Consumer alert: Beware of various scams targeting consumers working from home
With many businesses permitting its employees to work from home, and others required to by shelter-in-place orders, consumers are now more than ever at risk of being targeted by scammers.
For example, consumers transitioning from an office setting to their home may find themselves vulnerable to tech support scams. With limited IT resources available from a home office, employees may attempt to solve technical issues themselves when confronted with pop-ups and viruses. One Texas consumer reported on BBB Scam Tracker losing nearly $250 to a tech support scam in early March, stating that a pop-up appeared after their computer froze. The pop-up instructed the consumer to contact a company that claimed to be affiliated with Apple. The consumer purchased a policy from the company and never heard from them again.
Another concern for employees transitioning to a work-from-home environment is business email compromise (BEC) scams. BEC scams impersonate emails from your boss or employer, and while these fraudulent emails are often used to request large payments to “vendors” via wire transfer, scammers may change their approach.
As more employees move to home offices, compromised business emails may be used to request payments from employees for things such as reimbursements or work equipment to be used at home.
Additionally, consumers who recently lost their job may find opportunities advertised as “work from home.” These consumers are especially vulnerable to employment scams, which has been ranked the top riskiest scam in both the 2018 and 2019 Scam Tracker Risk Report. A common red flag of employment scams is the opportunity to work from home.
However, as more employers practice social distancing and require employees to work from home, differentiating between legitimate and fraudulent job opportunities will become more difficult.
Certain jobs, like secret shoppers, are more likely to be employment scams. One Austin resident reported a secret shopper “opportunity” to BBB Scam Tracker on March 19. She said, “They also expected people to go out and be a secret shopper if a store was open amidst a pandemic… Scammers are actively at work. They’re not taking any breaks.”
Another job commonly advertised for employment scams involves a consumer receiving an item, repackaging it and shipping the item with the promise of being reimbursed as well as being paid. Many consumers fall victim to reshipping scams due to the promise of high hourly wages and the ability to work from home. Texas consumers reported reshipping scams to BBB Scam Tracker in early March, losing $1,000 and $1,905 each.
While working from home and watching to see how the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak develops, use these tips from Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas to avoid falling victim to scams:
Be aware of unusual procedures. Job offers without interviews are a red flag of employment scams, as well as employers that overpay you and ask you to wire back the difference.
You should watch out for companies that promise opportunities or high income if you pay them for training. Check official job postings.
Scammers often use emails, social media or online job boards to reach targets. If a job posting seems too good to be true, go to the company’s or employer’s website and check their career page directly.
If a website is charging you for information about a job opening, it is probably a scam.
Set up work-from-home IT policies. If your employees are moving to home offices, establish a plan to help them with technical problems they may face. Instruct them on who they should contact, and who to avoid, for tech support. A plan can protect your employees from having their personal and professional information compromised.
Maintain office billing policies at home. One of the best ways to combat business email compromise scams is to set a policy requiring employees to confirm payment requests in person or over the phone, rather than over email. If the employees that handle billing are working from home, have them maintain these policies by calling to confirm any payment requests made by email.
Review safety practices with employees. As your employees are working from home, remind them of the best practices to avoid scams. Practices such as avoiding clicking on pop-ups or links in unsolicited emails.
Make sure they know tech support professionals would never call them unless they had requested assistance first.
For more, visit us at bbb.org.
ABOUT BBB®: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on nearly 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which serves 105 counties and has offices in Austin, Bryan, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Midland, San Antonio and Waco.