TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -Several factors could make a side income sound appealing, whether it provides an increase in a holiday gift budget or if it provides extra cash flow as unemployment remains high due to the pandemic.
Regardless of reasoning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about the Secret Shopper scam.
It may start in the form of an online application or a message from someone mentioning an employment opportunity.
After filling out the application, a check is sent for deposit.
A portion of the check is meant for the scam victim to keep for themselves and the remainder is used to buy gift cards.
The victim sends the codes on the gift card to the employer and the funds are wiped from the cards.
The bank, in the meantime, detects the check is phony and the victim is held responsible to pay back what was spent.
Denise Groene, State Director for the Better Business Bureau, said avoiding this scenario starts with researching any company that says they are hiring.
“If there is an employment opportunity, the company’s going to have it on their website (9) so do some verification to make sure that one that company even exists, and two that they truly are hiring,” she said.
“The thing is with these job opportunities the scammer’s not after your money, but they might be after your personal information which they might get if you fill out that job application.”
The way a company presents itself give a clue to if the opportunity is real.
“Grammar errors on the application or on the job listing itself, very vague details on what the position is and also any company that’s going to hire someone is going to go through an interview process,” she said.
Groene said legitimate businesses will put an applicant through a thorough candidate process.
“They want to make sure you’re the ideal candidate that they’re looking for,” Groene said.
“A lot of companies with COVID right now are doing virtual job interviews so you’re at least face to face to see somebody to know that you’re truly talking to the organization that you think you are.”
How the business communicates may also serve as an alarm.
“If your only communication with this business is through text message or email, that would be a red flag that it’s not a legitimate opportunity,” she said.
Groene said to wait before acting on the company’s demands.
“These scammers act on urgency so they want you to immediately deposit that check, immediately go to the store to purchase gift cards and immediately give them those gift card numbers because they know it’s only a matter of time before you get that call from the bank letting you know you deposited a fake check,” she said.
“The problem comes if you deposit that check before you get clarification from the bank that it’s been cleared and you’ve already made purchases because you already used your own money when you thought it was good funds but the bank is saying that it’s a phony check.”
Groene adds to be cautious of opportunities that sound too good to be true.
Internet scams can be reported to the FBI’s cyber crime division here and to the BBB here.
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