As Fall brought a new crop of career changers, it also brought a new crop of work related scams. Just a few weeks later, the scammers seemed to want to remind us they have not forgotten how to scam people in other areas as well. Here are just a few of the most popular non-work related scams this season.
A major corporation wants to apologize to you for poor service by giving you a prize or gift card.
People are still struggling to find work they can actually take and pay their bills, kids are back in school offline, and the holidays are on the way. Many of us could use a break on a bill so we can amend the budget a little this month, or some “free to us” merchandise to use as Christmas gifts. And the scammers know it.
The company name varies, but it is typically a major service corporation, like a phone or electric company. Messages designed to look like they came from T Mobile seem to be especially common. These texts claim the company wants to apologize for a disruption in service, or for poor service, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The apology will come in the form of a gift card to the company to use toward their service or another popular retailer, or a special prize.
While this scam will be immediately obvious when the message is supposed to be from a company the target does not do business with, it can be easy to thoughtlessly click the link when it looks like it might be something related to one of our bills.
Never click these links. This scam has been widely reported as new this year, and the detail about Covid certainly is, but the scam itself has been around for at least seven years. It is a classic spoofing scam, designed to get targets to click on the links so that malware or spyware can be installed on their computer. You will not get a gift card or a prize. But the scammers certainly will. They’ll “win” access to your bank account and other financial records.
If you’re in the LGBTQ community, that new love interest you met online is going to humiliate and/or out you if you do not send them money.
Online dating is growing increasingly common and acceptable, with dating sites set up for people fitting a wide variety of descriptions. But if you are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, or identify as “queer,” take special precautions when talking to people on LGBTQ sites. Scammers pretending to be members of your community are infiltrating these sites with the goal of extorting money.
Things seem normal at first, if a little fast. You and your new online crush are happily getting to know each other, when they get you to reveal something private. Persuading the target to send revealing photos is a common tactic. They may also strike up conversations that urge you to share private details about your life.
Once they have this material, the scammer then reveals their true motive. They inform you that if you do not send them money, whatever you have shared will be sent to your family, friends, clients, supervisors, or anywhere else it might cause serious problems in your life. They may even taunt you with details like the names of your family members or the location of your workplace to make the threat seem real.
Should this happen to you, never send the money. The scammer is not sincere in his or her offer to destroy the material once the money is sent. While nobody can promise a scammer won’t actually send your personal materials to the last person you would want to see them, this is typically far too much effort for a scammer. Their only intention is to scare as many people as possible into sending them money as quickly as possible. If you do not scare so easily, it is more lucrative for them to move on quickly to the next target than to bother sending out blackmail messages and waiting for you to fall apart again.
Instead, immediately report the account to the site you’re on, and file a report with the internet crime complaint center at: https://www.ic3.gov/Home/FileComplaint
One of your favorite stores is practically giving away something you’ve been wanting.
Like the “apology gift card” scam, this one plays on the fact that many people are still adjusting to the gradual return to in-person work and school as the holidays arrive. Scammers set up fake online storefronts and shopping sites, offering items everyone wants for Christmas, at prices anyone can afford.
At first glance, fake shopping websites appear to be simply outlet or resell sites. But the prices seem almost too good to be true. And that’s because they are. Should you order something from them, the most likely outcome is that you will never receive your order, and will not be able to contact anyone about getting your money back. Sometimes, you do receive a package, but it will be an item of much lower quality, and worth much less than the amount you sent the scammer. Sending the scammer $200 for a guitar or a handbag that typically sells for $1,200 might get you nothing more than a flimsy knockoff, broken, or even toy item that bears no resemblance to the photo and description on the site.
The only way to avoid being scammed by these sites is to avoid them entirely. Always go directly to known, trusted sites when you want to shop online, and carefully check that the website address is the official address of the store you meant to visit. Merchandise from Amazon will always be on “Amazon dot com,” not “Amazon deals dot com” or “Amazon outlet dot com.” Your friends’ Etsy shops are searchable from “Etsy dot com,” not “Esty dot net.”
If you absolutely need a deeply discounted item, wait for sales, coupon, or visit local thrift stores and yard sales.
The perfect puppy or kitten for your family is easy to find and purchase on a social media group dedicated to your favorite breed.
This scam seems to be the evergreen content of the scammer playbook. It never really goes away, they just update and refresh it from time to time, adding a bit more to it to attract a new audience….full of victims.
