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Summer Job Scams Are on the Rise – Protect Yourself With These Expert Tips

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Summer job opportunities for teens — along with the pay teens are receiving for gigs like babysitting — are on the rise in 2022. But along with the rise in summer jobs and pay comes a rise in job scams, experts say.

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Rhonda Perkins, attorney and chief of staff of the Federal Trade Commission’s division of marketing practices told CNNBusiness.com there were more than 16,000 job scam complaints filed in the first quarter of 2022.

Job scams come in many forms but, at the core, the purpose is the same: To get you to pay the scammer money or provide the scammer with information they can use to tap into your bank account or credit.

Younger people are especially susceptible to these scams, says Adam Levin, a cybersecurity multi-hyphenate, author, podcast host, and former Director of Consumer Affairs for New Jersey.

“[Scammers are] counting on the fact that, as a young person, you’re very focused on what you have to do to make money this summer. Everything they do is designed to use whatever is happening in the world or happening in your life as a way to extract personal information or dollars from you.”

In a phone interview, Levin shared some of the top red flags to look for as you start your job search this summer and ways to avoid some of the most common scams.

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Tread Carefully with Companies Who Want Too Much Information Too Quickly

There is a time and a place to give your employer your home address, social security number, and perhaps even your bank account information for direct deposit. But that time is not before you’ve had your first interview with the company, Levin emphasizes.

Likening it to a romance scam, Levin says, “They lull you into a sense of trust and come right at you.”

He continues, “The first time you communicate with a prospective employer, you shouldn’t be required to provide your social security number — and certainly never your credit card information.”

At some point, an employer will need your social security number to pay you, but not until after you’ve been hired.

Similarly, Levin says, “There’s no reason an employer needs your credit or debit card information. Handing them your debit card information is like just handing somebody cash.”

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Be Careful With What You Email

When the time comes to share your social security number or direct deposit details, don’t send this sensitive information via email or text.

“It’s always better to tell employers that you don’t provide personal identifying information over email or via text,” Levin says.

If you are working fully remote, you can offer to call the HR or accounting department to provide them with the information they need. Otherwise, drop off the information in person.

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Don’t Accept Jobs You Haven’t Applied For

If you receive a job offer when you haven’t applied at a company, it’s likely to be a scam designed to separate you from your personal information or cash.

“Don’t accept jobs you didn’t apply for,” Levin says. “A recruiter might contact you to see if you’re interested in a position, but that’s normally once you’ve established yourself.”

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Call the HR Department to Verify the Job Listing

Even if you’ve seen a job listing on a reputable website, it’s a good idea to verify it yourself before applying, Levin advises.

“It’s very easy to clone a business website and make it look legitimate,” Levin says. “That’s what scammers do and they’re very good at it.”

He says that the days where scammer sites and emails were riddled with typos and grammatical errors are offer. It can be very difficult to distinguish a fraudulent site from the real thing.

To give yourself an extra level of security, match up the contact information on the actual company website — not the link you clicked through from the job site — with the information in the ad. You can also call the HR department to verify the job listing and description.

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Set Up a Second Email and Phone Number for Your Job Search

We often think of our social security number as the holy grail of personal information and most people try to guard it closely. But, Levin says, most people don’t realize that your smartphone number can be an even more valuable source of personal information. It is usually the second part of multifactor authentication for websites, and it’s a number that most people will have their whole lives.

“It’s not like the old days where you changed your number when you moved. Now, your phone number is portable and can go anywhere with you,” he says.  

Calling your smartphone number “a skeleton key to your life,” he advises anyone who is job hunting to set up an alternate email and an alternate phone number exclusively for applying to jobs. That way, he says, “If a listing happens to be fraudulent, they won’t have your primary contact information.”

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Stage Your Background for Video Interviews

Similarly, if you’re doing a video call during an interview, make sure you don’t have personal identifying information in your background, Levin advises.

“People have a tendency to leave stuff around or have stuff on their walls,” he says. “What you don’t want is anything visible that could make it easier for someone to create the mosaic of your identity.”

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 If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

If a company representative comes on too strong and too fast, you have to think carefully about what they’re offering and what they are asking. If the job seems too good to be true, or the company is offering an exorbitant amount of money for a seemingly simple task, it could be a scam.

Again, you can always investigate by calling the company’s HR department directly.

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Avoid Any Job Ads Mentioning Gift Cards

Job scams come in many different forms, Levin explains, but some of the most common involve a secret shopper cashing a check, using some of the money to purchase merchandise, keeping some as pay, and mailing the rest back. Ultimately, though, the check will bounce.

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Another common scam involves purchasing gift cards. “If they ever want you to do anything that involves money or gift cards sent in return, run!”

Levin concludes. “Always steer clear of any jobs involving gift cards.”

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