Easy money at your expense

By Kimberly Wilson

Looking for a job for after graduation or for the summer? Be careful of bogus advertisements for scams that will cost you dearly. Many of these job offers sound like quick money and boast their ability to fit into our busy schedules. And who wouldn’t want to make a lot of money working at home like some of these offers promise? Well these “too good to be true” offers will, more often than not, leave you jobless at a heavy cost.

Courtesy faqs.org
Courtesy faqs.org

Most tempting, especially to our generation, is the “make money with Twitter” scam. This offer comes addressed to your inbox with an enticing subject line and promises the ability to earn up to $250-$873 per day using Twitter. The ad will tell you that you can participate in the seven-day trial and that all you need is the training CD for the low cost of $1.95. However, what they don’t tell you is that if you do not cancel within seven days of the CD being ordered – possibly before it’s even received – you will be charged an additional $47-$99.99 per month even after the trial period ends. As a cherry on top, their software often sneaks in malware that could harm your computer.

There are many con artists out there who post ads for employment opportunities and require an upfront fee that is promised to be refunded in full once you start working. These ads may not be as easy to spot as you may think. Many times, the fake ads are posted in the same classified section as the legitimate ads, making them seem valid. In fact, I almost fell for such a scam.

The email informed me that all I had to do was complete some online job surveys to be eligible for a fat $900 a week. The catch? When you email the company back to inquire about the ad, they tell you that you have to pay an upfront fee of $75 in order to be “hired.” Of course, I was assured that I would make that $75 back in no time.

The good news is that I was smart enough not to spend the $75, but the bad news is they took my email address and put it on some sort of list to sell to other companies involved in similar scams. Now my inbox is flooded with purported “job offers.” After the fact, I Google-searched one of the companies, only to find out that it is indeed a fraud.

Now, there are a few red flags to watch out for when job hunting. If it states in a job posting ad that you will be required to pay for job certifications, materials and other services, proceed with caution.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), flashy and aggressive job ads are usually scams; legitimate jobs don’t usually need to beg for applicants. If the ad doesn’t provide details about the location of the employer that should be flag number two. Even worse is if the advertisement boasts about being “totally legit” or “scam free.”

Another warning sign is unsolicited email with a link to the “company website.” Clicking on this link could take you to an imposter website that could install malware on your computer. Such parasitic programs are used to “phish” and pull bank account information, addresses, social security numbers and other confidential information off of your computer. Once the scammers have that information, stealing your identity is a cinch.

If any of this sound familiar, I urge you to take the time to do a little research on the company. The Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) has a great database for companies, complete with reviews, complaints, and ratings. Monster.com has a section of their website dedicated to helping educate job hunters about possible scams. The FTC also has an educational video with tips to help avoid job scams on their website.

Many job posting websites post warnings about possible scams. Craigslist.org has a page with “Scam Alert” posted in red letters informing the reader of possible scams on the following page. Many of us don’t pay much attention to these alerts, but they actually offer good advice about how to weed out the bogus from the legitimate.

If you have complaints about a company, you can file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the Consumer Response Center by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), or online at www.ftc.gov by clicking on “Complaint Form”. You can also call the Consumer Protection Divisions of the District Attorney’s offices; Franklin County (413-774-3186), Hampshire County (413-586-9225) for informal mediation between you and the company. The University also offers assistance through Student Legal Services at (413-545-1995) or email at [email protected].

Kimberly Wilson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].