The basic scam is the same one from many times before. You love dogs, and have an especially soft spot in your heart for Chihuahuas, Pugs, Boston Terriers, or some other breed, so you join an enthusiast or owners group or two. Scattered in between people sharing cute stories and photos of their own pets are ads from people claiming their own beloved pet just had a litter, and they’re offering them at a reasonable price. In a newer twist, some claim the litter belongs to someone else, is unwanted, and the person posting is finding the puppies a home out of the goodness of their heart.
One particular puppy captures your heart. You contact the person, make a deposit through some type of online money transfer service, and travel to meet your new bundle of fur at the agreed upon public place. Nobody ever shows up with your puppy. And they never will. They will also never respond to your messages asking for your money back.
There was never any unwanted litter, and nobody’s beloved pet had puppies or kittens who needed homes. Scammers steal pictures from breeders’ websites, animal shelters, or image searches, save them, and change the caption to make them look like their photos.
The only way to avoid this scam is to never purchase or pay an adoption fee for a pet online. Ideally, adopt a pet from your local shelter. If that is not possible, or if you see an ad for a pet online and feel called to respond, make no promises and hand over no money until the pet is with you, physically and offline.
Don’t be mislead by a picture of the person you’re talking to and the pet or litter together, or even seeing the person and the pet on Zoom together. They could be be running a scam using their own pet they have no intention of rehoming, a friend’s pet, or an animal they’re pet sitting.
Keep a lookout for these, and other scams, as we head into the start of the holiday season. Even if you would never be taken in, let’s keep vigilant and protect each other.
As more and more people receive the Covid-19 vaccine, more and more people are looking for regular jobs to replace income lost during shutdown, side jobs to fund vacations they’re still waiting to take, and second jobs to pay down accumulated bills. Local independent artists are typically in need of funds for supplies, instruments, recording sessions, gallery space, work space, and networking. All this job seeking has, sadly, not gone unnoticed by scammers. Here are just a few of the most popular work and money related scams circulating as we head into Fall 2021.
A Japanese steel company thinks you would make a great debt collection representative for their corporation.
On August 25 of this year, I received the following email from someone using the name Nathan Baker:” I reviewed your info on LinkedIn and I would like to know if you are available to work with my company on a contract. “
This was obviously a copy and paste document sent to several people at random, but I wanted to learn the details of the scam, so I pretended to fall for it and asked for more information about the company. Today, I received a reply from a Japanese steel company. The email explained that I would be working as a debt collection agent. I would only need to work an hour per day. For working one hour per day, I would earn five per cent of all debt I collected, plus a four-thousand dollar per month stipend to cover expenses.
Had I not realized it was a scam from the beginning, the terms of that offer would make it obvious. Nobody is going to pay you $4,000 every month to make phone calls and send emails and faxes for an hour per day, plus give you 5% of everything you collect. The form they asked me to fill out and send back didn’t ask for my bank account information or anything else they could use to commit identity theft, so I did some general internet research about the scam.
The earliest mention of it cropped up in 2012, with previous resurfacing in 2015 and 2017. The scammers have simply come back for another try for the fall of 2021.
It appears to be a bad check scheme. If someone were to take the job, they would find themselves extraordinarily successful. The first person they called would apologize profusely and immediately send them a check for the amount they owed the Japanese company. The “debt collector” would be asked to deposit that check into their own account and send 95% to the company, keeping 5%. In reality, the person the “debt collector” contacted would be another scammer in the same ring, and the check would be fake. This means the “debt collector” just sent the “Japanese company,” a large amount of money from their own account, and if they did not have sufficient funds to cover that amount, they would be liable for it, as well as any fees associated with writing a bad check or making a withdrawal with insufficient funds. The $4,000 per month salary would never show up.
This scam uses the names and descriptions of what appear to be legitimate Japanese companies, and relies on the image of Japanese people as both rich capitalist “salarymen” and gentle, easygoing, generous souls who always aim to live in peaceful harmony with others. And while both good jobs with high salaries and respect and harmony are valued in Japanese culture, so is intense study and hard work. Nobody, no matter how rich, generous, and eager to make things easy on others they may be, is going to pay a random stranger $4,000 per month to spend an hour each day doing something they could just as easily ask an employee who is already on the payroll and being compensated for their time, to do.
The Federal Trade Commission will send you Covid-19 relief funds.
Anyone who has ever searched seriously for a job knows the job search becomes a job itself. You spend time updating your resume and cover letter template, researching companies, and writing and sending out complete cover letters with that resume attached. You may even walk, ride the bus, or drive around town, stopping into places with signs announcing they’re hiring to drop off resumes and fill out paper applications. Some places call you for an in-person interview, necessitating another trip.
