When a big job opportunity turns into a big con job

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It's spring, a great time of the year as we all enjoy the arrival of warmer weather and for most a more active lifestyle. Spring also signals a new start for many as college graduates take their first steps into the "real" world and others feel that the time is right to move to better employment.

Spring also triggers a new round of scams and fraud as con artists move to take advantage.

The scam alert this week actually originates from Cathy Hill, one of the AARP Fraud Watch volunteers in Manchester Center.

A recent retiree, she has received two email announcements of employment opportunities. In each case, the offer was a notice of a job opening at a major company in another area of the country and offered a position paying in excess of $80,000. The announcement included general descriptions of the company, its workforce, and employee profile. Interested persons were asked to forward a resume by email response if he or she wanted to be considered for the position.

Our volunteer and I were suspicious of the offer and could only guess that hundreds of applicants responded to this message. Out of concern and curiosity, I called the company identified in the email. Yes indeed, the company had received hundreds of resumes applying for the job that was posted.

But there was one big problem: The company in question was not seeking applicants and does not use this approach to hire employees. The email was a scam.

The con artist used the name of a legitimate company with great credentials hoping that job seekers would jump at the opportunity to land what appeared to be a great job. The request for resumes was made specifying that they be sent to an email address contained in the offer; an email address that belongs to the scammer.

Other than the con artist, nobody actually knows how many people fell victim to this scam.

I have to assume that the number is at least in the hundreds based on information provided by the company identified in the email scam.

This brings us to the point of why this is a dangerous situation. Job applicants obviously use resumes to promote candidacy for employment. Resumes contain a treasure trove of personal information that includes work and education history, skills inventory, areas of interest, contact information and sometimes Social Security numbers. Resumes provide legitimate employers and con artists a baseline from which additional information can be obtained from the applicant or the applicant's references.

What should the applicant do? Consider ignoring the offer entirely. Legitimate employers do not send random emails to people who have not previously been in contact seeking employment. Consider the way in which the email requests a response. Ignore the offer if it asks that a resume be forwarded to an address that is not associated with the company purportedly making the employment announcement. If the offer is from FedEx the address should be to a person or department "@fedex.com," not to "george @yahoo.com."

If you feel the offer is legitimate, contact the human resources or employment office at that company to find out if they are hiring and, if so, how they would like you to proceed. In most situations, applicants will discover that the entire situation is fraud in which case the company needs to be alerted to the scam.

What should you do if you are not an applicant for a job? Take time to notify friends or family who you know are job seekers or recent graduates and pass along this information. Also, take an active role in combating the scam. Report it to the company whose name is being used and to your State consumer protection authority.

AARP's Fraud Watch Network was established exactly for this purpose — to educate the public on fraud. Join the effort by registering at AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork to receive fraud alerts or become a volunteer yourself.

The following contacts can be used for reporting fraud to State agencies:

New York: http://www.ag.ny.gov/bureau/consumer-frauds-bureau, or 800-771-7755.

Vermont: https://www.uvm.edu/consumer/, or 802-656-3183

Need help? Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network hotline at 877-908-3360.

Trained volunteers can help you at no cost. You can also register on line at www.AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork to receive alerts.

Questions or concerns? Contact me, egreenblott@aarp.org.

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator serving as the Vermont AARP Fraud Watch Network Coordinator.

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