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INDIANAPOLIS — As more Americans work from home and many continue to look for work, there are fake job opportunities lurking among real ones.

The Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana called 2020 a “perfect storm” for scammers who want to steal money from unsuspecting job seekers. It comes after the BBB had already labeled employment scams as the riskiest for two years in a row.

Sharon Sarvis thought she’d found a good, flexible job with the owner of a local pet boarding company.

“She emailed me back and says, ‘I think I’d like for you to be my assistant,'” Sarvis said.

Her supposed new boss claimed by email that she was out of the country and hoped to be back in two weeks, but “COVID-19 has made that doubtful” and “I do have a pile up of work … which you can immediately assist me with.”

Sarvis received a check in the mail that she was supposed to cash, then send money to different organizations.

“I thought it was strange, you know, someone sending me money,” Sarvis said.

Not only was it strange – it was also a lie. Sarvis was talking to a scammer posing as an employer, even using the name of a real Indianapolis company.

“I could’ve lost everything,” Sarvis said.

Mike Wittman nearly fell for a job scam, too. He found a listing on Facebook for an easy opportunity to make extra money.

“The deal was supposed to be that they would send me a check and they would put an advertisement on my vehicle,” Wittman said.

When he received a check with no contract, Wittman realized he was being scammed.

“There’s no easy money,” Wittman said. “I feel kind of foolish for falling for it.”

BBB CEO Tim Maniscalo said the more the pandemic has pushed jobs into the home, the easier it has become for scammers to take advantage.

“Not only are you going to lose some money, but you’re going to be very disappointed because you thought you had a job and there’s no job there,” Maniscalo said.

Here are some important red flags:

  • The fake employer only texts or emails you, never speaking by phone or video conference.
  • They offer you the job immediately with little to no interview process.
  • The offer seems too good to be true and your job description is vague.
  • They send you a check and ask you to give some of the money to a third party.

According to Maniscalo, receiving a check in the mail from someone you do not know is always a huge red flag that you are being scammed, regardless of the scenario.

“You’re also going to be on the hook then for that bad check,” Maniscalo said.

Wittman and Sarvis both learned how easy it can be to stumble on the wrong opportunity and said they wanted to talk about what happened in order to help fellow Hoosiers learn the signs.

“Once you get that notion that something’s not right, that’s when you need to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s check into this,'” Sarvis said.

You can download a tip sheet for how to spot an employment scam and find more information from the BBB at the link here.