Sunday, November 4, 2012

Is That Email a Scam?

Photo: Sabinocivita. No endorsement implied.
Email scams are more prevalent these days. With many people looking for work, and consequently putting personal information on pubic sites, scammers have an even greater pool of people than in the past.

Two months ago, I was contacted about a job. For a month's worth of working I'd receive a $1,000 pay check from a company called HERO, Inc., for doing assistant type tasks. At first glance, everything seemed legitimate, so I filled out the form and got my first assignment. Because of the strangeness of the assignment, I reconsidered and asked to talk to the manager directly before beginning the task. 

It turns out he was not available, for 3 whole work days. After repeated emails and phone message requests to be contacted, I refused any further contact with the company. I guess it's a good thing that I never filled out my W-4 form.

I got another such email this month, only this time I was wiser. I decided to search some of the text of the email instead of the company name. I got tons of matches on scam reporting sites. 

Being a writer, I know how much time it takes to create original copy. It only makes sense that the bad guys wouldn't be spending time or money on that, especially if they've crafted persuasive copy that was shown effective in the past.

Several boards, like and, attempt to give would be victims the leg up, but in order to find these companies you have to know what name they are using this week. Instead of searching for a name do this instead:

  1. Scan the email and select what might be considered a common "hook" line. This will most likely be at the top or bottom of the email.

  2. Put this in a search engine with quotes (") around it and examine what you find.

  3. If you do not find anything...

  4. Try searching a smaller phrase. For example, instead of searching, "Based on your resume on we to suggest you following job," try leaving out the website while maintaining the quotes around the other two phrases.

  5. The face of work is changing dramatically to match employer and employee need. This is good, 
    but it makes it nearly impossible to determine if some companies are legitimate. Do your research before developing a working relationship. Like the saying goes, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.