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Remote Employment Scams
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Courtney (She/Her)
Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor
Posted January 3, 2023
If there has been anything good brought on by the pandemic, it was the increased opportunities for remote work. However, with this comes a fraudsters dream of new ways of scamming people out of money. Keep reading to learn more about online income scams, how they work, and ways to avoid them.
What they are
Income can be hard to find and money goes fast in college. This is why scammers are taking advantage of students by promising them remote work options with decent pay. It sounds like a dream come true until you notice you’ve lost money instead of making it. The hard part is, sometimes you won’t know it’s a scam until you get your first paycheck or realize one is never coming.
How they work
Most online income scams seem like a dream at the beginning. The work is remote and typically something pretty easy for you to do independently with little to no training. There are two main ways fraudsters use this as their advantage to either gather your personal information or try to get you to end up sending them funds.

When they want access to your money, you’ll usually notice when you receive your first paycheck. It will usually be sent to you in the form of a direct deposit, known as an ACH payment, or a paper check. The first identifier will be the amount of the check which will be higher than expected. The scammer will then contact you acknowledging their “mistake” and say they don’t want you to have to wait for a new form of payment to be sent, but instead will ask you to send back the difference of the overpayment.

With ACH or check deposits, the funds are usually available to you immediately, however they can take 1-3 days to clear from the originating account. The problem is, the funds aren’t actually available in the account they originated from so the deposit will then be removed from your account leaving with you without the paycheck you were expecting minus the funds you sent back to the fraudster.

For example, you’re expecting your paycheck to total $800 and receive a deposit for $1,200 instead. You’re then asked to send the $400 overpayment back to them. Once the funds try to clear from your “employer’s” account and they realize they are not available, the full $1,200 will be withdrawn from your account leaving you with negative $400 from the transaction plus any other money you’ve already spent from the deposit.

Other times, the fraudster will gather the information you provided to your new “employer” and then simply disappear taking your personal information to use elsewhere.
Ways to avoid falling victim
This may sound scary, but we have a few ways to help you identify these scams before you fall for them and how to handle the situation if you realize it when you get your first paycheck.

     - If the job seems too good to be true or the pay seems much higher than the work input, trust your gut that this could be a big red flag and start doing your research.
     - Research the company and contact information provided. Are you able to find reviews on the company from reputable sources such as Glassdoor or Indeed? When you look up the contact information, does the company come up with information to their website or is it listed as possible fraud?
     - Avoid companies that are overly eager to hire without an interview or proper communication. Even with staffing shortages many companies are experiencing right now, there is still a process in place for hiring new employees that involves interviews, background checks, and screening processes to help protect themselves.
     - Don’t send back any overpayments. It’s rare that a legitimate business will make this mistake, but if it does happen, simply ask for the original deposit to be canceled or removed and a new paycheck provided. In this case, I would still check with your financial institution to see if they can verify the funds on the other end to see if they are really available or wait until the ACH or check payment would have time to clear from the originating account.
Sources:
https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/protect-yourself/consumer-advisories/beware-of-scams-targeting-college-and-graduate-students/
https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/work-from-home-scams
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