Bamboozled: Job hunting? Avoid this scam

If you’re looking for work, be sure you’re also looking out for scams.

One fraud known as the “re-shipping scam” will not only leave you without a real job, it will leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars and could actually expose you to criminal charges.

It’s a triple-whammy of scams.

??????????????????It all starts with a job posting. It could be listed on reputable job sites — the big named ones you all know — or you might boxfind the listing on Craigslist or other online sites, or in your newspaper.

The company in question is looking for a “quality assurance manager” or a “merchandise inspection agent.” The potential employer has an authentic-looking web site, and the language in the ad is often clear and without grammatical errors — something we all know is a red flag for fraudsters.

And you can do the work from home.

The job sounds relatively easy. The employer will send you packages. You need to inspect them, making sure the goods inside are what they should be. The goods could be electronics, toiletries, clothes — anything at all. After your inspection, you need to re-pack and re-mail the shipment — usually to an international address.

Sounds simple, but this is a multi-level scam.

When you contact the “employer,” you’ll be asked for your personal information: your name and address, Social Security number and birth date.

Legitimate employers will need that information so you can be paid, sure. But these “employers” will pay you in a very dubious way. Rather than put you on a company payroll, they’ll send you a cashier’s check. And the amount they send will be more than your pay would be.

That’s part one of the fakery. The “employer” has your personal information.

For the next part, the “employer” will ask you to deposit a paycheck, but it won’t be for the right amount. It will be more. So the “employer” will ask you to wire the company the overpay, or the extra. You might take the full amount out of your bank account to pay yourself and return money to your new boss, but when the fake cashier’s check bounces, your bank will hold you responsible for the funds that you’ve already taken out of your account.

That’s part two.

If that’s not bad enough, the packages you receive and re-ship are part three of the scam.

You see, the merchandise sent to you was probably purchased using stolen credit cards, or by using credit cards obtained using the information gained under false pretenses from innocents — innocents like you, who handed over Social Security numbers and birth dates to the bad guys in the hopes of getting a job.

Maybe you’ll be next.

When the credit cards are used for purchases, of course the crooks aren’t going to have the stolen goods shipped directly to them. Instead, they ship the items to you, and you end up, unknowingly, on the receiving end of stolen goods. Then you send the stolen goods back to the criminals.

So if you help with this transaction, you may lose money because of a fake check, you will have handed over your private info to a thief and now, you’ve also moved stolen merchandise. Yes, that’s a crime.

Altogether, it’s a trifecta of fraud, and you’re on the losing end over and over and over again.

PROTECTING YOURSELF

If you’re looking for work of any kind, there are a few ways you can protect yourself.

Rather than rely on what a “help wanted” ad says, check out the company name independently. If the advertisement is for a firm you’ve never heard of, you shouldn’t rely only on a web site offered by the potential employer

Instead, Google the company name, and check it out with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

If the firm doesn’t fully check out, or if you’re not sure, don’t give out your personal information.

If a company tries to pay you with anything other than a paycheck or direct deposit, be suspicious. Don’t accept wire transfers, and don’t withdraw money until you know a check clears. If you’re given a check for more money that your pay, be extra cautious.

If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to the agencies listed above, and also give a call to local law enforcement and report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Further protect yourself by checking your credit report, and consider putting a fraud alert on your credit reports if you think a phony employer has stolen your private information.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com.