Consumer Alert: How to Avoid Covid-19 Job Scams, Fraudulent Purchases and Shady Business Opportunities

Are you at home unemployed and desperate for a job or motivated to fire up a startup business to make money during these perilous times affected by the widespread of the ( Covid-19) coronavirus pandemic? You’re not alone. With over 20.5 million U.S. citizens filing for unemployment as of June 2020, the job market, if it doesn’t get stronger pretty quickly, the economy could sputter into a recession. Or if you need to purchase online Covid-19 related products or basic consumer goods it is important that you learn how to buy quality products and not fall for the schemes disguised as legitimate.

What readers should beware of is that the coronavirus has flushed out hard-nosed thieves and scam artists who are hiding out in the digital world. Their mission is to prey on your need for a job or business opportunity to make income while being laid off from work due to the death-threatening virus.

“Laid off workers are desperate for income. Most are in isolated situations as Americans exercise self-quarantine and social distancing,” says Jim Hegarty, president and CEO of the Kansas & Iowa-based Better Business Bureau(BBB). Hegarty infers that people will spend much more time on their computers during self-quarantine and that scammers are ready to pounce. These faceless criminals will fool you into paying from “hundreds up to thousands” in upfront service fees to perform bogus “work at home” jobs or trick you into providing personal information like bank account information in exchange for relief funds benefits that you’ll never get your hands on because the thief will use your information to steal your identity.

News stories report that consumers have lost millions related to scams like credit card machines, charities, e-commerce including technology equipment. Even desperate individuals who are seeking products to cure the coronavirus or simply need to purchase medical supplies online can easily be scammed as well. Overall it is mandatory that you learn how to buy quality products and not fall for the schemes disguised as legitimate.

Example: studies have shown there’s “tens of thousands” of online scammers selling fake cures for the coronavirus when there’s no cures for the virus. If you decide to pay money to be cured of the coronavirus the scammer wins and you lose money. And, on the employment side, scammers are making automated calls to individuals with the opportunity to work nonexistent jobs for Amazon. First sign that you’re being misled into a false claim is when you’re required to pay upfront fees. The oldest scams that’s been around for decades are “envelope stuffing, medical billings, data entry,” along with other “work at home” schemes.

craig carpenito. U.S. government photo.
Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. U.S. government photo.

“The fact we have this dark underbelly that’s going to profit off of the fear this virus has brought into our daily lives is despicable,” said Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas. “It’s really terrifying to think about.”

Although businesses are gradually reopening following the coronavirus shutdowns and while governments are easing restrictions, many workers returning to work, yet still the layoffs are steadily rising. For over 13 straight weeks unemployment claims have exceeded one million.

heidi shierholz
Heidi Shierholz. U.S. government photo. (formerly Chief Economist U.S. Department of Labor)

“It’s still more than twice the worst week of the Great Recession,” said Heidi Shierholz, in the New York Times. Shierholz is the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. “It’s a sustained hemorrhaging of jobs unlike anything we’ve seen before.”

Hard times breeds ingenious ways for criminals to prey on society. The game is to outsmart the scam artist trying to empty your pockets. So if an offer to make money sounds too good to be true it probably is and should be avoided by any means necessary.

Scammers often use seductive words to entice unwarily individuals either by email, TV Ads, Youtube, craigslist, or cold calling, to lure them into a bogus transaction. Scammers use “word phrases” like the urgent ones listed here:

  • “Want to be your own boss?”
  • “Earn thousands of dollars per month working from home”
  • “Make money billing medical claims.”
  • “Work for Amazon from home.”
  • “Make $500 weekly as a Mystery Shopper”
  • “Assemble simple products at home.”
  • “Want to own your own business and make millions?”

Investigators have noticed a massive increase of pre-recorded fraudulent calls to citizens across the nation to work for Amazon. An Amazon “fake job offer” reported by the Federal Communications Commission(FCC), the call itself described a golden opportunity to “make up to $400 in a day.” The ominous call starts off~; “Hello, this is a courtesy invitation to work with Amazon from home,” the automated call says – “No sales or technical experience needed”“Spaces are limited so please call now,” as reported by ABCnews.com. Amazon call-center scams have increased astronomically since the beginning of the coronavirus.

work at home scam fbi image
Work at home scam image example. FBI image.

“The real con comes after you’ve made an initial purchase – normally about $97 – and they(scammers) call to try to upsell you with expensive and worthless coaching and training programs,” said Christine Durst, in a previous Fox Business News interview. Durst knows her business. She runs RatRaceRebellion.com. This unique website sifts through thousands of scams to find legitimate “work-from-home” jobs.

Durst explains that if an “ad” features palm trees, bikinis, a mansion, and a Ferrari, it’s probably a scam.

Warning Signs of Work-at-home or Money-making Business Opportunities

  • Job “Ads” indicating no skills or experience required
  • A pitch offers high pay for little or no work
  • Companies promise that a business opportunity or job offer is booming and will pay off quickly and easily
  • You’re required to pay upfront for training, certifications, directories or materials
covid fraud justice dept. Covid-19 Job Scams.
COVID fraud image example from Justice Dept.

FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule requires companies to disclose key information about offers of work at home jobs and business investment opportunities that they’re selling to provide references and to verify claims of how much money a person can earn.

So, how does the rule protect consumers considering to take on either work at home employment or an offered business opportunity. Read FTC rules: (The link is here; https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/bogus-business-opportunities).

  • For example, here is a partial outline of the FTC rules listed in the above link:
  • FTC rules allow consumers to request a one-page disclosure document explaining the opportunity.

