Avoid Summer Job Fraud

Take care when searching for summer employment.  While lots of legitimate employers hire students for summer work, there are also many unscrupulous employers out there attempting to take advantage of students who are looking for that perfect summer job.

  1. Know who you are dealing with.  Do some research on the company to make sure it is offering a legitimate job opportunity and to make sure it is the type of company you want to work with/for.  Read about the company on its Web site.  Ask to be put in contact with some of the company’s other employees, and talk to them to get their impressions of the employer and the job.  You may also want to check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer protection groups, such as www.fraud.org, to see if there have been any complaints filed against or about the company.
  2. Ask questions.  Make sure you know what your job duties will be, and especially when, where, and how much you will be paid.  This information should be included in the employment contract signed by you and your employer.  Read your employment contract thoroughly.  If there is anything you do not understand, seek legal advice from Students’ Legal Assistance or another qualified attorney.  Most importantly, if an employer refuses to answer your questions or will not give you a straight answer, seek employment elsewhere.
  3. Do not pay money upfront.  Legitimate employers pay you to work, not the other way around.  Do not accept work from an employer who asks you to pay fees for materials, application processing, training costs, start-up kits, etc.
  4. Be cautious of work-at-home opportunities.  Many are scams designed to exploit you for free labor, or just take your money.  Some examples of scams to watch out for include envelope stuffing, product assembly, product repackaging/reshipping, medical billing, and shipping refund recovery. 

    Some questions to ask yourself when considering a work-at-home job include: “Is this something a company could have done more cheaply or efficiently some other way?”  “Is this work something a company would legitimately need?”  “Is this something a legitimate company would trust to at-home workers with little or no training and no supervision?”  “Am I going to be selling a product or service?  If so, is this product or service something people would actually need or want?” 

    Work-at-home jobs that involve telephone work (such as taking orders, soliciting donations, or providing customer service) are the most likely candidates for legitimate at-home employment.  Finally, be especially suspicious of any work-at-home employers who ask for money from you upfront, for any reason.
  5. Guard your personal information carefully.  Identity thieves frequently pose as potential employers in an attempt to gather personal information from their victims. 

    Before you give a potential employer any of your information, make sure you have their information.  Make sure you have a valid mailing address, phone number, and e-mail for the company before you apply.  Even then, be cautious of what information you supply.  Early in the application process, employers should be asking you about your qualifications—your education, training, skills, and experience. 

    Employers should not be asking you for things like your eye color, mother’s maiden name, and especially not your credit card number or bank account information.  If you do not think the employer should need a piece of information, do not provide it to them.  It is perfectly acceptable to leave requested information off of an application form, if you do not feel comfortable sharing it. 

    Keep in mind that employers do not need your credit card number or bank account information to pay you.
  6. Beware of pyramid marketing schemes.   Do not accept employment where your compensation is based on how many people you can convince to “sign up” to do the same thing.  Not only are these schemes highly unlikely to deliver on their lofty promises of huge income for little effort, but if no actual product or service is being offered for sale, these pyramid schemes are illegal and participation could expose you to criminal or civil liability. 
  7. Take care when cashing checks.  Criminals pretending to be employers sometimes attempt to use student employees to cash fake checks and wire the criminals the money.  In one common fraud scheme, students will be “hired” to receive checks in the mail, cash the checks at their banks, and wire the proceeds to the company while keeping a small percentage for compensation.  The “employers” will come up with a wide variety of reasons, some quite convincing, for why they need students to cash their checks. 

    In another variation, the “employer” will send the student a paycheck or hiring bonus check made out for way too much money, then tell the student about its mistake and ask the student to wire the surplus funds back to the company.  In either case, in the end, the bank discovers the checks are unauthorized drafts or complete forgeries, and the students are left facing huge debts to their banks and even facing criminal charges for passing bad checks. 

    To avoid these schemes, do not take jobs cashing checks for an employer.  Also, whenever you receive a check from a new employer, make sure it is written for the correct amount, and wait a few weeks before you use the money, even if the bank makes it available to you much sooner.
  8. Be realistic in your expectations.  Always remember that if a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.  In other words, the job is suspect.  If you’re being promised lots of pay for little work, if you’re being offered a job through unsolicited e-mails, if you are being hired to do a job you are clearly not qualified to do, or if you are being hired sight-unseen without so much as an interview, the job you are being offered is most likely not legitimate employment.