Consumer Alert: Hawaii BBB details increase in jobs scams during COVID pandemic

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — About 14 million people were victims to job scams in 2020, according to the Better Business Bureau. Total losses added up to $2 billion — about $1,000 per victim.

These scams continued in 2021 and because so many still work from home, scammers have easy access to email inboxes.

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According to the BBB, job scams in 2020 mainly affected people between 25 and 34 years old, and 67% of those victims were women. Roseann Freitas, a marketplace manager with the Hawaii BBB, said working from home due to the pandemic had a huge impact on these job scams.

“So getting these offers for jobs at home didn’t come where people were suspecting that this might be a scam, which made it so easy because they were offering jobs where you could work from home.”

Roseann Freitas, Better Business Bureau Hawaii marketplace manager

The first thing job seekers need to know is to never pay a fee before finding employment. These solicitations often come with requests for personal information like a name, address and Social Security Number.

“To make it even harder, not only were they losing actual dollars on their bank account for their initial request, they become victims of identity theft because they have all the information they need to steal that person’s identity,” Freitas said.

Job scams do not end with paying a fee or identity theft, however. Reshipping jobs — where someone pays a victim to receive and then send on a package — represented 65% of job scams in 2020. Freitas said, these type of scams can lead to other fraud.

“They were acting as a money mule for scammers,” Freitas said. “So they were becoming a victim of this job scam but then they were also helping facilitate additional scams without their knowledge.”

Before committing to a job opportunity, do some research! Ask to speak to a company representative so you can verify their offer. Experts say to never click on random links for jobs — go directly to the company website instead. Legit companies often have their career opportunities listed.

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“Because remember, when you’re getting a job, yes they’re interviewing you,” Freitas said, “but you’re also interviewing them.”

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