Business & Real Estate

BBB warns of scammers targeting college students

Many college students are on the lookout for flexible, part-time employment to help cover their school expenses. If this describes you or a student in your life, watch out for scams. The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker has received reports of employment cons impersonating professors and university departments.

How the scam works

You receive an email at your school email address encouraging you to apply for a job. The message appears to come from your school’s job placement office, student services department or even a specific professor. The position – it may be anything from pet sitting to secret shopping – sounds perfect for a college student. The work is easy, has flexible hours and offers excellent pay.

When you reply to the message, things start to get strange. The “employer” hires you without an interview. Then, he or she sends you a check with instructions to deposit it before you’ve even done any work. You are instructed to use the money to purchase gift cards, money orders, prepaid debit cards or other supplies you’ll need for your new job. Part of what you purchase should be sent to your new employer. The rest of the money will be your payment.

However, the check is a fake – a detail your bank will let you know a day or two after you deposit it. Any money you sent to your “employer” is gone for good.

Tips to avoid the scam

• Do your research. Before you accept any job, research the company that wants to hire you. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Search for what others are saying about their experience with the company.

• Beware of red flags. Scammers often send emails with many typos and grammatical errors. They offer to hire you without an interview and even pay you before you’ve done any work. None of these are behaviors of a reputable business.

• Never send money to strangers. Never send funds in the form of cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers to someone you don’t know or haven’t met. No legitimate company will ask you to pay them to get a job.

For more information on employment scams, visit bbb.org/employmentscam or bbb.org/avoidscams.

If you’ve been the victim of an employment scam, report it on bbb.org/scamtracker.

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