Craig Johnson, Clark.com
With the economy thriving, many employers are making concerted efforts to hire more people. As fruitful as these times are for those looking for work, caution is still necessary: There are all kinds of job scams out there.
One of the more prevalent employment frauds right now is the virtual assistant scam. People who are inclined to work from home are drawn to these types of jobs because they can provide a ton of flexibility and decent pay.
Here’s how to spot a virtual assistant scam
As we’ve discussed before, virtual assistant jobs are one of the hottest in the market right now. They typically involve signing a contract and working remotely to complete various tasks or projects of an administrative or clerical nature. Much of the work is done on the computer, through email and via phone.
Here’s how the virtual assistant scam virtually unfolds: A job seeker will get a email, sometimes several months after they’ve applied for a specific position, asking if they would be open to being a personal assistant, usually because the initial slot has been filled. The poster may even mention payment terms like $500 or $600 a week.
Of course, many people in need of a job would logically be interested in what is basically a work-from-home job that pays around $600 a week. To further entice the innocent job seeker, the scammer may propose to send them money upfront, usually the first week’s pay.
From there, the criminal may ask that their new virtual assistant deposit the money into their own account and draw from it for the tasks/projects that need to be done. What the victim soon discovers is that not only is the money not actually in their account, but the authorities may be inquiring of them as well.
In some cases, crooks have stolen credit card numbers from unsuspecting victims. The criminals may buy goods on Amazon or some other marketplace and send the items to a home or public site. They then hire someone as a “personal assistant” to go retrieve the products from various locations around the city.
These assistants may believe they are making honest money, but in reality they are part of a criminal enterprise.
So as not to get tied up in various virtual assistant scams, here are some ways to tell whether a job is legit or not:
5 telltale signs of a virtual assistant scam
- You haven’t applied for the job: One of the main signs of a job scam is if someone contacts you out of the blue. These days, criminals can get your email from lists on the Dark Web or through other means. They use these lists for phishing campaigns and other scams.
- You’re hired instantly: It’s hard enough getting a job with people that are well familiar with you. Companies just don’t instantly hire people, especially those they have little information about.
- Typos or grammatical errors: If you receive correspondence with grammar mistakes and typos, that’s a major red flag. Any reputable organization will go through the trouble to proofread what they send out, especially to a job candidate.
- They ask for personal info via email or phone: Never give your personal info, especially your Social Security number and bank account numbers, to a potential employer unless you’re completely sure the job is legit and you’ve met with someone in person.
- They pay you upfront: Let’s be honest, very few companies pay upfront, especially those who haven’t met and vetted you. Chances are that if they wire you some money, it’s for some nefarious reason.
Final takeway: If you’re contacted by a suspicious person or firm, do your research by Googling the business or organization to see if they exist and where they’re located. Go to Glassdoor.com and LinkedIn to see if you can find employee feedback. Check the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission to see if they pop up on any scam lists.