Employment Scams: When Jobs Are Too Good To Be True

Employment Scams: When Jobs Are Too Good To Be True

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Editor's Note: With young people desperate for jobs, many have fallen victim to job scams – seemingly great employment opportunities that turn out to be hustles. De-Bug writers share experiences of getting jobs that were, in fact, too good to be true.

Just Build Your Pyramid

When I was working in a movie theater, a man approached me and said, "Hey! I'm 25 and retired. How would you like to follow in my footsteps?" Automatically, I said yes without thinking what the "job" may be. I got his contact information and met with him two days after at an "entrepreneurs house party.” I was told that I could make the kind of money that someone only dreams of, as long as I worked hard enough. Later, I found out that it was a pyramid scheme when they brought out the product — energy drinks, jewelry, and chocolate. I was told that I needed a starter kit that was worth $500 so that I can start giving out hooks (samples). All I was hearing was, “You have to spend this much for this, and this, and this.” At that point, I just started noticing that all they were talking about was how much money I would have to spend, not how much money I was going to make. They had samples there as well: small cut-up pieces of chocolate and shot-sized samples of the energy drinks. I started drinking as many as I could while eating handfuls of chocolate. The guy hosting the party caught me and said that I’d have to save some for the rest of the people. I told him "Hey, there is hella money being made here. What’s a few samples right?" His reply was "It’s coming out of my pocket." The guy who invited me to the party told me, "It might not work out if I wasn't ready to follow.” At that point, I didn’t know what that meant, but that’s one trend I'm glad I didn't follow.
- Octavio Martinez

Secret Shopper and Big Checks

Although I was only 19 at the time, I still should have known better. I fell into “Secret/Mystery Shopper job” scam. Here’s how it worked on me. I saw an advertisement posted on Craigslist, claiming that if I worked for them, I would be paid up to $600 to walk into stores and evaluate customer service. Although there are such jobs that are legitimate, the one I signed up for was not. All it asked for was my name, birthdate, email, and the city I currently resided in. Shortly after sending the information, I received an email with instructions to visit a local restaurant. I would then have to reply with a review when I had finished. A few days later I received a check for $3,450, which just happened to be the exact amount of money the four guys I lived with paid for the house we were renting. What was even more strange was the fact that it came in the mail to my job, even though I never disclosed my work address. I was told to deposit the check and wire $2,850 to a bank account and keep $600 for myself. A light turned on in my brain, and I immediately shredded the check. As I said before, I should have known better.
- David Schmenk

Take This Survey
This particular scam I was lured into tries to lure people into it by claiming to be the easiest paycheck you could ever get. While there isn't much effort in clicking a mouse, there is a lot of effort to sign up. The site asks you for all sorts of personal information, like your full name, address (which it will check to see if it is real), phone number, everything. Even when you get to filling out surveys, you hardly get any money for it. You end up spending hours filling out a hundred surveys just to make a few bucks. On top of that, your information gets sold by the website and you get junk mail both online and at home. That is initially why this “job” existed and how those sites really made their money. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Juan Carlos Gonzalez

Money In The Bank
One day I applied for a house sitter position in the classified section of the website. The position detailed simple day-to-day tasks like keeping the house clean and recommended stay-in living to make sure the house doesn't get robbed. I applied to the advertisement with no hesitation. A day later, I received an email from the head of the household telling me about my compensation and the funds for keeping the fridge and cleaning products fully stocked. He mentioned in the email about instructions to follow when I received the check and to keep $1,500 for myself as my pay. I was told to deposit the check in my bank account. That was a challenge for me because I didn’t have a bank account at the time, and emailed him my problem.

Two days later he replied saying that it did not matter and to cash the check at any locations that were willing to cash it for me. The next day I received the check for $4,400 and given a list of items to retrieve from the money after it was cashed and also to put aside $1,500 for my pay.

After the check was in my hand, I had to think about it for a moment and wonder, “What if this is a scam?” After that, I received a second email in the same day asking if I already cashed the check and if not to cash it immediately.

I then realized that I'd been “got.” I was trying to get a job, and almost got scammed.
- Alex Gutierrez

Octavio Martinez, David Schmenk, Juan Carlos Gonzalez and Alex Gutierrez are writers for Silicon Valley De-Bug.