scam.jpg“First, I would like to make something very clear. We are NOT a get-rich-quick company.”

I got this unsolicited job offer in an email recently and there’s a good chance many of you got the same one. How do I know this? Because it was addressed to my email, telleve@hotmail.com, and to terryemerick@comcast.net, terryemerick@hotmaik.com, test@hotmail.com. Clearly, some computer program is spitting out emails like this.

Why? Because they are scams and scammers usually throw out hundreds, even thousands of bogus lines until they catch something. Unfortunately, they’ve been catching a lot lately because many of you are desperate for money in this economy, and scammers know that so they’ve been working in over drive.

“The dismal employment rate means that a lot of people are desperate for work and may be grasping for any job which creates a great opportunity for scammers,” said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Not thoroughly researching a job opportunity can make a bad situation even worse and a victim can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars to any number of job-related scams.”

From Jan. 1, 2010 to August 31, 2010 the BBB received 2,431 complaints from consumers on work-at-home scams.

The email I got could be a text book example of these types of scams. The email was unsolicited, there are lots of spelling errors, the job requires no experience, and they promise you a lot of money for a little work.

If you made $300 per day working ONLY 5 days a week that would
total $78,000.00 per year for doing something that is fun, working from the comfort of
your own home. We have members making much more then $300 per day.
Once you have signed up with our te.am, we will provide you with tutorials and complete
guidance for exactly how to make this work for you. You will have instant acc.ess to this
program.

And an interesting thing I just found out, is that many of these sites have fake seals of approval at the bottom on their web pages.

The site that I went to from this email had two seals — one called “consumer rated” and another called “membership winner 2007.” You can’t even click on the “consumer rated” seal, but the “membership” seal takes you to yet another fake site.

The bogus seals on the page are modeled after real web security seals, according to Christine Durst, founder of RatRaceRebellion.com and an internet fraud expert.

“The types of ’seals’ you are talking about are all over the Net on scam sites and, yes, they are bogus,” she said when I asked her about the company that emailed me the job offer above. “When a seal is authentic, the site owner must, in order to make the seal valid, link through to the site of the authenticating body so visitors can verify authenticity. The ‘Web Guard’ images on the page you reference are all over the place and mean nothing — they are just graphics designed to create a false sense of security.”

There are some “legit verification/seal programs include sites,” she noted, such as “Truste.com, ValidatedSite.com, and trust-guard.com.”

The best rule of thumb is to trash any unsolicited job offers you get, unless you know the person, or the contact comes via someone you know. I did a story for MSNBC.com a while back that details a host of such scams so take a look if you think something you’ve been offered doesn’t smell quite right.

I know, it may be hard for some of you to just move these emails to the trash bin. I know, you really want this stuff to be true. I don’t blame you, but you need to focus on finding a real job.

If you still want to give these emails a perusal, out of curiosity, please read these seven scam red flags to look for from the BBB before you do:

1: The employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home
While many legitimate businesses allow employees to work from home, there are also a lot of scammers trying to take advantage of senior citizens, stay-at-home moms, students and injured or handicapped people looking to make money conveniently at home. Job hunters should use extreme caution when considering a work-at-home offer and always research the company with their BBB first at www.bbb.org.

2: The employer asks for money upfront
It is rarely advisable for an applicant to pay upfront fees or make a required purchase to get a job. BBB often hears from job hunters who paid a phony employer for supposedly required background checks or training for jobs that didn’t exist. Always research the job thoroughly before opening up your wallet. Also be wary of job placement companies that ask for large upfront fees to find you a job.

3: The salary and benefits offered seem too-good-to-be-true
The adage holds true for job offers: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Phony employers might brag about exceptionally high salary potential and excellent benefits for little work and no experience necessary in order to lure unsuspecting job hunters into their scam.

4: Employer e-mails are rife with grammatical and spelling errors. Online fraud is often perpetrated by scammers located outside the U.S. Their first language usually isn’t English and this is often evident in their poor grasp of the language which can include poor grammar and the misspelling of common words.

5: The employer requires you to check your credit report
After posting their resumes online or responding to online job listings, many job hunters received what they thought was good news: an e-mail from an interested employer. In order to be considered for the job, the applicant has to check his or her credit report through a recommended website. The truth is, the e-mail is just an attempt to get the job hunter to divulge sensitive financial information or sign up for credit monitoring services.

6: The employer is quick to ask for personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers
Some job seekers have been surprised to learn they’ve gotten a job without having to do a single interview. However, when the employer then asked for personal information in order to fill out the necessary paperwork, suspicions were raised – and rightly so. Regardless of the reason, a job applicant should never give out his or her Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or email and only after they’ve confirmed the job is legitimate.

7: The job requires you to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or receive and forward suspicious goods
Many phony jobs require the employee to cash a check sent by the company through the mail and then wire a portion of the money on to another entity. Reasons given for this requirement vary from scam to scam. Whatever the reason though, the check might clear the employee’s bank account but will eventually turn out to be a fake and the employee is out the money he or she wired back to the scammers. BBB also warns against receiving and reshipping suspicious goods—such as electronics or luxury items—overseas.

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