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Warning signs that a side job could be a scam

After the “big resignation” last year, many people who do not want to return to the office are looking for part-time work. But, scammers are now lurking all over the place, targeting all those people who are hoping to find a side hustle.

Whether it’s driving people around, delivering food, renting a room, or looking after someone’s pet, there’s probably a part-time job that’s just right for you. . But, some are too perfect and turn out to be expensive scams.

Julie Bright had just posted her CV online when she received an email inviting her to become a secret shopper reviewing stores.

“I believed it,” she says.

“I opened this card in the mail,” she said, “and I remember seeing this cashier’s check to Julie Bright, and it had instructions on being a secret wholesale shopper.”

The company sent her a check for over $1,000 to buy gift cards and check gift card sales at popular stores.

“He tells me to go to Walgreens or CVS,” she explained, “but says not to let the cashier know what I’m doing, as far as the investigation is concerned, or who I am.”

Warning signs of a secondary scam

By now, you’ve hopefully spotted some of the red flags here:

  • Receiving an unexpected check in the mail ahead of time.
  • Instructed to buy gift cards with this money.
  • Says to send money or give gift card numbers to your new “employer”.
  • Remember that you should not tell anyone what you are doing.

According to Sherrod DeGrippo of Proofpoint Internet Security, Bright was about to fall for one of the many scams now targeting workers.

“They’ll usually send you a check,” she said, “and tell you they’re going to send your first payment of maybe $5,000.”

DeGrippo says to be wary of any job that sends you a check before you start work.

“This check is fraudulent, but because of the way the banking system works, our victim won’t know that the check won’t be fully cashed until they send that money back,” she said. At this point, you have sent your own money from your checking account to the scammer.

DeGrippo says the fake pushes include:

  • Secret shopper job
  • Personal assistant positions
  • Placing advertisements on your car to advertise a drink or other product
  • Modeling, no audition required

She says they often target cash-poor students, who just want to earn part-time money for food or clothing. In some cases, the scammers use the name of legitimate tech companies, but the “recruiting agent” has a Gmail address, which should be another red flag.

Julie Bright is lucky – before she started buying gift cards, the check she received bounced (in most cases, it bounces after you start work). She still faces small NSF check charges, but says it’s nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars she could have lost doing the fake mystery shopper job.

“Lesson learned, I will never do that again,” she said.

So be suspicious and remember that legitimate companies don’t pay you until you start working. This way you don’t waste your money.


Don’t Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”).
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