The Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. says reports of employment scams have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many local incidents have had “a cryptocurrency twist.”
Employment scams – in which job seekers are “hired” by fake businesses that then steal their personal information or ask them to commit fraud as part of their “job” duties – were a problem before COVID-19, according to the BBB.
In 2019, the bureau estimated that 14 million victims lost a combined $2 billion due to job scams. Last year, the problem got worse, with complaints about such scams to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre nearly doubling.
In B.C., many job scam reports have involved cryptocurrency transactions, the local BBB said in a news release.
“Scammers have been reaching out to job seekers across B.C. using fake company names and websites, and asking them to conduct cryptocurrency transactions as part of their employment duties,” reads the release.
The bureau shared one example from a job seeker in West Vancouver, who reported that they had been contacted by email with an offer to become an “online account manager.”
The victim reviewed the job description and contract, and shared it with friends and family, who also found it believable.
The victim signed the contract and sent it back to the scammer with a copy of a photo ID. Then, on the day that training was supposed to begin, the victim was told their first task would be to take $3,000 from the “company” and deposit it in a Bitcoin ATM.
“That’s a lot of money for someone you just hired,” the victim said in the BBB release. “I told her that I didn’t feel comfortable with that task and asked for alternative training. She muted me or lost connection during the phone call and I have never heard from her again.”
The BBB recommends researching job offers thoroughly, including checking the business’ page on the bureau’s website.
It also recommends job seekers consider creating a secondary email address for use when posting a resume on job boards or responding to job listings. Similarly, people should consider making separate bank accounts to handle pay received from jobs in which they’ve never met their employer in person, the BBB said.
“Be wary of vague job descriptions and double-check mystery shopping or secret shopper positions,” the BBB said. “Work-from-home jobs that involve receiving and reshipping packages are likely scams. Also, be very cautious of jobs that involve receiving and forwarding money.”
Anyone who is a victim of an employment scam should report it to the BBB scam tracker and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the BBB said.