Job scams evolve with struggling economy

FRESNO, Calif.

A Fresno woman contacted Action News with a warning. She said she was offered hundreds of dollars to secret shop businesses here in the valley. But the Better Business Bureau said it's all a scam.

Pam Tamres said she just needed money to help keep up with her mounting bills. So when she received an offer through her email to become a well-paid mystery shopper, she jumped at the chance.

Following her job application, however, the red flags began popping up.

Tamres was laid off from a Fresno charter school last June, where she worked as an English teacher.

Since then, she's been pounding the virtual pavement for a job, along with the other roughly 16 percent of unemployed workers in the Fresno area.

A few weeks ago, Tamres received an email, she thought, or more so hoped was sent from above.

"I thought, whoa, 300 dollars for an hour and half worth of work," Tamres said. "First thing I thought was 'thanks God, you know?'"

After replying to the email a package arrived at her doorstep. Inside, it had detailed instructions on what was supposed to be her first assignment and what appear to be two postal cashier's checks. Each check was made out for $970.

The instructions required Tamres to cash the checks and wire most of the money to a person who is listed as a company supervisor. Tamers would have then kept $300 as income. "I could have used the $300 to pay some bills," she said.

This is where she wised up, though. Tamres took the so-called postal cashier's check to her bank in northwest Fresno, where a teller warned her of the scam. Tamres said the bank made a call and verified the checks were fake.

"Scammers tend to evolve with the times," said Vickie Sanders, the assistant director of business services for the Central California BBB. The BBB office receives complaints of similar scams several times a month.

"The scammers are very creative," Sanders said. "They know by giving you more detail, the more likely you are to believe them."

Fortunately for Tamres, she is diligent about the checks she cashes. And the detailed instructions didn't get to her. "I don't want anybody to take what looks like a valid postal money order and cash it, then end up in a financial mess," said Tamres.

The BBB said job hunters need to question all job offers. Be sure to check for a physical address for the company, even if it's for online work Sanders said. And a quick search online can uncover complaints, if any, have been failed against the company looking to hire.

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