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Warning: Job scams pack a financial punch for employment seekers

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Updated: 3/31 2:32 pm

(BPT) - As the country emerges from the Great Recession, many people are still looking for employment. Whether it's a full-time job or a second job to earn a little extra money, hard-working folks across the nation are applying to job listings online. But beware: lurking among the real jobs are cleverly designed employment scams, and even the savviest of job hunters can fall victim.

'People looking to make an honest living are often preyed upon by sophisticated scammers luring them in with easy money offers,' says Shelley Bernhardt, director of consumer protection at Western Union. 'But there are warning signs that can help people steer clear of employment scams, like claims of guaranteed employment and having to pay upfront fees.'

Western Union says job seekers should stay alert to three common job scams:

1. Mystery shopping

Scenario: Scammers pose as a mystery shopping organization and hire 'new employees' to evaluate a money transfer service. They send a check to be deposited, ask the person to take a certain percentage as commission, send back the remaining amount and then evaluate the service. The problem is a bank typically makes funds from the cashed check available before the check clears. The victim learns the check is fake after the money has been sent back to the scammer, meaning he or she is out that money.

Tips: While legitimate mystery shopping jobs are available, none will send you a payment prior to a job being completed. You should never send a money transfer to someone you have not met in person even for what seems to be a mystery shopping opportunity.

2. Pay-per-click (PPC)

Scenario: Scammers develop websites that offer to pay consumers for clicking on ad links for their purported clients to generate Web traffic. Although there are some legitimate PPC companies, others may make unauthorized claims that Western Union is a form of payment for your services. Western Union does not operate as a payment mechanism for PPC companies. You should also be cautious when providing personal information to such companies prior to researching the company.

Tips: Always request a different form of payment besides Western Union, and never provide sensitive personal information. Remember a secure website starts with 'https,' an unsecured site is 'http.'

3. Upfront job costs

Scenario: Victims receive job offers, but are told they must send a money transfer for things like credit checks, applications, recruitment fees and office supplies for work-at-home positions. Victims send money and prepare to start their new job, but the scammers run with the money and are never heard from again. It's common for scammers to pose as recruiters, so always be aware when talking with people, even if they come across as very professional. Some scammers go so far as to send a check to cover the expenses and request any funds not used be sent back to them. The victim spends the money and sends back the remainder and then the check bounces.

Tips: A person should not have to send money up front in order to secure a legitimate job. You should never send a money transfer to someone you have not met in person. Never spend money before a check officially clears, which can take weeks.

To learn more about employment scams and other common scams, visit

'Criminals get smarter every day. so it pays to be alert when looking for employment,' says Bernhardt. 'These three common job scams are unfortunate; always be wary and practice caution when it comes to your personal finances and information.'

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