As we slowly make our way out of the pandemic, more and more people are looking to go back to work. While we may have been able to practice our art throughout the worst of the pandemic, and even played an essential part in helping ourselves and everyone else make it through, many of us lost day jobs, side jobs, and those opportunities to practice our art that came with a steady paycheck.
Regrettably, it’s not just Utica area artists who are heading back to work. Scammers see the gradual return to the life we were used to before as a new job opportunity as well. Here are just a few of the most common scams to target job seekers in the summer of 2021.
Academic or job training funding
Going back to school to earn a new degree or learn a new trade is a popular first leg of a “back to work” journey. As the recent quarantine and isolation has given many of us increased time for prayer and reflection, many have come to realize they need a change in the way they earn their living. They may decide to branch off into a new area of the job they do by day, prepare for a promotion, or veer off into a completely different career path, but none of those options is likely to come without a significant investment.
Most need some type of financial aid to cover the cost, and this can present yet another hurdle. Financial aid searches can be daunting and frustrating, with every program seeming to disqualify everybody over a single detail. It may be tempting to respond to organizations promising to streamline the process for you by taking your information, and producing a list of financial aid options tailored to you, for a small fee.
These are never legitimate offers. The same information is already available online for free. Sending in your money will only result in the company you hired disappearing, or at best, sending you a list you could have gotten yourself simply by typing “financial aid” into a search engine.
If a financial aid search is too daunting, visit the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend for help.
Fake Zoom Meeting Invitation
During the worst of the pandemic, we all grew accustomed to conducting face to face meetings, visits, and job interviews via video calls on sites like Zoom. While the offline, shared physical space version of in-person gatherings are slowly increasing, many find that virtual interviews and meetings are still a necessity for anyone who has not been vaccinated, as well as those who are, but may not be able to travel to get to an interview, or who may be dealing with other health problems that would necessitate avoiding close contact with strangers indoors.
This can make an invitation to a Zoom job interview or virtual job fair seem completely legitimate, and sometimes, they can be. But do some research before you click on that link.
Real invitations to gatherings held via Zoom come from the host of the event, not from Zoom itself. If you get an invitation to a Zoom employment event, write down the name of the sender, click out of your email, and research that sender to make sure it’s a legitimate company or organization. If you find a webpage, physical address, email address, and a phone number listed, that’s a good sign, but you are still not finished. Step two is to reach out to the company using their contact information, to make sure that they did in fact send you a Zoom meeting invitation.
Clicking on a Zoom meeting invitation link when you are not completely sure it was sent by a trusted person or business can result in malware being installed on your computer. This malware can be used to access your personal information, including your bank accounts.
Cryptocurrency investment scams
One unfortunate economic lesson of the pandemic is that a lot of paying jobs can vanish pretty fast. This leads many of us to work to secure passive income in addition to looking for a new paying job.
Investment opportunities vary, but the latest fad in the “how to make money” community is investing in cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and other cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that only exists on computers. It can be compared to a casino chip or other token, but there is no physical object. The currency is made up entirely of computer code that is passed from person to person. There is no central computer that holds it all, and it is not backed up by any government or banking system.
The money advice website nerdwallet warns that because there is nothing backing it up, cryptocurrency is volatile, prone to extreme rises and falls in value from day to day. However, if you want to invest in cryptocurrency, or learn more about the option, make sure to stick to the websites of established investment firms that offer the form of cryptocurrency that interests you. Any other offer, website, or “opportunity” is likely to be a scam. Like the scholarship scam, these sites may charge for information or coaching that can be obtained free through an established investment firm, or they may be selling cryptocurrency they do not actually have and pocketing your money.
Travel scams are such “classic” scams, they’re a running joke in American popular culture. Who hasn’t seen a comedy in which a hapless, lovably naive character goes crazy over winning a dream vacation for a small processing fee or finding “the deal of a lifetime”? Cut to the next scene, and they’re gazing helplessly at the “L.A. Beach vacation” that turns out to be a skid row hotel room with a pile of sand dumped on the floor, or the “New York City arts tour” that only results in a bus dropping them off an at abandoned gallery in a crime-ridden neighborhood and driving away.
These types of scams are back with a vengeance now that people are once again traveling, both as a way to give themselves a break after the year we’ve all gone through and for work. And these new versions are often much harder to detect than the obvious “too good to be true” offers from the past.
One common tactic is the use of a spoofed website. These sites are carefully designed to look like the official website of real travel sites. Some of them even feature stolen recordings from the real sites.
The best defense against these types of scams is to go directly to a well-known, established travel website, or give a local agency some business and contact someone who specializes in booking travel in town.
Job searching this summer is difficult enough. Businesses complain nobody wants to work, but potential workers are actually sifting through positions that do not pay enough to cover even their basic expenses. Nothing can prevent substandard employment offers, but we can avoid the outright scams.