CORONAVIRUS

Scams target at-home workers

Bobby Hansen

Better Business Bureau
Bobby Hansen Better Business Bureau

With many organizations arranging for employees to work from home, there is an even higher risk of people being targeted by scammers, especially through phishing emails or through an unsecured network connection.

In particular, many may find themselves more vulnerable to tech support scams. With limited I.T. resources available, employees may attempt to solve technical issues themselves when confronted with pop-ups and virus alerts.

BBB Scam Tracker received a report of a victim losing nearly $250 to a tech support scam. The report said a pop-up window appeared when the user’s computer froze.

The instructions on the pop-up were to contact a company claiming to be affiliated with Apple. After following directions, the consumer paid for what they thought would fix the problem and never heard from the tech support company again.

Another concern for employees transitioning to a work-from-home environment are business email compromise scams. BEC scammers impersonate emails that appear to come directly from the boss.

These fraudulent emails often are used to request large payments to “vendors” via wire transfer.

While this is a common scheme, scammers may change their approach and use current events as a way to convince the recipient to take action.

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Compromised business emails may be used to request payments for items such as reimbursements, bogus invoice payments or office equipment.

Advertised work from-home-opportunities aren’t always what they seem, targeted at people who recently have been furloughed or fired.

Employment scams are ranked the top riskiest scam in both the 2018 and 2019 Scam Tracker Risk Report.

A common red flag to make note of is the opportunity to work from home and what seems like a high hourly wage with minimal effort. Beware of contacts made only through email, text or messenger but never share any personally identifying information.

Contact the BBB at 1-800-222-1600 if you need guidance.

While working from home and watching to see how the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic develops, here are some tips from Better Business Bureau to avoid falling victim to scams:

• Be aware of unusual procedures. Job offers without interviews are a red flag of employment scams, as well as employers who overpay and ask to wire back the difference.

Take note of companies that promise opportunities or high income if you pay them for training or if they send a check for you to purchase a computer or other supplies then ask for a portion of the funds returned to them.

Google work-at-home job offers for details that may sound familiar as there are myriad scams with a variety of different twists.

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• Check official job postings. Scammers often will use emails, social media or online job boards to reach targets. They also are known to use actual company names, addresses and human resource contacts found on the internet.

If a job posting seems too good to be true, go directly to the company website and check its career page directly. If a website is charging you for information about a job opening, it is probably a scam.

• Employers should set up work-from-home IT policies.

When setting up remote employees, establish a plan to help them with technical problems they may face. Instruct them on whom they should contact, and whom to avoid, for tech support.

• Maintain office billing policies at home. One of the best ways to combat business email compromise scams is to set a policy requiring employees to confirm payment requests in person or over the phone, rather than over email.

If the employees who handle billing are working from home, have them maintain these policies by calling to confirm any payment requests made by email.

• Review safety practices with employees.

As employees are working remotely, remind them of the best practices to avoid scams. Practices such as avoiding clicking on pop-ups or links in unsolicited emails are encourage and, if they aren’t sure of the origin of an email, have them contact a colleague or supervisor by phone.

Make sure they realize tech support professionals never would call them unless they had requested assistance first.

Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.

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Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.