If the proposed business opportunity or a work at home offer happens to make claims of how much money you’ll make, they must give you a separate(Earnings Claim Statement) with more specifics. Insist on seeing proof in writing for earnings claims, particularly if you’re responding to these kinds of “ads” like “Earn up to $10,000 per month” Across the top of the document should be these words in bold letters:( Earnings Claim Statement Required By Law). If the dollar amount doesn’t add up, walk away.

An FTC rule says that a seller must give you the disclosure document(s) at least seven days before you sign a contract or pay money upfront for anything.

It is illegal under FTC rules for business investment offers to misrepresent the nature of an investment. Example: to claim they’ll help you line up locations, outlets, accounts, or customers or that you’ll have exclusive territory – if it’s not true.

The FTC makes it clear that certain practices are against the law.

BBB Scam Listing

Better Business Bureau (BBB) lists the following work at home scams:

  • Envelope Stuffing
  • Data-Entry Workers
  • Proofreading
  • Information Technology
  • Phishing Scams
  • Remote Data Entry
  • Virtual Administrative Assistant
  • Medical Billing & Claims Processing
  • Online Survey Schemes
  • Assembly or Craft Work

Consumers must learn how to use the internet to investigate suspicious offers of opportunities to make a quick buck. To check companies for fraud the BBB said to visit their website to check out a company’s profile, search for accredited businesses and charities, file a complaint against a business, and post a customer review. Check the BBB scam tracker tool to see if a job or company matching the description of your job offer has been reported as a scam.

BBB officials further suggested that consumers should always investigate a suspicious work offer with their local Consumer Protection Agency or State Attorney General Office. Caution: Just because a company has no complaints or even if the company has a pretty good rating doesn’t mean it is legitimate because various shady businesses settle complaints and change their name to avoid detection.

As noted, the nation’s workforce took a terrible nosedive earlier this year due to the crippling effects of the global coronavirus pandemic shutdown upon the nation’s economy, shutting down the heavy flow of jobs that civilians depended upon to make a living. Meanwhile as the economy continues to take a hit, job scammers and other fraudulent schemers lurking online are on the rise as well to take advantage of people’s desire to find immediate work.

When the Covid-19 global pandemic saturated the American shores between December 2019 and January 2020, Better Business Bureau reported over 13,000 job listing scams in the United States. A Flexjob survey recently discovered that 19% of people in the workforce has suffered a job-related scam, yet 15% of job seekers avoided falling prey to these scams by conducting cross-reference research to ferret out the schemes.

Fear of the coronavirus has become a goldmine for scammers. They set up websites to sell bogus cures for the coronavirus including bogus self-test diabetic kits and use fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to rip-off your money or either steal your personal information. Scammers are forging emails mentioning the outbreak of the coronavirus and the emails appear to be from government institutions to trick users into opening the message, and subsequently, the email unleash malware.

Education is the number one key all consumers need to determine whether a job offer is legit or an outright scam.

Forbes online news recently published an article describing in detail how to investigate whether an online company offering work at home jobs is a scam.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/05/11/job-hunting-scams-amid-covid-19-pandemic/#6b06778f3c57

For example:

Scam Job: Use your computer to input keywords related to job descriptions such as “work-from-home,” “work-at-home” or even phrases such as “quick money” or “unlimited earning potential” If those phrases immediately “pop up,” be careful.

Legitimate Job: Legit job offers will use words like “remote work,” “virtual work,” or “telecommute jobs.” Once you come across jobs with these descriptions you can easily determine if they’re real by typing the same aforementioned words into Google and you’ll see names of real online companies.

There are websites that publish extensive lists of legitimate “work at home” jobs which includes blogging, marketing, writing, advertisement work, web design, online tutor, search engine specialist, Etsy store owner, Amazon affiliate etc. https://millennialmoney.com/online-jobs/

Additional resources for job seekers to find legit work:

www.careeronestop.org

www.usajobs.gov

https://www.self.inc/info/coronavirus-scams/

More Covid-19 Job Scams

Included here below as well are an additional top-20 scams out of 144 listed in the above link:

  • Vital Silver Product to Cure Coronavirus
  • Essential Oil Coronavirus Cure Scam
  • Social Media Cures from N-ergetics
  • Herbs to Prevent Viruses, including Covid-19
  • Covid-19 Tests for Medicare Patients
  • Refinancing Mortgages
  • Free iphone
  • Payday Loans of $5000,00
  • Free Netflix
  • U.S. Census in Exchange For a Stimulus Check
  • Social Security Covid-19 Relief
  • Testing Ploy to Gain Personal Medicaid and Medicare information.
  • Fake Login to Restore Bank Account
  • Social Security Scam
  • Covid-19 Grants
  • Cash App (cash flipping)
  • Unemployment Scam
  • Stimulus Check Direct Deposit
  • Paycheck Protection Loan Fee Scam
  • Text Messages Claiming Target is Offering Free Groceries For Customers

Scams will never die. There’s too much money up for grabs, money from unsuspecting job seekers whose need is to work from the comfort of their home, set their own hours, or invest in what appears to be a great opportunity to earn lucrative returns.

Scam artists are very clever. So it’s your job to investigate offers that promise to help you make lots of money for little or no work. Remember this common-sense rule of thumb: if you have to pay to work a job, you aren’t applying for a real job.

When in doubt check it out.

If you have been the victim of a work at home scam, a business or investment scam, call Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 1-888-672-2256. Also contact Better Business Bureau 1-877-382-4357 – or your local law enforcement agency.

Newsblaze Reporter Clarence Walker Jr. can be reached at: [email protected]

As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.

Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker’s work can be found at American Mafia.com, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.

Six of Walker’s crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?

Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the “Cold Case Murder Series” hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.

At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.

Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]