Did you know a job search puts you at a higher risk of getting ripped off, scammed, suckered, or “phished”? (“Phishing” is the term for fraudulent — but official-looking — emails that attempt to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and financial details.)

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

Online security firms report there has been a 125% increase in social media phishing attacks since 2012. Job seekers are particularly vulnerable because job applicants are accustomed to being asked very personal information during an interview, so an inquiry from a prospective employer that asks for personal details doesn’t seem unusual.

Job search scams target everybody — people of all ages, income levels, and educational backgrounds have fallen for job scams. Scammers don’t single out anyone, and you don’t have to be dumb to fall for a scam. Plenty of smart people have fallen for scams.

However, job seekers that are most at risk for being scammed are those who are desperate, and that includes people who can least afford to lose money to these kinds of scams. That is especially sad, because these are people who may be living paycheck to paycheck and might need money quickly. If someone is not expecting to lose their job, they can be especially vulnerable because they are desperate. The long-term unemployed are also at risk, because the scam might appear to be a “lifeline” that offers immediate income.

There are several common job scams that job seekers might face. Work-from-home scams are one of the top rip-offs that target job seekers.

5 things you should know about work-from-home scams:

1.         More Americans are working from home. An estimated 30 million people work from a home office at least once a week, and many work satisfaction surveys reveal that workers would trade a lower salary for the flexibility of telecommuting. So it’s no wonder that work-from-home scams are proliferating.

2.         Some work-at-home scams involve “pay-to-play” schemes. An example would be if you are asked to send money in exchange for a special kit, supplies, or software that you can use to earn money working from home. Sometimes the company will promise to reimburse you when you are hired, but the job offer never materializes. Or the scammer might ask you to pay a subscription fee to access a website or a list of work-at-home opportunities.

3.         You’re asked to deposit a legitimate-looking check. This is a very common scam. They tell you that once you deposit the check, you are to wire them the money or buy products online, and then you’re left holding the bag when the check bounces. Your bank will require you to cover the full amount of the check plus bank service fees.

4.         Some schemes target people looking for extra holiday income. This works well for the scammers since many of these jobs are advertised as part-time and work-at-home jobs. You have a lot of people who want to make an extra $100 for buying presents at the holiday time, so you’ll probably see more of those advertised around the holidays than you would at other times of the year. However, anytime a scammer can make money, they’re going to take advantage of it, holiday or not.

5.         The most common work-at-home scams are “envelope-stuffing” jobs, assembly jobs (where you purchase supplies to assemble a craft or item but when you submit the completed items for payment, they are rejected as “not being up to standards”), rebate processing, online survey-taking, and medical billing.

Be particularly cautious if the “employer” requests payment for something in the form of a pre-paid Visa card. It is very difficult to recover the money lost to a fraudulent transaction with a pre-paid debit card as there is often no paper trail.

Some work-at-home business opportunities promise a refund if you’re not satisfied; however, job seekers that have attempted to obtain a refund are usually not successful.