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Scams Target Employees in Transition

At-Home Workers Are at Particular Risk

In response to this unprecedented global pandemic, many businesses are making arrangements for their employees to work from home. This means there’s an even greater risk for people to be targeted by scammers, especially through phishing emails or unsecured network connections. 

Here are two common scams targeting at-home workers:

1. Tech support scams 

As people move from an office setting to working from home, some are finding themselves more vulnerable to tech support scams. Employees may attempt to solve technical issues themselves that are beyond their skill levels when confronted with pop-up windows and virus alerts. At the Better Business Bureau, we’re receiving more and more reports of scammed victims, like the person who recently lost nearly $250 to a tech support scam. According to the report, after a pop-up window appeared, the user’s computer froze, and the instructions on the pop-up said to contact a company claiming to be affiliated with Apple. After following the directions, the consumer paid for what he thought would fix the problem, but never heard from the tech support company again.

2. Business email scam 

The business email compromise scam is another concern for employees transitioning to a work-from-home environment. Scammers impersonate emails that appear to come directly from their boss or central office. These fraudulent emails are often used to request wire transfer payments to vendors. While this has been a common scheme, scammers using personal emails are changing their approach and now use the pandemic as a way to convince the recipient to take action. Compromised business emails may be used to request payments for reimbursements, bogus invoice payments, or office equipment. 

Bearing this in mind, if you’re an employer who is attempting to shift members of your team to work-from-home status, consider the following strategies:

Establish work-from-home IT policies. When setting up remote employees, establish a detailed plan to help them with technical problems they might encounter. Ensure they know who to contact for tech support. The plan should protect the business, its employees,
and customers from having their personal and professional information compromised.

Maintain office billing policies at home. One of the best ways to combat business email compromise scams is to set a policy requiring employees to confirm payment requests in person or over the phone, rather than just via email. Texting is never to be used for any billing.

Review IT practices. Regularly review IT practices with your employees through this unprecedented time. Repetition reinforces.

When You’re Looking for New Employment

It’s important to be aware of potential scams that target job seekers. Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, when the economy was thriving and unemployment was at a record low, employment scams were ranked the top riskiest scam in both 2018 and 2019 on the BBB Scam Tracker. I see no reason to think 2020 will be any different once the economy begins a comeback and COVID-19 is in the rear-view mirror.

Stay alert to fraudulent strategies:

Advertised work-from-home opportunities aren’t always what they seem, especially for those recently furloughed, laid off, or terminated. A common red flag is the opportunity to work from home, with minimum effort and a high hourly wage. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably not true.

• Look out for unusual hiring procedures. Job offers without interviews are often indicative of employment scams. Be on the lookout for scam employers who overpay and then ask you to wire back the difference. Be suspect of companies that promise opportunities or high income, but request up-front payment for the job training needed.

To avoid falling for job scams, it’s always recommended to check job postings from a potential employer’s own website, check government-managed job sites, and/or research job openings referenced to you by people you trust.

Scammers will use email, social media, mimic established online job boards and actual company websites along with pictures and points of contact – anything that will get them into an electronic or phone conversation with a potential mark they can bilk. Be smart and research, research, research. Don’t become a scam victim. Do become a new job victor.

Take the time to research ongoing job scams and all types of scams at BBB.org/ScamTracker. It’s a free service for consumers. 

Barry N. Moore
Barry N. Moore is president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia, including Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Petersburg, along with forty-two Virginia counties. Barry lives in Richmond with his family.
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