Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, has ended for millions of individuals impacted by COVID-19. For some, that may mean a certain amount of desperation will set in; and the need to find a source of income can lead them into trouble.
Jobs scams are on the rise according to a study just released by the Better Business Bureau.
For the most part scammers are targeting people 25-44 years of age. People ages 25-34 account for 28.2% of the victims who reported getting scammed to BBB Scam Tracker. People 35-44 were next at 21%.
Women filed 67% of complaints about the fraud. Victims are losing a lot of money, on average $1,000 each.
More: Here’s how to tell if your phone has been hacked and what you can do about it
The crooks are working a number of different scams — illegal jobs, identity theft and fake checks.
If you’re looking for a job, be especially careful with online job boards. Many of those jobs, for example, promise consumers a well-paying job, often working from home, that is, if they pay upfront for training, materials or equipment.
Identity theft is a common outcome of job scams, as scammers often steal job seekers’ personal information to open bank accounts to further their fraud. BBB found 34% of victims provided their driver’s license number, and 25% provided their Social Security number.
Unfortunately, job scams have been a problem for years. BBB’s study finds that the problem worsened in 2020.
In 2019, BBB estimated job scams had 14 million victims, with $2 billion in losses. The following year, the 2020 BBB Employment Scams Report by BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust found job scams to be the riskiest of all the scams they tracked in 2018 and 2019.
Scammers often entice their victims with great pay — $2,500 a week and few skills are needed.
Common fraudulent job offers include mystery shopping or secret shopper jobs, car wrap jobs, nanny or caregiver jobs and small business jobs such as photography or painting houses.
Employment scam victims also frequently become accomplices in other types of fraud. They are used as money mules to mail fake checks or to participate in reshipping scams.
Here are some tips for avoiding job scams:
- Take time to find the job listing on the company’s website directly.
- Check on businesses offering jobs at BBB.org.
- If someone wants you to pay for the promise of a job, it’s a “tip-off to the rip-off” that it is almost certainly a scam.
- Complete an internet search with the employer’s name and the word “scam” to see if there are other complaints involving job scams.
- Examine the email address of those offering jobs to see if it matches the company’s and sender’s names.
- There are no legitimate jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages.
- Don’t fall for a fake check scam. BBB is unaware of any legitimate job offers that send checks to applicants and ask them to send money to a third party.
- Do not click on links in texts and emails or respond to calls from unknown sources
Our office has received several calls regarding storm chasers working the Loves Park, Machesney Park area.
Individuals have been going door-to-door offering roof repairs.
The son of one victim says his parents, who are senior citizens, were approached and told their roof could be repaired for $4,500. After the scammers covered the roof with drive-way sealer the amount they charged was $9,500.
Insisting on cash they drove their victim to the bank where she withdrew the money.
How to avoid storm chaser scams:
- Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state or province.
- Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. We have BBB Business Profiles on more than a million home contractors. Check your state or provincial government agency responsible for registering and/or licensing contractors. Get references from friends and relatives.
- Resist high-pressure sales tactics. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
- Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
- Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.
Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.