Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Helping Clients Avoid Employment Scams

Internet scams are everywhere. Just this past weekend, I received a classic e-mail scam ... it was an e-mail purporting to be from an esteemed colleague of mine. It said he was stuck in London and needed me to wire him some money. Fortunately, I'd heard of this scam before and didn't fall for it.

But how many of us have clients who are falling for employment scams or work-at-home schemes? The answer is: Too many.

In the Spring 2009 issue of Resume Writers' Digest, I pointed out some scams you should warn your clients about. With the e-mail I got this weekend, it's a good time to remind you of these.
  • "Pay to Play" work-at-home schemes. The premise sounds great: Work from home and earn hundreds or thousands of dollars per week. The scam might be sending off for a special "kit" that outlines how to make money (but is often a "system" where the buyer recruits other unsuspecting buyers to purchase the "system). Or your client might pay for supplies for a product that is assembled at home and sold back to the company, but only if it meets "specifications" -- which the assembled products rarely do. Other "pay to play" schemes require you to pay a subscription fee to access a website where work-at-home job opportunities may be posted. While some of these sites are legitimate, many are not.
  • The Mystery Shopper. An investigative news program recently spotlighted job postings on Craiglist for mystery shopping positions. The "company" sends the job seekers a check to cover "expenses" and asks him or her to "mystery shop" -- sending money via wire transfer. The individual deposits the supposedly legitimate check into his or her bank account and wires a portion of the amount back to the company, "keeping" the balance as their "salary." A few days later, the "mystery shopper" is notified by their bank that the check they deposited was fraudulent or has bounced. They are then liable for covering the full amount they wired (that money is long gone), plus bank fees.
New twist on the Mystery Shopper is the "Reshipper." These job seekers respond to ads for "quality control" positions. You receive merchandise, inspect it, and mail it on to the final recipient. Only many of the goods are stolen (or purchased using stolen credit cards) and you're helping facilitate the crime.
  • Help Accessing the "Hidden Job Market." While there are legitimate job agents (and recruiters and resume writers) that can help job seekers find unadvertised positions, there is also an entire class of scam artists that prey on the insecurities of the unemployed, especially managers and executives. Some firms represent themselves as employment agencies or recruiters but require job seekers to pay $5,000 to $12,000 (on average) for assistance in accessing the "hidden job market." These firms give legitimate career services professionals a bad name. The big giveaway is that they make candidates "qualify" to become a client, require them to provide detailed financial information as part of the applications process, and the spouse is often "invited" to become part of the process. These companies often attract candidates by placing ads disguised as job postings. See the "Ask the Headhunter" article for more details on this.
  • Commission-Only Jobs. I often advise clients to set up a separate e-mail account for job searching, particularly if they have sales-related keywords in their resumes. These folks are likely to be targeted for fake "job openings" for commission-only sales positions. Remind your clients to research companies before going on interviews -- a simple Google search can sometimes alert them to these kinds of "jobs."
Do you know of any other employment scams? Comment on my blog below.

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