I had just settled into work when my phone rang, I answered and there was an automated message telling me it was the Revenue Agency, and that I needed to phone them back urgently and speak to a specific officer with regards to my tax affairs.
I, as do many, have an innate fear of the revenue services, and so immediately obliged. The person on the other end of the phone told me that I was being had up for fraud, and that I had been deliberately under paying my taxes and that I was being had up for tax evasion. I was confused and mortified. My taxes were paid. The officer on the other end of the phone told me that the Revenue Agency would be prosecuting me, he read out a whole long list of what the process would be and told me not to talk or interrupt him, and that the call was being recorded. All the time he spoke, my mind was racing, was it possible I owed taxes? Was it possible? Could I have made a mistake somehow? How come nobody had ever contacted me before? I tried arguing but was cut short and made to feel that if I did not oblige with this officer that I would end up in jail. It was only towards the end of the phone call that I started to get a feeling that something was not right. I pay my taxes. I had even had a rebate, how could this be possible? The whole thing was just not making sense, so I asked for his number and told him I would phone him back.
I was still not convinced that I wasn’t going to go to jail, but something was telling me to look into this carefully as the whole thing just seemed so totally ludicrous. I went online and looked up the phone number for the Revenue Agency, it was different to the number the officer had phoned me from. That was my first warning bell. I then looked up the Revenue Agency scam line and called them. They told me immediately that this was indeed a scam, and a rampant one at the moment. They told me not to return the call and to not answer again if they called me.
I was very relieved… and then it occurred to me. I write articles on scammers, I deal with job seekers every day who have been scammed, I know how scammers work, I give advice to people on how to avoid scammers, and I know what to look for. And yet I was nearly scammed! How could that happen?
The reality though is that scammers pray on people’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses. In my case my fear, subservience and respect for those in authority, especially the Revenue Agency and the law. This inbred desire to listen to, abide by, and not question the law in this case being my Achilles heel. For job seeker, scammers play a different game and on a different set of emotions. Many job seekers are desperate, and scammers know this. They promise to change their lives by offering them a job, often with a really good salary and to make it even more enticing, often in a first world country where many job seekers would normally only dream of living in. Scammers pray on people’s desperation and vulnerabilities.
So what do you need to look out for to avoid being scammed?
- Firstly and this is the golden rule, always remember, no legitimate company is going to offer you a job and ask for money at any stage of the process. Not for work permits, visas, flights, stationary, not for anything. That is the golden rule. Most reputable companies will absorb any costs and not ask job seekers to pay.
- Beware of being offered a job without having been interviewed first. Always remember that reputable companies are not going to offer you a role without interviewing your first. Flattering as it may seem that they were so impressed with your resume, that they have offered you a position without meeting you first, the reality is, that you are probably being scammed if this happens. Never, ever accept a job offer that has come through via email, when you have never had a telephonic or face-to-face interview. Even if the scammers do go through the process of a fake interview, you need to be very careful.
- Do some research on the company. Visit the company’s website. If they do not have one, or it does not have contact details, then you need to tread cautiously. If there is a company website, compare the contact numbers, email addresses etc., to what would appear when doing a Google on the company or in a company directory.
- Beware of free email accounts. Any recruiter or company that corresponds from a free email account such as Yahoo, Live, Hotmail or Gmail is very likely a scammer. Legitimate job related emails will come from corporate email accounts.
- Do a Google search on the company. Do a search on the company name and see what information you can find. Compare it to the information that you have been sent.
- Check scam lists. Always check with organizations such as Better Business Bureau and the Commission to see if the company has been reported as a scammer.
- Salaries that are way over what you would normally earn are another warning sign. Getting paid a really high salary is not the norm, so if you offered an amazing job with an amazing salary, it may just be that you are being set up for a scam. Any legitimate employer will evaluate your skill set and experience, before deciding on what you are worth. If the company offers you a salary that is completely out of your range, and experience, you are probably in the process of being scammed.
- Don’t hand out personal information. Never part with your social security number or personal information. By divulging this information, you may just be setting the scene for the scammer to pose as you to apply for credit cards, and run up massive bills in your name and ruin your credit record. The only time you should be handing over personal information such as social security numbers, is after you have been hired and are setting up payment and tax information.
- Be cautious of emails with grammatical and spelling mistakes. Most online fraud is carried out by scammers outside of the United States, with English often not being their home language, so check the grammar and spelling carefully when communicating.
- Watch out for fake URLs (websites). Scammers often use fake URLs to mask themselves as large well known corporates. Double check the URL, or the web address of the company. You may think that you are on a well-known company’s website, when you are actually on a bogus website. So always check the URL first.
- Be wary of job offers that involve ague sketchy job descriptions. If you read the job description and at the end of it, you are not really sure what the job actually entails, or if the role states that there is no specific skill necessary for the job, you are probably about to be scammed. The majority of jobs will require at least some relevant experience or qualification.
Go by your gut feel, if you have a feeling that something is not right, you are probably right! Please be careful, too many desperate job seekers are losing hard earned money that they cannot afford to lose and having their dreams shattered because of scammers.