Nationwide, con artists have been posting job and internship announcements that target trusting college students, with a proliferation of these postings at the start of each term when students are most likely to be searching.
This type of scam has been around since the widespread use of email, yet continues to snare unsuspecting students. A story in The New York Times pointed out that, “Ads for attractive white-collar jobs can be, in fact, sophisticated fraud schemes.”
In their advertisements for jobs and internships, these scammers use common titles like “international business assistant” or “accounting clerk” and often copy language from legitimate positions. Even if the positions are screened by career centers, nothing seems amiss. Some con artists even masquerade as legitimate companies.
The first indicator of fraud comes when a student is offered a position via email, without an in-person or phone interview. The new “employer” usually states that they are out of town and need the student to take care of a business matter because of an emergency. The alleged employer promises to mail the student a money order for about $2,000 that they are to deposit in their personal account and then write a check or get a money order for $1,800 to send to a vendor or business associate — and the students can keep the $200 difference.
After the student’s check has been cashed by their new “employer,” the student is notified by their bank that the money order they deposited is fraudulent.
Seven ways to safeguard yourself
- Never use your personal bank account for your employer’s — or potential employer’s — business transactions.
- Remember, during your job/internship search you are selecting a potential employer. You should ask yourself, “What would I like to know about them? What can I learn about the organization before my interview?” Scammers count on people being so grateful to have a job/internship offer that they don’t ask questions.
- Be suspicious if you are offered a position without an interview.
- Don’t let your compassion override common sense. If a business owner has an emergency, no matter how dire, they should not rely on a college student they have never even met to keep their business operating.
- Never share your personal passwords or banking information with an employer — or potential employer. (Arrangements for direct deposit or paycheck should be made during your first day or week of actual employment on site — not before.)
- Verify that the email address of the potential employer matches the company they represent. Someone with hiring authority from a company should not contact you via a Gmail account because most legitimate employers have a company email account.
- Contact the Internship and Career Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-752-2855 if you are suspicious about a job or internship offer. We are here to help.
Don’t let these scams detract you from using Handshake or applying for jobs and internships. A very small percentage of all job postings are fraudulent. For additional information, visit the Federal Trade Commission.
Marcie Kirk Holland is the director of the Internship and Career Center. As a first-generation college student with undergraduate majors in environmental conservation and Spanish (with a focus on literature), she is in a position she never would have dreamed of pursuing when she was selecting a college major.