By Judi Perkins
Here's a present available all year, but more prevalent at Christmas: easy money. All you have to do is send in $35 for application processing charges, or pay $99 for a background check, or pony up $250 for the training fees, or .....Get it? The easy-money present isn't for you, it's for the scammer.
And you, sitting duck, jobless, worried about your finances and thinking you'll do almost anything for a little cash, especially around the holidays, oblige. This is a grim message for Christmas day, but your January bills will be due soon, a new year is about to start, and with so many of you unemployed, you'll find yourself more depressed than ever and doubly intent to make something happen. This increases the possibility of you taking risks you might ordinarily not take.
Scammers anticipate this. The psychology of sales is a science in itself. Legitimate companies spend millions of dollars testing their product ads by varying wording, pictures, and timing to assist you in your decision making. Although scammers don't invest funds in market research, some of them are equally sophisticated in utilizing methods to gain your trust.
Some clues should be instantly recognizable or can be uncovered with a bit of Google research. Most prevalent is an ad or replicated website, and you do the rest of the work for them. Here are a few tip-offs:
¦Paying any money up front for any reason: Legitimate companies rarely ask you to pay for training fees. In the few cases where they do, you have proceeded through an interview process and it's clear that you have been hired.
¦Poor grammar, spelling, or punctuation: Frequently the scams are foreign based and English isn't the primary language
¦A free email address such as yahoo, gmail, or hotmail: Email addresses that match the domain name are always free with website hosting. While not all companies with free emails are scammers, it's wiser to avoid them, especially if other clues are present.
¦No company name, no email, no phone number. Just an "Apply Here" button: Legitimate companies reveal their identity unless it's a confidential replacement. Even so, their email is generally the same as their company name. Some scammers "borrow" real company names for fake websites with no contact information provided. Check the company's real website and you'll likely find a scam alert. If not, call the company to verify the position offered.
¦Auto-responder emails: All internet marketers use these but many consumers don't realize it's a readily available tool or how it works. Messages are pre-programmed to be delivered based on specific actions. If you email a question, chances are good you'll get an auto-responder message designed to sound as if it's written by a real person. If you don't know about auto-responders, you may think it's a real person.
¦Never provide your SSN #, bank account or driver's license numbers: Legitimate companies don't ask for these up front. Direct deposit is an option, not mandatory, although some government entities require it, but after you've accepted an offer. If you haven't had a phone interview or a face-to-face, or an offer hasn't been extended, don't provide it.
If you think you're exempt from falling for one of these, you're not. I know one executive with a six-figure salary history who was nearing the end of his savings and becoming increasingly desperate.
He believed he was close to landing a job with a company in England until two months into the process. His wake up call was being asked to provide his bank account number so they could wire travel funds.
Some job seekers believe they're doing due diligence by asking if the position is a scam or legitimate. A scammer's job is to make you believe false information. Your job is to recognize that if you have to ask, you already know the answer.
Judi Perkins, the How-To Career Coach, was a recruiter for 22 years and worked with hundreds of hiring authorities on entry level through CEO. She set up over 15,000 interviews, and has seen over half a million resumes. Her clients often find jobs 8 – 12 weeks because she brings them sequence, structure and focus, and shows why typical strategies often fail. She's been on PBS's Frontline, Good Morning Connecticut, in Smart Money magazine, CareerBuilder, MSN Careers, Yahoo Hot Jobs, New York Times, New York Daily News, multiple radio shows including a regular Thursday morning gig, and quoted in numerous career books. Sign up for her free newsletter at www.FindthePerfectJob.com.