As the worldwide economy falters the number of online scams is increasing. Most recently a wide range of job offers has begun to arrive with e-mails. Almost every one of these offers is a classic case of e-mail spam. Some contain malicious code, others seek to gather personal information to use for identity theft and many are just trying to get some of your money.
The first thing to note is that any unsolicited offer or offer from a company where you have no prior relationship is illegal under the Can Spam Act of 2003. Unfortunately, the Can Span Act only covers misleading and spam messages from sources within the USA. Most of these messages originate in foreign countries where no no such laws exist.
When you receive messages like this from sources you do not know, the best thing you can do is to immediately delete them. Do not even open them. If your e-mail system allows you to flag messages as spam, then do it.
Some of these messages offer direct employment opportunities or work at home opportunities. While some may be legitimate, I have never seen one that was. Most of these message are intended to extract money or information from you.
Here are some of the various job related scams we have recently seen.
- Click on a zip file to open a job application. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you ever click on a zip file attachment from someone you do not know. Zip files have become the newest and best hiding places for viruses.
- Click on a link to go to a site to fill out a job application. The same rule applies. Never click on a link on any message from someone you do not know. Sometimes the link in the message looks like it is pointed to a major job site or a well-known company, but is really pointed to a phishing or scam site that wants to gather personal information. Sometimes a link looks like it points to a web page, but actually points to a malicious zip file or web page containing malicious code. Other times the link contains a code used to verify that the e-mail address they sent the message to is legitimate. If you click on the link, the only guarantee that you will receive is to that you will find your e-mail address on hundreds of additional spam lists. Unless you know how to read HTML code, you will never know if the link you see leads to the site shown in the link.
- The message requests a fee and guarantees a job position. Never pay anyone any money up front to help you to find a job. The chances are that you will never hear from them again.
- The offer includes very strong guarantees. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one can guarantee you a job and no one can legitimately guarantee that you will make money with a work-at-home opportunity.
- The potential employer requires personal information to process your application. Do not consider giving out personally information, especially a social security number, credit card numbers, drivers license number or other personal data that can be used for identity theft. One major clue is a request for a credit card number that they claim they will use to verify that you are who you say you are. Also, never include this information on any resume that may be posted on a legitimate job site. Too many people will have access to the information. You do not need any of this information for a resume.
- The return email address is a GMail, Yahoo or Hotmail account. No legitimate company or recruiter uses free e-mail addresses that cannot be traced back to them. The return e-mail address should always match the domain name for the company you are communicating with.
The best place to find a job is on a legitimate job site that you select, such as CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com. But as we mentioned earlier, be careful about the types of personal information that you post on an online resume. Even with a legitimate job site, you should never be required to provide a social security number or drivers license information.
The www used as a web site subdomain is supposed to stand for World Wide Web, but in many situations it really means Wild Wild West because of the nature of the threats. The majority of scams cannot be traced back to a perpetrator or the person is not prosecutable in the country where they live.
The vast majority of Internet scams start with an unsolicited e-mail message. You should therefore treat every message form someone you do not know as a potential threat and not an opportunity.