With more people desperate to find work in the new economy, scam artists are increasingly targeting the unemployed and underemployed by using legitimate online job boards. These scams are intensifying because anyone can place an open job on these boards.
My wife was nearly a victim of one of these scams. Applying on GetHired.com for an account with Baxter Healthcare, a large corporation, she received an email back from someone purporting to be from that firm’s Human Resources Department. It said, in part:
“We have reviewed your resume/cover letter from GetHired.com and you qualified for the position, as you possess the required skills and experience for our available position. The available positions are: Accounts Payable/Specialist/payroll professional. You need to undergo an online job briefing, so it’s required for you to have Ms. Heather Davis of the company (Interview Manager) added to your Yahoo Messenger contact list for an online interview/job briefing. If you don’t have a Yahoo Messenger on your computer, then go to www.messenger.yahoo.com to download one for free then set up an ID with Yahoo Messenger and IM Mrs. Heather Davis. Her Yahoo screen name is (email@example.com). She is online now. Instant-message her whenever you are ready. Feel free to email back if you have any questions.” My wife asked her if she could call our home number for the interview. “This is strictly an online interview and not a phone interview,” she quipped.
Although skeptical, my wife started the online conversation with this “Mrs. Davis” about this job, which was explained as a “strictly work-from-home job” where she would get paid biweekly via check or direct deposit. Mrs. Davis told her she would be working as an “employee and not as an independent contractor,” with full benefits. She then listed the duties and responsibilities of the position, which consisted of “printing payroll checks, records, and recording pay slips into an accounting database; these will be done through the use of Accounting software, such as faxing or emailing confidential information.”
Over the next 15-20 minutes, Mrs. Davis ran through some stock interview questions, emphasizing the importance of privacy and confidentiality of client records during this time. At the conclusion, she stated: “You seem to be a good fit for this position. Hold on while I forward your interview to the hiring board.”
After another 10-15 minutes, she came back online and told her “Congratulations. Due to your experience and your working skills the company has decided to hire you as one of our staff. You are now a staff member of Baxter Healthcare Corporation.”
It’s when this Mrs. Davis related that my wife needed to purchase specific “CheckSoft software” available at office supply stores or online that our suspicions were confirmed. In addition to the software, she said she needed to buy “check paper” and “magnetic ink” available on www.g7ps.com. When my wife said she wouldn’t purchase anything upfront, this comment made this Mrs. Davis very defensive:
“You were asked to purchase these items and this does not mean one is trying to get money out of your pocket – Note that you are the one to use these items for your work and you will be reimbursed.”
My wife balked at that, saying she needed to sign a contract first before doing anything.
Mrs. Davis then told her she would receive the company employee form to fill out and “your duties paperwork, but that does not stop you from purchasing the items.”
My wife didn’t budge on her contract request, and she did indeed get two forms emailed to her – shoddy replicas of the Baxter Health logo with a signature from a “Lawrence T. Gibbons, Corporate V.P. Quality, Baxter Healthcare Corporation,” and the other a half-baked “employment form” to fill out.
Needless to say, we wanted to call Baxter Healthcare and alert them of this scam. Doing that wasn’t easy. We called the district office in Charlotte and asked for a number for Human Resources. The number they gave us didn’t work because you needed a patient ID or employee ID number. We called back again and got a different 800 number to call, and went through a series of automated messages asking for the same ID codes before they system finally connected to a live person, who told us a real representative at Baxter Health would call us back. No one did. Instead, we got a response from – where else? The Internet, where we found a template comment form to email to Baxter. After recording the “ticket number” for our comment, someone did send us an email, which verified our suspicions:
“Thank you for your email. The job posting is not a legitimate opportunity for Baxter International, Inc. or its subsidiaries. We have received reports of this fraudulent listing. The US Government has been notified of these incidents. Thank you for calling this matter to our attention.
Center for One Baxter
Baxter Healthcare Corporation
After this, we blocked these scam artists from Yahoo messenger and flagged them as spam, although by now these individuals have probably deleted these email accounts in an attempt to cover their tracks. They never once talked to us on the phone.
How to Avoid Online Job Scams
Unfortunately, online job boards are rife with scam artists masquerading as legitimate employers. Indeed, you probably are more likely to interact with a scam artist online than you are an actual employer (our difficulty actually reaching a live person from the HR department at a major corporation attests to that fact). But there are things you can do to protect yourself:
- Be wary of online jobs that seem too good to be true, or locations where the company does not have a presence. On this ad, the company did not have an office in that area, which should be the first red flag.
- Be suspicious of people who want to conduct interviews with you via online chat rather than telephone or in person. Fortunately, most legitimate interviews still take place on the phone or in person. No one is going to ask you to “hold on” for several minutes while she forwards your responses to some “hiring board.”
- Be very skeptical of anyone who gives you an email from a Yahoo, Microsoft Live, Google, or other popular email account who claims to be from a major company. Most companies have their own dedicated email accounts.
- Do not trust anyone who asks you to buy products as a prerequisite of employment, even if they claim they will reimburse you later.
- Never, ever give out information about your bank accounts or credit card information to a potential employer. In this online job scam, the crooks’ main intent was probably to get people’s bank account information to draw funds from their accounts.
- For more information about how to prevent online scams, go to the FBI website at http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2006/july/job_scams070506.