Unemployed workers in Washington and the rest of the country are targets for crooks posing as headhunters, the Attorney General's Office warned this week. Scams include bogus job offers and realistic-looking e-mail messages that contain links to computer viruses or phishing sites.
"More people are looking for work and scammers are looking for them; it's despicable," Attorney General Rob McKenna says. "No matter how desperate you are for a job, you have to proceed with caution when posting your resume online or responding to potential employers. The cons are becoming craftier."
Threats targeting at-home workers include:
BOGUS WORK-AT-HOME SCHEMES
Cons are taking advantage of the growing number of jobless workers by placing ads online and in local newspaper classifieds offering the chance to earn extra income by working at home.
Recent reports include individuals who applied for jobs as mystery shoppers, only to be duped into sending money by wire transfer. Another job-seeker paid to receive software to process medical bills for doctors, only to learn there were no job leads and the software was virtually worthless. Yet another victim wired money to purchase vending machines after responding to a newspaper ad, but no machines were delivered.
A Kirkland woman, while trying to help her husband find work, received an innocent-looking e-mail message that included a link to a Web site that supposedly contained jobs announcements for engineers. When she clicked on the link, the site downloaded malicious software.
The software blocked her ability to download updates for her anti-virus provider and Microsoft, sent spam e-mails from her account and changed settings so that other computers on the couple's home network had a chance of receiving erroneous information. For example, it tampered with settings so that certain advertisements chosen by the virus program showed up during Google searches.
The engineer said he ultimately had to reformat the hard drive to remove the virus.
The same out-of-work engineer received a separate e-mail appearing to come from a legitimate headhunter he had previously contacted. The well-written message appeared to have been sent from a staffing agency that employs individuals at high-tech companies. It asked him to update his online resume because the headhunter thought he'd be a good fit for a position. The man said he clicked on the link and was about to enter his personal information when he discovered that the Web address he was sent to was a fake.
JOB SEEKER TIPS
· Avoid any job that requires you to pay money up front. And never send money by Western Union or Moneygram to someone you don't know, even if you are sent a check. Fraudulent wire transfers are one of the most common scams.
· Protect your personal information.
Use caution when posting your resume online and take advantage of tools that allow you to hide your contact information. Reputable career Web sites will provide you with the opportunity to communicate with potential employers via a confidential e-mail address, so that your real e-mail address remains private.
Never include your Social Security number, driver's license or birth date on an online resume or share this information until you have confirmed that the employer and the job offer are genuine.
· Don't click on links sent in e-mails.
· Check out potential employers with the Better Business Bureau and independently confirm the employer's identity. It should be a red flag if an employer uses a common e-mail account like Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or MSN instead of a corporate domain. Be suspicious, too, if the only provided phone number always goes to voicemail or if the only available contact address is a P.O. box.
· Secure your computer. Ensure that your computer operating software and anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are updated to detect the latest threats and protect your system.
· Steer clear of too-good-to-be-true offers that promise large paychecks for few hours of work.