LOVELAND, Ohio -- Abigail Gimball is working a landscaping job in Loveland, Ohio, but says home improvement work is much harder work than what you see on HGTV.
So she's looking for a more steady position, ideally in bookkeeping. She was recently thrilled to find a $25 per hour, work-from-home book keeping job, on the State of Ohio's job site, Ohio Means Jobs.
She assumed the state run site vetted its listings for safety and legitimacy.
After a quick online interview, Gimball says, she was hired. A few days later, she says, "they sent me this check for $2,300, and said I needed to cash it in my bank to buy the computer and all the stuff I would need."
It all sounded on the up-and-up, so as instructed, she went to deposit it.
"I went to the ATM, at PNC which is my bank, and tried to cash it, put it in there three different times, and it wasn't working." A teller then told her the check may have been a forgery.
It's a good thing PNC red-flagged the check, because Gimball was about to fall for the classic work-from-home scam.
How the work-from-home scam works
Companies send you a big advance check, and job hunters who need money immediately cash it, not realizing it is counterfeit and will eventually bounce.
The scammer then asks you to send some off the money to an "agent" who will supply you with a laptop and material. But as soon as you do that, the company (scammer) disappears, and leaves you $1,000 or more in the hole.
"How many people would just jump at this without checking?" Gimball asked.
Another woman who almost became a victim of a job scam is Muriel Casavetes of Clermont County.
She applied for a mystery shopping job she found on Career Builder, another legitimate employment site.
"I've heard of other people being a mystery shopper," she said. "It sounds like fun, and I have extra time."
How the mystery shopper scam works
But when Casavetes received a check for $2,000, and was instructed to test out Walmart's Money Gram counter, she got suspicious.
This is the classic mystery shopper, or secret shopper scam, where instead of testing a service you are wiring your own cash directly to the scammer. You can never get it back. We recently spoke with another woman targeted by this scam, and showed where to find legitimate secret shopper jobs.
Good thing Casavetes was suspicious. Despite the Career Builder letterhead on the material she received with the check, Career Builder does not offer jobs: they are just the listing service.
We contacted Ohio Means Jobs, where spokesman Bret Crow said "Ohio Means Jobs takes these kinds of issues seriously and work diligently to ensure the reliability of the system. Soon, a new feature will require employers to register with us and have a tax ID number to prevent fraud." (See full statement below).
Career Builder, meantime, acknowledges the fake listings on its site, saying, "you may receive email that look like Career Builder job offers. These email messages spoof the Career Builder logo, but are attempting to scam you out of money."
- There is no face to face interview
- The job description is vague
- You are hired almost immediately, possibly via an instant messaging service
- It is an "international" company
- You receive a check before any work
Muriel Casavetes and Abigail Gimbal are two savvy women, of different ages and backgrounds. But both were almost fooled, by the legitimacy of the job site they were using.
"I know I would have been devastated if my savings would have been wiped out," Casavetes said. "That's $3,000."
Her warning should be heeded by all online job hunters, so you don't waste your money.
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FULL STATEMENT FROM OHIO MEANS JOBS
We take these kinds of issues seriously and work diligently to ensure the reliability of the system. We appreciate this being brought to our attention. Here are some of the checks and balances we have instituted to protect job seekers:
- A vetting process for each job that includes continual scans for key words and phrases to verify that a job ad is legitimate. The review process can takes up to four hours before it posts to the website. (Keep in mind that as of June 3, there are 155,838 jobs posted on OMJ.)
- A process to pull jobs off the website if visitors suspect a scam and report it. Once flagged, we automatically delete the job from the website and any other jobs with similar key words or phrases and/or those that include the same employer or website.
- In an effort to further reduce the chances of being scammed, a soon-to-be-released enhancement will prohibit job postings by employers who have not registered with us. Employers will have to have a state ID Tax number in order to be granted access to OMJ to post a job.
- Helpful hints for job seekers under the “avoid scams” button so they know what to look for and can take additional steps to protect themselves besides the protections embedded in the website. We recommend visitors avoid sites or job postings that request personal information. We remind users that they should never provide their Social Security numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, checking account information or other private information when responding to job opportunities online. We also recommend that visitors use their best judgment and conduct additional research before applying for a job. We urge job seekers to keep in mind that employers typically conduct a face-to-face interview before offering them a job.