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by SixFigureStart | February 23, 2010


An article in today's Baltimore Sun touches on one of the dangers of becoming too desperate in the job search: the potential for falling victim to con artists. Which got us wondering here at Pink Slipped HQ: how exactly does a job scam work, and how can one tell the difference between a scam and a genuine opportunity?

As a lead-off, consider this quote from the Sun article: " Beware of promotions that guarantee a job or promise an opportunity to make lots of money in a short time by working at home or through some other business opportunity. Also, legitimate companies won't ask you to pay for the promise of a job, regulators say."

Which is all well and good, when it comes to warning signs, but presumably there are enough people out there being duped to take advantage of such schemes to make them worth the risk for scammers. So how do they actually work?

Fortunately for us, The LA Times produced a lengthy study on just this topic in late January. That piece details some of the hottest scams of the moment—most of which involve fraudsters sending you large checks to cash and asking you to refund some of the money in a separate check. The scam works because bank rules give customers access to funds even before checks have cleared. Thus, the scammer's check will bounce, while the one written in good faith from the victim's account will not.

The LA Times piece is also instructive as a guide to the ingenuity of con artists, tracking the evolution of their methods for acquiring ill-gotten gains as the jobs crisis has deepened and funds have dwindled across the country:

" In the early days of the recession, con artists capitalized on the rising unemployment rate by launching schemes that promised jobs but required consumers to pay for 'equipment' or 'training'[…] A similar con offered work, but told 'potential employees' that they had to submit to a credit check first."

So just how easy is it to fall victim to one of these things? Well, that all depends on the plausibility of the scammer and the state of mind of the job seeker when they see the offer. One thing is for certain, though: work at home schemes are likely not the answer to anyone's job seeking woes: a recent report found a 54-1 ratio of scams to genuine work at home opportunities. And be warned: they're not all marketed as opportunities to make money through Google searches or by taking surveys. Some are specifically targeted high-end job seekers--albeit somewhat transparently, in that example.

Your best bet? A traditional search, through reputable sources, with plenty of background digging thrown in. And listen to the voices that tell you "this might be too good to be true." That way, you won't end up here.

Got any stories you'd like to share on this topic? You can do so via the comments field.

--Posted by Phil Stott,


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