With the rise of the Internet as an important tool in the arsenal of the modern college student, it is important to be wary of its potential dangers. Although many use the Internet as a tool to learn and communicate, there are those who use it for financial gain at the expense of others. One such way users do this is through false job postings.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, a false job posting that had been posted on bulletin boards in a number of buildings on the University of Maine campus was discovered. A student who immediately recognized that the flyer was fraudulent brought it to the attention of the UMaine Career Center. After the ad was verified as a fraud, it was quickly removed from all bulletin boards on campus.
Cathy Marquez is the assistant director for employer relations at the UMaine Career Center, and upon discovering the false ad, she posted a message on the FirstClass email system to warn students.
“I looked at it and there’s no question that it’s got all the characteristics of a job scam,” Marquez said. “Easy work, no qualifications — you just have to be 18 years old, work from your laptop and it’s $19.95 to get you started. Money up front.”
The advertisement was posted as an opportunity to work for a fictional company called Page131. According to the advertisement, the company is looking for people for “easy work, consisting of simple tasks like filling out online survey forms and reading company email.”
It goes one step further by adding that if the job is perfect if the employee is a “college student, want[s] flexible income or [has] a job and need[s] extra income.”
The ad also mentions a $25 starting bonus as well as a one time fee of $19.95. It promises a wage rate of $12 per hour. At the “company” website, page131.com, there is a signup where email and credit card information must be entered among other things. After this information has been given, the owner of the website would then have access to the student’s personal and financial information, leaving the student with a stolen identity and no job.
“We usually have scams every year. Ever since people started posting jobs on the Internet,” Marquez said. “[If you] put your resume out on a job board, these scammers will cruise those resumes and send an email saying ‘I saw your resume and we have an opportunity for you. If you just cash this check for us you keep x amount of dollars and send us the rest.’ So the student sends half the money back to the person and the check bounces and never clears.
“I think when the economy tanked and there were more desperate people these folks saw more opportunities,” Marquez said. “I don’t think there’s any aspect of getting online and putting your information out where you don’t have to be careful.”
Marquez has come across a number of these frauds and warns that some are more clever than others. One of the more clever ones involved a scammer who impersonated the Penobscot Country Club. The scammer was requesting a special allowance with the CareerLink holding bin to scan resumes for possible internships.
“Years ago they had listed internships with us,” Marquez said. “When I saw the request I got excited [that they were doing internships again].”
However, Marquez was suspicious because the person who was contacting her and requesting access was using a gmail account as opposed to a company email as well as a phone number that wasn’t local. Marquez then called the Country Club and found that they weren’t hiring any interns.
Although the UMaine Career Center is primarily focused on assisting students with finding jobs and careers, it is also focused on doing what they can to keep fraudulent postings away. The Career Center is part of a consortium of 22 schools in the state who meet three times each year to discuss ways of preventing fraud as well as raising awareness to new methods of fraud. They currently use and update several anti-fraud databases where any old or new fraudulent advertisements can be viewed.
Although Marquez and the rest of the Career Center staff do their best to protect students, she cannot protect them completely and urges students to use their best judgement when approached by a false job opportunity.
“The student as the consumer needs to use their best judgement and if they’re in doubt they should call us,” Marquez said. “[Students] are needy for part-time jobs. [Scammers] have a great place here. [UMaine has] Twelve thousand students, many of them needing to work and many of them juggling work and school … It’s a wonderful target.”
At this time, there is no information pertaining to who may have posted the flyers.
For assistance finding a summer job or career, or if you have any information regarding a false job posting, contact the UMaine Career Center at www.umaine.edu/career.