Protect Members From Job ‘Opportunities’ Fraud

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Lisa Hochgraf Photo
Senior Editor

3 minutes

First Line of Defense identifies several types of work-from-home scams, plus red flags you can teach your members to watch out for. 

In our post-pandemic world, lots of people want to work from home. Credit union members who don’t have a traditional job that allows them the flexibility of remote or hybrid work may be particularly susceptible to work-from-home scams. 

According to First Line of Defense, which provides low-cost online fraud prevention training to credit unions, people are most likely to search for a new job in the first two months of the year. That makes this a great time to train your staff on the types of work-from-home scams out there and what red flags they should watch for as they talk with members.  

Common Types of Work-from-Home Scams 

In its quarterly fraud prevention training update, First Line of Defense identifies seven common work-from-home scams. Here are five of them: 

  1. Reshipping scams, through which a fraudulent company sends your member packages with instructions on how to resend them. Often the company doesn’t pay its “employee” for their work. And if your member provided personal information for “payroll,” they may also be at risk of identity theft. 
  2. Reselling merchandise scams, through which scammers claim your member can make money buying luxury products inexpensively and reselling them for profit. The promised luxury products turn out to be junk—if they arrive at all. 
  3. Virtual personal assistant scams, through which a fraudulent employer hires your member to make purchases for them, often using their own money. Then reimbursement never comes. 
  4. Mystery shopper scams, through which members are sent out to stores to make purchases for which they never receive reimbursement. In an alternative scenario, the mystery shopper may be required to pay to start the job. 
  5. Start-your-own business scams, through which a scammer poses as a recruiter and asks your member to buy useless educational materials—sometimes in large quantities—and recruit additional “business owners.” 

Red Flags to Teach Members About 

This quarter’s First Line of Defense materials also describe 15 red flags to teach members to be wary of. Five of them are summarized here: 

  1. Employer offers a high salary or hourly wage for a job that does not require much skill. 
  2. The pay structure is unusual, such as “per package” or 100% commission. 
  3. Contact is made via an email address that is not company-specific, such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. 
  4. All communication during the interview process takes place via a messaging app (e.g., WhatsApp). 
  5. The only way to contact the company or interviewer is via social media. 

The First Line of Defense materials also describe what credit unions should be encouraging members to do if they get caught up in a scam, including contacting their credit union or the vendor to try to cancel any outgoing payments related to the scam, learning the details of any identity theft prevention program they are a part of and placing a freeze on their credit. 

It’s a Big Problem 

“According to 2022 FTC data, people lost $367 million to business and job opportunity scams, a nearly 76% increase from the prior year,” according to the First Line of Defense materials. “The median loss was $2,000. Compared to the $650 median loss for all fraud types combined, that number is staggering!” 

Since work-from-home scams are some of the most prevalent job-related scams, take time to educate your team about how to help your members recover from them—or avoid them altogether.  

Lisa Hochgraf is senior editor with CUES. 

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