Like many Americans trying to keep up with rising inflation, you may be thinking about a new job or taking on a side hustle for extra cash. In your eagerness to get started bringing in additional income, it might be tempting to sign up for the first lucrative job you come across. But don’t be too quick to sign up for just any job offer.
Many posted side hustle jobs “aren’t what they seem,” according to a recent consumer alert issued by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Scammers hiding behind fake side hustle ads have a variety of nefarious motives, including identity theft, shipping schemes and fake check scams.
“Whatever their ploy, scammers hope to get their hands on your money, personal information, or both,” warns the BBB. But you don’t have to become a side-hustle-scammer’s next victim.
Cybercriminals can pose as legitimate employers, spoof company websites, and post jobs on popular online job boards. Then they conduct false interviews with unwitting applicants, usually requesting personal information or money.
With sensitive information, identity thieves can take over your bank accounts, open new bank and credit card accounts, and obtain fake driver’s licenses or passports. The average loss for fake job listing victims is about $3,000 – in addition to credit score damage, according to the FBI.
Here’s how to identify fake job offers…
Know what cybercriminals are capable of faking
Use of spoofed company websites, along with advertising alongside legitimate employers and job placement companies for credibility is prevalent among job listing fakers, according to the FBI, which recommends conducting a thorough online search using the name of the company posting the ad. If you find multiple sites for the same company, that may indicate a fraudulent job post.
Scammers may impersonate actual company managers, recruiters, or people from various departments, including human resources, offering victims jobs, often in a work-from-home capacity. “Cybercriminals executing this scam request the same information as legitimate employers, making it difficult to identify a hiring scam until it is too late,” says the FBI.
You can help protect yourself, however, by knowing the signs of a fake job listing.
Screen the job poster
No matter how much you need extra money, ask plenty of questions before agreeing to a job. The BBB recommends checking out the job poster’s social media sites such as LinkedIn and pushing for a video chat meetup before taking the job to weed out scammers.
“Most scammers will avoid meeting you and won’t answer specific questions,” says the BBB.
Job posting isn’t on the company website
When you find a job posted on Craigslist or other job boards but the company named in the ad has no listing of the job opening on its business website or careers section, that could be a red flag that the job listing is a scam.
Non-company email domains
If the job poster says he or she works for the company listing the job but uses a non-company email, beware. A legitimate human resources staffer won’t typically communicate with you using a Gmail or other non-company email account.
Search online for reviews and scam warnings
Before you sign up for a side hustle, type the company name, along with “scam,” “reviews” and “rip-off” into your favorite search engine.
If the company has a reputation for duping people trying to earn extra bucks with a side hustle, you’ll probably see in search results plenty of angry reviews or scam warnings from others who didn’t take steps to research the company first.
Questionable video interviews
Video and teleconference interviews aren’t necessarily a sign of a fake employer, especially during coronavirus precautions. However, if the recruiter will only conduct interviews via teleconference applications using email addresses instead of phone numbers and refuses to conduct in-person or secure video call interviews, be careful.
Those out-of-the-ordinary interviews could be a red flag of a fake job listing and someone seeking your personal information for identity theft.
Pre-hiring requests for personal information
Legitimate companies only request personally identifiable information and bank account information for payroll and direct deposit after – not before – hiring an employee.
“Never share your Social Security number or other PII that can be used to access your accounts with someone who does not need to know this information,” the FBI cautions. Never give your credit card information to a potential employer.
Sending you a fat check
Also beware of the scam where the potential employer sends you a check for start-up funds, has you cash the check, and then asks you to return a portion of the money to the person who mailed the check.
When the fake check bounces a week or two later, you’ll be out the money you sent to the scammer and will owe the amount of the check to the bank where you cashed it, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“If someone offers you a job, sends you a check, but then insists you wire the extra money back, don’t do it. It’s a scam,” says the FTC. Report the job poster to the FTC Complaint Assistant.
Limit work and payment to freelance job sites
If you have a profile advertising your skills on Upwork or another freelance site, side hustle scammers may approach you as legitimate employers. Then the side hustle con artist switches things up, asking you to accept payment through a different means than the platform used by the freelance site.
Maybe they’ll ask you to accept payment through PayPal or another payment app. But that’s just a way to stiff you on payment after you do the work without the reputable freelance site finding out and banning them for nonpayment.
“Chances are, once you turn in your work, you won’t receive any payment and your client will disappear for good,” says the BBB.
Don’t be fooled by “too-good-to-be-true” jobs
When you see an ad for a supposedly high-paying job for easy work that requires no skills, run from it as fast as you can. The “job” is likely a scam.
A great example of a too-good-to-be-true side hustle is the car wrap scam, where a company promises to pay you for wrapping your car in a banner with its company logo. Then the scammer sends you a cashier’s check to deposit in your bank account so you can use the funds to pay a vendor through Venmo or another platform to “come out and wrap your car.”
Too bad the check is fake. And by the time your bank realizes the check you deposited in your account is no good, the “employer” is nowhere to be found, along with your money.
Find out: 7 Red Flags a Paid Survey May Be a Scam
Watch out for work-from-home imposters
Scammers may try to impersonate big-name retailers like Amazon and Walmart, posting work-from-home positions on popular job boards, says the BBB. The scammers may even give the posted job an official-sounding name like “warehouse redistribution coordinator,” a fancy name for the actual work: Reshipping stolen packages.
Never pay to get the job
When a potential employer asks you to buy start-up equipment from their company or says you must pay the company to be hired, those requests could indicate a job listing scam. No legitimate employer will ask you to pay or send money before you can come on board to start earning money. If a job poster wants you to wire or send money in the form of gift cards or another form of payment, cut off communication and keep looking for a legitimate side hustle that you enjoy for extra income.
Get professional help to clean up errors in your credit report.
Article last modified on March 22, 2023. Published by Debt.com, LLC