Recently, I’ve encountered several victims of a classified ad scam. A majority of these are college students looking for employment online through classified ad websites and have been scammed into doing work in exchange for fake checks from banks that don’t actually exist. There has even been a recent news story about how the Mount Vernon Post Office discovered a fake check scam in our own community.
What Fraudsters Look for:
Generally, the majority of classified ad scams want to hire you to “work” for them in some capacity: weekly cleaning; doing their payroll from your home; caregiving to an ill family member; or cleaning a house, condo or apartment before they move here. They then mail you a check, usually much more than the salary discussed, have you cash the check, and then want you to wire most of the money back to them. Never agree to wire money or send official checks in response to a classified ad. Even if fraudsters are not looking to get job-seekers to wire money, they might be phishing for personal information in order to commit identity theft.
How to Avoid Being Scammed:
First and foremost, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you come across a classified ad, do a little online research of the company. Don’t send them any portfolio pieces, résumé, cover letter, reference list, or contact information before you’re confident the company is real. If you receive a check for work performed, you can check the bank routing number online to see if it is legitimate. If the routing number is correct, there is still the possibility the account number may not be valid. Lastly, never send money through a classified ad listing.
To avoid becoming victim to a classified ad scam, only deal locally with people you can meet in person. If you are selling online, be sure that cashier checks and money orders are not fake. As always, never provide personal information like bank accounts, PayPal info, Social Security Numbers, etc. For more information about classified ad scams, visit fbi.gov.