Quick Hits – Scam Alert!

Quick Hits – Scam Alert!

This one’s better than most, too. It may not involve a wealthy Nigerian prince or a lottery you never entered, but in the vein of the best hustles, it deftly preys on young peoples’ boundless hopes and dreams. If I did believe in hell, there would be a particularly special place in the first circle for these soulless bleeps.


The target

This insidious scam targets college graduates entering the job market for the first time, and to a lesser degree, twentysomethings looking for a gig that’s more in line with their core aspirations. Their theory is, relatively inexperienced job hunters are more prone to emotion and lack the sophistication to catch the obvious red flags.

The lure

The scammers place job ads on university and mainstream help wanted web sites in addition to scouring the online resumes of likely victims. The ads, ostensibly placed on the part of reputable and recognizable companies, typically promote work-at-home opportunities stopping just short of being to good to be true.

Their email responses look and read very professionally, complete with the appropriate logos and other company data. They explain the initial interview will be conducted via chat through something like Google Hangouts, and if you make the cut, round two will come via Skype or phone.

The know the details and the names of every principle in the spoofed company which serves to mitigate any apprehension on the part of the “applicant.” Put more simply, this ain’t your garden variety IRS con where the perp can barely speak or write English.

The scam

About halfway through the initial phone or text interview, the “recruiter” will claim they’re so enamored with the applicant that they want to hire them on the spot. In fact, they’re so happy, they’re going to send the candidate a snail mail check to buy the specific software or to set up a home office.

They also email the “applicant” a contract and other official documentation that looks completely legit.

Once they deposit the check and it “clears,” the “new hire” must avail themselves of an approved vendor website where they can purchase everything they need. It was at this point that a friend pulled the plug on the fraud before it cost her son any cash.

Again, the “company” check looks utterly official, but as you might imagine, once the online purchase is made, the “job” never materializes and the office supplies never arrive. Then the hammer falls a few months later when the bank freezes the “applicant’s” account upon discovering the “routing number” on the forged check doesn’t match any company bank account. Of course, the scammed graduate is left liable for every last penny of the fraudulent deposit.

The tells

If you don’t allow yourself to get too carried away with the possibility, there are subtle clues that immediately give the scam away.

First, carefully check any email company URL. What should be “microsoft.com” will be something slightly different like “microsoft.info” or “microsoft.biz.” Those shifts are dead giveaways.

Second, please screen the return email addresses, too. We’ve all become so accustomed to hitting the “reply” button we barely look at return email addresses anymore. The scammers tend to use Gmail or other generic services instead of the real thing, and no respectable company ever does that.

Lastly, no prominent business will hire anyone merely on the basis of a chat interview. If you get past round one, real recruiters will interview the rest of the applicants and insist on a face-to-face meeting before making a final decision.

What you can do

Unless you live in a substantial city like Aurora or Elgin, don’t bother calling the local police because they’re far too lazy to do anything about it. You’ll have far better luck with the county sheriff in that regard.

But what you can do is share this piece, and if your son or daughter has been scammed, please put it out there despite any embarrassment. After my friend posted her son’s experience, five more people came forward. This is one of the few benefits of the age of lightspeed communications.

Meanwhile, skip the cynicism and teach your children to develop a spider sense about these kinds of things because it’s only gonna get worse. There will always be predators out there, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to be a victim.


3 thoughts on “Quick Hits – Scam Alert!

  1. Great piece Jeff. Though I’m from the stone age (really, the sixties) I have twins who are just coming of age. We worked hard to instill in them the value of honest skepticism. So far it seems to have worked because they often call or email me to talk about things that seem shady to them. It usually starts with ‘…I received this but something doesn’t seem right…….What do you think?”

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