(CBSNEWS) – Finding the right job can be challenging enough, but now experts are warning people to be on the lookout for scammers posing as potential employers. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says fraud involving fake job offers now ranks as the third riskiest type of scam for consumers overall, with an average of more than $6,000 lost for each victim. Americans have reported losing more than $2.9 million so far this year.
We spoke to one woman who thought her financial burdens were over when she received what she thought was a dream job offer – only to be driven deeper into debt.
“It was a very nice email. ‘I’m considering you, please respond back, tell me a little bit about yourself, where do you want to see yourself in 3 to 5 years?'” Kathleen Boylan told CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers.
She jumped at the opportunity after the mother of two had been searching for work on popular job sites for months. The position offered $90,000 a year to be the administrative assistant to a man named Steven at a Canadian-based company.
“I already started figuring out what I was going to do to repair the house. I was behind on tuition payments for my daughter’s school… so I was excited,” Boylan said.
“Welcome aboard,” the next email read. “You will receive a mail from FedEx with instructions.” As promised, Boylan got a check for $3,500 in the mail and directions to deposit it “through mobile, ATM or branch,” which she did at her local Wells Fargo.
Over the next few days, Steven kept her busy looking up flights for a potential business trip, even sending a passport photo. When a company bill needed to be paid, he told Boylan to buy reloadable cash cards so he could pay it off. She bought five $500 cards in and sent him the codes on the back.
That’s when Boylan said the man she thought was her boss stopped responding and reality slowly sunk in.
“You’d been swindled,” Duthiers said.
“Yeah,” Boylan said.
The check was fraudulent. Boylan lost over $3,500 dollars in total — funds her bank says she still owes.
“There was like hope for like two weeks that I’m going to be able to get back on my feet again, I”m going to make things right, my kids going to be able to not have to worry about tuition… and just to be financially solvent. You know, that hurt,” Boylan said.
Katherine Hutt, BBB’s national spokesperson, said all scams “want your money or they want your identity.”
“We’ve seen both with employment scams,” Hutt said.
Boylan now drives for a limousine service and ride share companies to make ends meet, but said the money stolen hit her hard.
“I can’t even look to the future. It’s just like how do I get to next month?” Boylan said.
In this case, the scammers used a real company and the photo of an actual employee, so Hutt said make sure you verify by calling the company. Wells Fargo told us security is its top priority, but it does not comment on specific ways it prevents fraud to ensure its measures are effective. The bank also warns consumers to be aware that scammers will often ask victims to deposit bad checks and withdraw funds before the check has actually cleared.
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