Scammers often target job-seekers because they are usually very likely to provide requested information. But law enforcement officials are warning job applicants about a recent scam in which criminals posing as employers ask for copies of their personal credit reports.
"Credit reports contain a wealth of background information about consumers, including social security numbers, summaries of bank and credit card accounts, employment history, current and previous addresses and other details that are extremely valuable to con artists," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. "Falling for Internet job schemes can be a double threat — leaving victims unemployed and struggling to untangle a web of financial problems caused by identity theft."
"Corbett noted that con artists are using Internet postings and email messages to circulate ads for high paying part-time work as personal assistants, check processors and a variety of other work-at-home positions. The exact wording of these scams varies greatly, but all of them have common features:
• They offer "easy money" for little work.
• Consumers work from home, rather than an office.
• It is difficult to meet your "employer" in-person, often because they travel frequently or are based overseas.
• Consumers need to respond quickly.
"It is important to be watchful for online job scams, especially students looking for summer work, graduates hoping for their first job or older residents searching for part-time work or new careers," Corbett said. "Consumers should always be wary of offers that seem 'too good to be true,' especially in situations where you are being asked to provide detailed personal information to people you do not know."
"In addition to asking consumers to email copies of their credit report — a practice that leaves that personal information vulnerable to interception or theft — some con artists are including bogus website links in their email messages, directing victims to look-alike websites that can be used to electronically steal a consumer's personal information.
"Legitimate businesses that require credit reports as part of an employee screening process can obtain that information directly from the major credit bureaus," Corbett said. "There is no need for a business to ask consumers to obtain their own credit report and then forward that information by email."
"Additionally, Corbett said consumers should avoid any type of online offer that involves a request to wire-transfer money to someone you do not know.
"An important element in many job-related scams is that consumers are given checks and are asked to wire-transfer money to other people, believing that they are paying bills for the 'employers', processing checks, handling payments for an overseas business or dealing with other financial matters," Corbett said. "In reality, victims are depositing counterfeit checks or money orders into their bank accounts and then wire-transferring that money to scam artists overseas."
"In all of these cases, the bogus checks will eventually be returned and banks will require consumers to repay any funds they withdrew."