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Job seekers losing thousands to income scams, work-from-home schemes

Posted at 4:55 PM, Dec 17, 2020

BALTIMORE — Scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic and financial crisis to take advantage of unemployed workers.

Like millions of others, Daniel Martin recently lost his job, but he caught a break with a new company.

“I was really excited. It sounded like a really good position with a lot of possibilities of growth within the company. It just seemed like something I was looking for,” said Martin.

He received a contract and was assigned a project. The company, Gap Systems LLC, was moving their offices to Baltimore and needed him to procure new equipment. Since he wasn’t full-time just yet, he’d have to purchase the laptops with his credit card and the company would reimburse him.

“The next two weeks, I completed a total of three purchase orders and all of the payments were posting perfectly fine,” Martin said.

A few weeks later, the charges suddenly reversed and Martin’s credit card balance exceeded $15,000.

After speaking with a bank representative, he learned the account owner had reported the charges as fraudulent.

“They probably in some other way scammed someone else to get their account and routing number and then they gave me that information to pay my credit card,” said Martin.

Martin feels he should’ve known better, but his excitement clouded his judgment. And this is happening to job hunters around the country. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing $150 million to these scams in the first nine months of 2020.

This week, the FTC along with 19 federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, announced a crackdown on scams targeting consumers with fake promises of income and financial independence.

More than 50 enforcement actions were taken against operators of work-from-home and employment scams, pyramid schemes, investment scams, bogus coaching courses, and other schemes.

“If at any point during any part of the process they ask you to buy anything, just don’t,” said Martin.

Especially with checks. It’ll likely bounce then you’re on the hook for that money.

And if someone contacts you about a job, call their HR department and ask if they’re hiring.

Google the company address, and search the name of the company followed by the words “complaint” or “scam.”

This article was written by Mallory Sofastaii for WMAR.