CBS 58 Investigates: Scammers targeting job seekers

CBS 58 Investigates: Scammers targeting job seekers

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin is warning people of an online scam that is targeting people who are looking for work. 

Justin Herzog lost his job during the pandemic and thought he was reentering the workforce as an executive assistant.

“The offer said it paid 20 dollars an hour for training, and 50 dollars an hour for normal work,” Herzog said.

Herzog says he did notice some red flags. The company was based overseas, and the job title of “executive assistant” is pretty vague. 

But Herzog says other things looked legit. The company website is real (but likely used as a front by scammers), the contract offer was very detailed, and the job interview took two hours. And on top of all that, the “company” actually put Herzog in job training.

“It was like multiple hours work and there were a couple of different projects I had to get done in the next two days,” he said. 

The company sent Herzog a check for almost $7 thousand. They told him it was for wages and to pay for office equipment. Herzog says he worked in finance for almost 20 years, and the check looked real to him.

“It had the watermarks, it was on actual secured print, so I mean it looked legitimate,” Herzog said. 

According to the BBB of WI, it’s called an “overpayment” scam.

Here’s how it works: the scammers send the victim a check, which looks like a real check, so the victim deposits it. The victim’s bank, which has no immediate reason to think the check is fake, makes the money available.

Lisa Schiller with the BBB says victims of the scam think the money was deposited. “The bank allows you to take the money out of your account,” she said. 

The scammers then give a reason to need some of the money back. In Herzog’s case, it was likely to send the money back that he didn’t use on office equipment.

Schiller says this is the focus of the scam, the refund. “You’re already seeing dollar signs with this large amount of money, so you send a little bit back to the so-called company.” 

Days later, the victim finds out the check was bogus, so they are out the original amount of the check, and whatever they sent to the scam company.

Schiller says this con is getting more popular as we come out of the pandemic. “We’re thinking that it’s only going to be more of an uptick as time goes on and businesses open up and need to start rehiring,” she said. 

Herzog smelled a rat, he actually contacted the bank that the scam check claimed to have originated from. The bank was real, the check was not. Herzog told CBS 58 his story so others won’t fall for the con.

“It was just odd that they put that much work into trying to make this work,” he said.  

Schiller says legitimate companies rarely send out $7 thousand checks to new hires, and if a job offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“With the state of the world and this economy, people want to believe that they’re going to get this dream job,” she said. 

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