Protect yourself from home office scams

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District Attorney Summer Stephan

With roughly 1.2 million San Diegans out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sea­sonal fluctuations, many people are looking for work-from-home opportunities. Scammers are ea­gerly victimizing would-be em­ployees on two fronts: through bogus work-at-home offers that require substantial upfront in­vestment and through online resume harvesting that results in identity theft.

Maybe you’ve seen the ads online: “Make $6,000 a month from the convenience of your own home. . .” The ad provides little information on what type of work or skills are required and encourages the victim to make contact by phone or email. That’s when the victim will be offered a “business op­portunity” that requires an up­front investment. These busi­ness opportunities typically fit into three types of scams:

  1. Upfront purchase of inven­tory – any business opportu­nity that requires more than $100 upfront is likely a scam designed to get you to buy merchandise at inflated prices. These opportunities are often pitched as “Amazon seller” or other “online store” businesses. Victims have been tricked into buying thousands of dollars of merchandise they neither need nor want. Amazon offers free tools and advice to would be sellers at sell.amazon.com.
  2. Fake check scams – you are sent a large check in the mail to “cover startup expenses.” The check has a substantial over­payment and you are asked to cash the check and wire the excess payment back to the scammer. After you deposit the check and wire out the money, the check bounces and you are out your money.
  3. Business coaching – the scammer will encourage you to go into business in an ar­ea of your choice. You will then be offered in­creasingly expensive “coaching packages” guaranteed to help you build and expand your business. The “coaching package” will consist of “web development” advice and other publicly available in­formation you could easily ac­cess for free on the Internet.

In addition to the pay-upfront scams, bad actors are targeting people who have posted their resumes on online recruit­ment sites. Rather than wait for people to respond to bogus ads, scammers contact victims with a job offer for a position with high pay and a work-from-home opportunity. A virtual interview, usually on Google Hangouts, is set up where the scammer pretends to interview the victim. Once the victim is offered a job, they are asked to provide a Social Security number and date of birth for the “hiring paperwork.” When scammers have this informa­tion, the victim never hears from the company again. The job applicant has unknowingly become a victim of identity theft.

Here is how to protect your­self from the resume harvest­ing scam:

  • Request the name of the hir­ing company before giving out personal information.
  • Research the hiring compa­ny to make sure the company is genuine.
  • Check the company’s repu­tation with the BBB and run the name through Ripoff Re­port.
  • Ask for contact information of the person conducting the interview.
  • Request a written job offer on company letterhead with the name and contact informa­tion for the person responsible for hiring.
  • Request hard copies of “hir­ing paperwork.”
  • Do not give your Social Se­curity number or date of birth during an initial interview.

If you find yourself at the end of a work-from-home resume scam, immediately contact your credit reporting agency and put a freeze on your credit. Contact the Identity Theft Re­source Center for information on how to protect your identity. You can also contact your local non-emergency police line or report the scam to the BBB and Federal Trade Commission. These reports help the FTC and other law enforcement stop any future scams.

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessi­bility between the DA’s Office and the public. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.

Stephens is the San Diego County District Attorney.

Protect yourself from home office scams

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