov and is FREE.
So how do you know if a job listing is a scam or not? Here’s a few red flags:
They ask you for money – You should never have to pay to get a job. Don’t let desperation cloud your good judgment. If a company requires some sort of testing, it will pay for it.
Ridiculous income claims – “I made over $5,000 this month right from my kitchen table!” No you did not.
It sounds too good to be true – “My initial investment of $100 has made me a billionaire!” How many billionaires place ads trying to help other people become billionaires? None.
If you’re still unsure whether or not an opportunity is a scam, contact your local Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org or the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov . Both organizations have great information on job schemes and scams.