CINCINNATI - Rob thought it was strange he was contacted by a potential employer late at night via a text message, but because of the opportunity that was being presented, he went along with it. For a while.
The 57-year-old asked the I-Team not to use his last name because he doesn't want his employer to know he's looking for new work. Rob moved from California to Sharonville six months ago, and believes he's applied for 20 or 30 jobs since then. In January, he said he filled an online application for an assistant managerial position at Procter & Gamble.
Three weeks after submitting the application, Rob says his phone buzzed with a text message from a strange number around 9:30 p.m.
"Good Day Am Mr. Len Sauer from P&G Company," it read. "Your resume have been reviewed and posted to our head dpt Reply Back if interested…"
Despite the terrible grammar, questionable sentence structure and missing words, Rob didn't disregard the text message because he was interested in working for Procter & Gamble. He replied to the text, which came from a phone number that was less than nine digits, and said he wanted to talk.
If the initial text message didn't raise any red flags for Rob, what happened the following morning did. Early the next morning the mysterious "Mr. Sauer" told him to log in to this Yahoo! account and begin messaging him so he could evaluate his qualifications.
"If I didn't answer him immediately on instant messaging, he would text me, 'Where are you?'" Rob said. "At the time, it was kind of like, 'Boy this guy is persistent.'"
Then Mr. Sauer revealed the "catch."
"When he said it would cost $550 for software," Rob said.
It was at this point Rob realized the entire situation was all a hoax. He immediately changed all his passwords and deleted his emails.
The email address used by the scammer – LenSauer@yahoo.com – has since been deleted as an active account.
The I-Team notified Procter & Gamble about the phony text messages and emails. The company was not aware of what happened to Rob, but said they were looking into the matter.
"There is a specific process for applying for positions at P&G, which involves applying at our online careers website…P&G would never ask a job seeker for any type of compensation or reach out via a text message," said spokesperson Mary Ralles.
Rob still doesn't know how the scammer got his personal cell phone number or knew he applied for a position with Procter & Gamble, but thinks if they're targeting him, then they're probably targeting others as well.
The Better Business Bureau hadn't heard of this particular scam prior to 9 On Your Side bringing it to the attention of the organization. However, the BBB says job seekers are frequently targeted by scammers. In 2011, identity thieves used the name of a construction company based out of Dayton, Ohio, to post fake job listings and access people's personal information.
Next Page: Find tips from the Better Business Bureau to help you avoid falling victim to a job scam
Tips to avoid job scam
- Job postings with grammatical errors, misspellings and multiple exclamation marks are likely scams. Ads promoting jobs with generic titles, such as administrative assistant or customer service representative, and containing the phrases "teleworking OK," "immediate start" and "no experience needed" are popular in scam ads.
- The email or piece of traditional mail contains a job offer for a position for which the consumer did not apply. The solicitation will likely come from an unknown sender and emails will usually be sent from a free account, like Yahoo! or Hotmail.
- The employer requires personal information – Social Security or bank account numbers right away via email or an online application – without allowing time to research the company or the position.
- There is no employment contract or consistent pay schedule. The work begins before a formal job offer has been made; the quality of work determines whether the job applicant is hired.
How to avoid falling for a Job Scam
- Ask questions. Legitimate employers should be willing to answer questions about the company and job. Steer clear of those not willing to provide details.
- Deal locally. When searching through online and offline classifieds, look for a company name, phone number, address and email address on the company's job posting, website and other communications; try contacting them before applying. Steer clear of a job situation if the alleged hiring manager continually claims to be out of town or out of the country.
- Check out businesses. Visit http://www.bbb.org to find a BBB Reliability Report on the business offering the work opportunity. Research the company name, hiring manager and product or service on an Internet search engine. Verify references, and where appropriate, check for business licensing.
- Read contracts thoroughly. Get employment offers and job descriptions in writing. Make sure verbal promises are in the agreement.
- Protect personal information. Although many employers verify Social Security numbers prior to employment, avoid putting this number on an initial application and make sure the company is legitimate. If a company demands bank account or credit card information, look elsewhere.
- Most legitimate employers don't charge fees. Applicants should avoid paying upfront fees or making purchases to receive a job or employment opportunities. Research free services online.
- Be careful pre-paying. If purchasing a business' starter kit, CD or other materials to start working from home: Know exactly what you are paying for and when it will arrive. Consider all possible costs (office supplies, software, etc.) and weigh them with the benefits (gas savings, convenience, etc.). Get the opportunity and work agreement in writing before accepting the offer.
- Never forward or wire money to a third party.
- Be wary of fake checks. If concerned, have paychecks carefully inspected by an expert at a trusted financial institution before depositing them. Do not use the money until the funds have been collected by your financial institution. The "availability" of the funds is not good enough.
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38-time Emmy winner Brendan Keefe was named Best Reporter by the Ohio Associated Press in 2011, and Best Photographer in 2012 and 2013. He serves as Anchor and Chief Investigator for 9 On Your Side.
Jason Law joined 9 On Your Side in January 2013 as a investigative reporter with the I-Team.