Watch out, college students—and soon-to-be college students! The FBI just released a PSA warning about an ongoing employment scam. It preys on students looking for a job, taking advantage of them at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives. (After all, those post-grad bills aren’t going to pay themselves.)
The scammers have been reaching students in two ways: by posting fake positions on college job boards and by e-mailing students’ school accounts directly.
Related: How to Avoid Job Offer Scams
The jobs are usually administrative positions. But instead of getting called in for an interview, things get sketchy—fast. Students who reply to the listings are sent fraudulent checks, which they are instructed to deposit into their bank accounts. Then, the students are told to withdraw money and send a portion to a third party via wire transfer (like Western Union or MoneyGram). The reason? To pay for software or other tools the students would need for their new “job.” Here’s an example from one of the spam e-mails:
"You will need some materials/software and also a time tracker to commence your training and orientation and also you need the software to get started with work. The funds for the software will be provided for you by the company via check. Make sure you use them as instructed for the software and I will refer you to the vendor you are to purchase them from, okay."
Inevitably, the first check doesn’t go through because it’s a fake, but by then it could be too late for the student who’s sending money, hoping they’ll be starting their new job soon. But it’s not just about losing a couple hundred dollars. According to the FBI, other consequences of getting duped by this scam include having your bank account closed due fraudulent activity, seeing a dent in your credit score, having your identity stolen, or even funding illicit or terrorist activities. Yikes.
It’s an important reminder to all students everywhere that you should never have to pay to get an internship or job (or a scholarship, for that matter). Also, be wary of job listings and e-mails that seem spammy, with things like poor grammar or disjointed writing. Trust your gut, and remember: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you’ve encountered this scam or others, or if you are a victim, get in touch with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center ASAP. They also recommend telling your campus police and forwarding any scam e-mails you’ve received.
Have you encountered any sketchy hiring scams like this before? What did you do about? More importantly, what did your college do about it? Leave a comment and tell your story.