The Ripoff Alert is a new series appearing once each week on Fridays. It alerts you to the latest scams and ripoffs trying to get between you and your money, and gives you information you need to stay safe. This is #22 in the series.
The official unemployment rate in the United States has been right around 8% for all of 2012. But there’s a more meaningful measure, known as U6, that includes people who are underemployed or who have given up looking for work. By this measure, unemployment has been right around 15% all year. In a healthy economy it’s somewhere between 7-10%.
With 15% unemployment, there are lots of folks looking not only for a primary job but extra part time work as well. Anytime you have a lot of demand for something you’re also going to attract scamsters.
Scam artists know these are desperate times, so they’re seizing the opportunity to post fake job listings on Craigslist, Monster and other online job boards. As an example, the once-legit car wrapping industry has roared back to life as a scamster’s paradise. The idea is that you get paid to wrap your car in an advertisement for a local or national business. A decade ago this was a good way to earn extra money, but the companies in this industry have all gone out of business.
After agreeing to wrap your car, you receive a check in the mail. You’re told to deposit it, keep a few hundred dollars for your trouble and wire the rest to the company who will supposedly do the wrapping. So you follow through with your end of the deal, only to find out weeks later that the check was bogus and you’re out thousands of dollars.
Here are some tips to help you avoid these fake job postings:
- If you receive a check and are told to wire a portion to somebody, just trash it. The check is bogus and they are just trying to rip you off.
- Avoid handing out sensitive information like your Social Security number or date of birth until the end stages of the hiring process, after you’re sure the company is legit.
- Be wary of anybody asking for any amount of money upfront.
- If anyone claims to have access to secret government grants or hidden jobs they’re probably fibbing.
If you’re looking to earn some extra cash, check out my post about finding legitimate work-at-home opportunities. Keep in mind you’re not going to earn big bucks from any of these jobs. Think of them as a bit of extra income in your free time.