This can require you to spend money on everything from a new suit for interviews, to coffees and lunches out on days you don’t have time to go home, to copying and printing costs for your job search documents. It would be great if you could get a little grant to cover these costs, rather than paying from your own pocket. And when the job offer doesn’t come fast enough, some money to meet the expenses you need a job to cover would help too.
All of this would make it very tempting to respond to an email from the Federal Trade Commission, offering to send you additional Covid-19 relief funds. Don’t. These emails are from scammers trying to collect your bank account information. The Federal Trade Commission does not disperse Covid-19 relief funds. Those come from the Department of the Treasury. There is no additional nationwide Covid-19 relief stimulus payment coming as of the writing of this article, and were that to change, you would get your money the same way you received previous payments.
A spell can be cast, cards can be read, or someone can intuitively tell you what your financial and career future will be.
The arrival of Fall means Halloween is coming soon, and with it an interest in anything mysterious, including tarot cards, psychic readings, and spells.
Spiritually, all of these activities are dangerous whether money is involved or not. When you reach out into the spirit realm and ask for any type of assistance from anyone or anything who wishes to assist you, the response you get is going to be from an entity who serves the enemy of man. These entities are demonic, and they only wish you harm. They may disguise themselves as helpers, but in the end, they only wish for your destruction. I practiced Wicca off and on for twenty years before I learned this, so don’t be fooled by what might appear to be early success.
Anyone here on this earth who offers to perform any of these activities for you for a fee is also a money scammer. There is simply nothing you, or any other human here on this earth can do to secure you a job beyond the plain old-fashioned practical steps to getting a job you already know.
You can train for a whole new career by signing up for a series of seminars or a business coaching program.
The hunt for a second job or side job can start to feel like you’re not qualified to do anything but what you already do, and there are no steady jobs hiring there. While most of us consider ourselves blessed to be artists, we often wonder if we shouldn’t go back to school or complete the necessary training for a second career. And this may be the right decision for you. Just make sure the training program you are going into will actually lead to a career.
“Training programs” that offer nothing but a collection of advice, information, tips, and tricks are often scams. Always start with the job you hope to have some day, and work backward from there. Learn what degrees, licenses, apprenticeships, vocational training, and other experience that profession requires, and use professional organizations in that field to build a list of possible training or career preparation programs.
Avoid anyone who insists you can make large sums of money, easily enter a competitive field, or will have secrets that make it unnecessary to work hard simply by paying for their course or using their own special method. And remember that no independent training program you are asked to pay for, or academic degree, comes with a hundred per cent guarantee of employment or entry into a specific career. If someone wants to prepare you for a job and then pay you to do it, they will offer you an apprenticeship, internship, or other training that they provide.
The life of your dreams can be yours if you’ll just join my team.
Multilevel marketing schemes show up in every work scam article because they show up in every season, every year. And they are out there again, preying on those growing frustrated or disheartened with their job search.
It would be wonderful if their claims were true. Buy a kit, talk everyone you know into buying the products or services from you and/or signing up under you to sell the products or services, and make all the money you could ever want. And you’ll get to use these amazing products or services, experience all the miracles they bring, and make a new group of friends that will become a second family to you as a bonus.
Only they never are. At best, you might find a workout, or a vitamin supplement, or some clothes or makeup you like, and get a nice discount on them. You might even earn enough commission to make some or all of the services or products free to you, and a little extra cash initially. If that’s all you’re looking for, by all means, join the company.
Just remember that these benefits are typically short-term. Suppose I sign up for a makeup and skincare MLM. I might earn enough commission to make my makeup free to me, and some cash to go get my hair done this month, but in two more months I will have to purchase more products to stay active in the company, and if I don’t have any customers at the time, that purchase will come out of my own funds. If I earn $100 in free makeup, and an additional $100 to spend, but wind up ordering $250 worth of stuff I do not truly want and will not use eight weeks later in order to keep my representative status, I didn’t earn $200 in free merchandise and cash. I spent $250 to get $200 in merchandise and cash, putting me $50 behind.
No matter what type of job you’re looking for, it can be stressful. It can be tempting to take what looks like a more gentle, less stressful path to your goals. And the combination of stress and the high pressure tactics used by most scammers can make it easy to miss many of the red flags. Look out for yourselves…and your fellow Utica musicans and other artists looking for jobs this fall.