As you know, when the Coronavirus hit the US, many people lost their jobs because of the economic shutdown.
During this time, Chris O. was one of these people.
So, he turned to the freelancing website Upwork in hopes of making some money.
After applying for a handful of job postings on the Upwork site, Chris did a Skype interview.
The job was a marketing position at a well-known pharmaceutical company.
A few days later, he got an offer letter on what appeared to be official company letterhead.
And he received a check from the company to buy supplies his new employer said were for his home office.
Chris deposited the check. Once it seemed to have cleared, he used the funds to send money to accounts listed on an invoice sent from his new boss.
He sent one payment for office supplies through the money transfer app Zelle and a second via Venmo.
Minutes later, he received a notice that his bank account was overdrawn by $3,000.
Chris had fallen victim to an elaborate version of a classic check scam.
This particular scam has found renewed life with so many people working from home.
Once people are in the middle of the scam, they’re told to send money through money transfer apps such as Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle.
Innocent victims are losing thousands of dollars at a time.
In fact, The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 52,000 reports of coronavirus-related fraud.
These scammers have cost folks almost $40 million.
With so many people looking for freelance work online, I want to share a few tips to help you stay safe.
Wait to clear.
If a new employer sends you a check always be careful the first time you cash it.
Make sure it clears before you do anything else.
If the check is from a major bank such as Wells Fargo, go to a local branch and ask them to cash the check for you.
Never agree to send money on behalf of the company unless you know the funds are available and unless you have done your due diligence to make sure the company is legit.
Many victims of work-from-home job scams encountered scammers on Upwork.
But fraudsters are good at convincing people to move quickly off the platform.
They’ll ask to conduct interviews on Skype…
Or transfer money using apps instead of Upwork’s payment processing system.
Freelance websites instruct users not to leave the platforms when connecting about jobs.
Yet, many users ignore the warning and do it anyway.
Thieves know as soon as the victim takes things off sites like Upwork, it’s no longer the site’s issue.
And there’s no recourse.
So, in these types of scams, when the money is gone – it’s gone. This is why you don’t want to leave the platform where you found the job when conducting payments.
Research the company.
Most smart scammers will pretend to represent a legitimate company.
In the case of Chris O., the scammer claimed they worked for a real pharmaceutical company.
But, the scammer had stolen the company’s letterhead and sent a check that appeared to be from the company.
For any job offer you should immediately do some research on the employer.
At the very least the company will have a website.
Make sure that the e-mail you’ve been corresponding with matches the company’s e-mail.
If the e-mail is different this could be a red flag.
To guarantee the job is legitimate call the company and speak with Human Resources. (A real, live person.)
Ask them about the job and tell them who you had been in contact with.
They should be happy to verify all the information.
To sum up:
Make sure you are careful with any new employer and do your research before agreeing to any new job…
And especially before sending money to anyone.
And, as usual, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.