Increasingly, scammers are targeting people looking for jobs on many of the established Internet job sites. One victim has spent the last few months fighting back.
"Initially I was contacted by email with the offer of a job with a 'charity' as a donations processor. The email was made to look like it came from Careerbuilder.com," Ramona Kurylas, a Colorado graphic designer, told ConsumerAffairs.com.
The email looked very official, with the Careerbuilder.com logo. It offered to hire Kurylas as someone who would receive large checks and deposit them for distribution to people in need.
"I received a Federal Express envelope with a cashiers check in the amount of $7,500 and was told to deposit it in my bank and let my superior know when I had the money available."
The bank released $100 immediately, which Kurylas wired to the scammer, but because the amount of the check was more than $5,000 they placed a hold on the rest.
Fortunately for Kurylas, the check was returned, stamped "counterfeit," five days later but before she could wire the funds.
"I was shocked that it had happened to me. I thought I was pretty smart and could avoid any email scams. I was embarrassed and humiliated and thought, this just isn't right," she said.
Almost overnight, Kurylas became an anti-scam crusader. She converted her personal Web site (www.webnetpresence.com) into a warning about the charity check processing scam and teamed with a fellow victim to expose the scam. It wasn't long before she began to hear from fellow victims.
"Since October I've been contacted by 200 people who have been victimized by this same scam. This difference is most of the people contacting me lost a lot more money."
Kurylas believes the scammer has started sending smaller checks, usually about $4,500, because banks must release funds for checks under $5,000 right away. In her case a delay gave the bank time to discover the forgery. More recent victims haven't been so fortunate.
Kurylas says the scam mutates almost like a virus, changing the name of the organization and the contact person frequently. But she says the scammer continues to mine job search sites for potential victims. Her advice?
"Interview the person offering you the job, just like they should interview you. Ask them how long they've been in business, who founded the company, ask for references," Kurylas said.
"If you are posting your resume online, do not ever put any of your contact information in the body of the resume."
Careerbuilder.com provides a link at the bottom of its home page labeled "fraud," which goes to a page warning consumers about a number of online frauds and how to avoid them.
"I don't think that's adequate. I think that fraud link should be at the top of the page, and in bold print," Kurylas said.