SRU warns students about employment scams in observance of National Consumer Protection Week


Online scams

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, the Better Business Bureau released its riskiest scams of the year. Employment scams top the list.

March 5, 2020

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — National Consumer Protection Week, observed this week, March 1-7, 2020, is a time the Federal Trade Commission and its partners emphasize the need to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money. One area of concern, especially for Slippery Rock University's First National Bank Office of Career Education and Development, are employment scams, which take advantage of people like college students who are eager to make money after graduation.

For the second straight year, employment scams top the list of the Better Business Bureau's annual Scam Tracker Risk Report that tracks the riskiest scams of the year, measured by exposure, susceptibility and monetary loss. Employment scams occur when a fraudulent employer obtains job seekers' personal information during the application process or asks them to pay upfront costs before sending them a paycheck, sending one that bounces or never paying them at all.

"You hear about it happening to students at small colleges and large universities, which is why we scrutinize every company that requests to post jobs through (our office)," said John Rindy, director of career education and development, whose office manages nearly 4,000 job and internship postings through Handshake, an online platform that connects students with employers.

John Rindy


Employers who post jobs on SRU's Handshake platform are evaluated by a "confidence score," a vetting system developed by Handshake. SRU only posts jobs with a confidence score of 85 or higher, while Handshake removes any employers with a confidence score of 60 or lower.

"Some people think that's over the top, but we don't compromise," Rindy said. "We have a lot of postings for full-time jobs and internships and we don't need to add employers who are high risk."

Job seekers who find postings through other sources need to practice vigilance.

Rindy advises job seekers to never share information such as their social security number or bank account numbers when applying for a job. Also, he tells candidates to research the company to make sure it is legitimate, such as making sure it is vetted on employment sites like Glassdoor or checking to see if a company has a website that explains its products and services. Rindy said to make sure that the hiring manager is using an email address that matches the company's website domain, and to make sure the job description is congruent with the products and services on the website. For example, a company might advertise a job as being "marketing and public relations" when it's actually door-to-door solicitations.

An example of a popular employment scam that takes people's money is "mystery shopping," in which retailers hire companies to evaluate their quality of service using anonymous, unannounced "mystery" shoppers. Mystery shoppers could be asked to pay for a bogus certification or purchase gift cards after receiving a fake check and providing the "employer" the scratched off numbers on the gift cards to prove they purchased them.

According to the BBB, the median money loss per employment scam was $1,500. Students were 10% more susceptible to overall scams compared to nonstudents. Also, 44.7% of students who reported a scam reported a loss.

"Students are vulnerable because they're looking for jobs and they lack a certain wisdom when it comes to that," Rindy said. "It's not that students aren't smart; they may be book smart, social smart and creative smart, but you can't teach wisdom. That comes with time, trial and error and experience."

For more information about the Career Education and Development at SRU, click here.

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