Look out for work-at-home, Facebook scams

The office of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is warning citizens of a couple consumer scams they may encounter, including one reagrding work-from-home emails and scams being conducted via social media.

The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General is warning Hoosiers about an uptick in work-from-home scams that can compromise personal or sensitive information.

In just the last few weeks, the CPD has received multiple complaints from Hoosiers who have been contacted via email by scammers offering to hire them for work-from-home positions.

If you receive an email offering a work-from-home position, you should look for several red flags.

Often, the scammer offers high-paying jobs with wages ranging from $20 to $24 an hour.  The jobs also are touted as allowing flexible work hours.

Emails from scammers typically request private information commonly needed during a hiring process such as your phone number, a copy of your state identification and bank account information. You should never send such information via email.

In many instances, scammers will send links to websites set up to appear to represent professional businesses.

Despite appearing legitimate, these websites are often simply part of the ruse.

Another tell-tale sign occurs when consumers are told they need to buy specialized equipment - with reimbursement promised once the victim begins the job. Two strategies are often used by scammers. In the first, the scammer may direct victims to a “preferred vendor,” requesting the victim send payment to that person. In the second, scammers may send a counterfeit check to the victim, directing them to cash it and then send money to a different address to pay for equipment.  

One complainant said a scammer started with one tactic and switched to the other, prompting skepticism.

Unemployed Hoosiers searching for jobs are among the most susceptible to these fraudulent practices.

The CPD is warning Hoosiers who are searching for employment through career sites to use their better judgement when responding to emails with job opportunities. Another red flag would be any person attempting to conduct a job interview via text message.

If Hoosiers receive an email containing any of the aforementioned red flags, it is important that they do not respond. The threat to consumers begins when they engage with the person sending the email. Just as you wouldn’t answer a phone call from an unknown number, the CPD advises Hoosiers to ignore these emails to avoid the risk of being scammed.

Even if you don’t send any sensitive information, you still face risks by engaging. Do not reply to these work-from-home job offers, and most importantly, never send private or personal information via email.  To file a complaint or gather more information, visit IndianaConsumer.com.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Attorney also advised Hoosiers to beware of scams via social media through direct or private messages, most commonly on Facebook.

The CPD has received complaints from Hoosiers detailing incidents in which someone from their friends list appeared to send them a private message soliciting goods, asking for personal information, mentioning a sweepstakes or requesting financial details.In many instances, the person initiating contact with the complainant is not actually the person depicted as the sender in the private message.  

Scammers create Facebook accounts duplicating the appearances of others. They then send messages to the Facebook friends of people they are impersonating.

In other scenarios, the Facebook account sending the message to the complainant has not been duplicated but rather has been compromised by the scammer.

Both tactics give the scammer a direct way to communicate with the person’s friends and family on Facebook Messenger.

To encourage the victims to send the money, the scammers tell them that they heard they were eligible for a certain sweepstakes. The scammers then tell the victims to send money via Western Union, MoneyGram, iTunes, etc. - usually under the guise of taxes on the winnings or a fee to collect the prize.

If anyone has doubts about a request from a Facebook friend, such a person should check with that friend via means other than Facebook to verify whether that person actually sent the request.

To file a complaint or gather more information, visit IndianaConsumer.com or call the Consumer Protection Division at 317-232-6330 or 800-382-5516.