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That high-paying job opportunity you saw online could be a scam

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Ever see a job posting online that just seems too good to be true? Well, it could be one of thousands of fraudulent ads that have infiltrated sites like LinkedIn. Jasmine Robinson is a job seeker in Long Island, N.Y. And back in June, she came across a posting for a writing job at a company calling itself Obsidian Entertainment.

JASMINE ROBINSON: They had a bunch of documents that all looked very legit. I did a text interview over an app called Wire. I had a phone interview that was also maybe about 20, 25 minutes. And, like, everything just moved really, really quickly.

RASCOE: Robinson received an offer letter and was told she could make $55 an hour. Next came direct deposit forms and a sweetener, a check for around $8,000. Supposedly, it was to buy work-from-home equipment.

ROBINSON: I've never felt so crazy before. Just constantly asking my family members, asking my husband, asking my friends, like, is this fake? Like, this has to be fake, right? And they're all saying, no, no no. It's real. Like, look at the email. Everything looks on the up and up.

RASCOE: But Robinson went with her gut and researched scams online. She realized she was being taken for a ride. Even though she didn't lose any money, she still had to close her bank account and cancel all of her cards because she had given up her personal information. To get a better understanding of the problem, we reached out to Haywood Talcove. He specializes in these kinds of identity theft scams.

HAYWOOD TALCOVE: It's the great American fraud. Because of COVID, more and more people have been searching for jobs online, using services like LinkedIn. And all of a sudden, they see an opportunity that looks absolutely phenomenal. It pays significantly more than they've ever seen, and they put in their resume. And the next thing you know, they get an email back. They get a Zoom link, and they go through the interview process. And then a few days later, they get an email. Congratulations. You are our candidate. I just need you to fill out some very simple paperwork. Please give us your name, your date of birth, your Social Security number, your bank account and permission to run a credit check. And unsuspectingly, the person didn't get a job, and they've been robbed.

RASCOE: So, I mean, right now, job seekers are going to listen to this. They're going to be worried about getting scammed. Like, what can you do? Obviously, I'm guessing that one thing we will say is if the job is too good to be true, if it's paying you $60 an hour to work at, like, a fast food place, it's probably not real. Well, I'm sure some of these - they may tailor it to make it look kind of real, right? What should you look out for?

TALCOVE: So the first thing you want to do is if you get the job offer, you want to look up the company, and you want to call the central number. So if you happen to see a LexisNexis job opening on LinkedIn and you're fortunate enough to be selected, just call the 800 number and get transferred to the person. That stops 80% of it. If you get an email from the, quote, unquote "recruiter," and it doesn't have the domain of the company that you're applying for, ask them for an email address at the domain. Sometimes, companies use third-party contractors. But they should be able to very simply do that. If they don't want to give it to you or they have some other reason, big red flag.

And then the third thing - when they ask you for all that information - your name and your address and your social and your bank account number - what you want to do is say, I would prefer, if possible, to do that in person and just provide it to your HR person. No one's just emailing an application with all that information into an email address with a domain that doesn't match the company. Unless you can do those three things, it's likely fraud.

RASCOE: That's Haywood Talcove, chief executive officer at LexisNexis Risk Solutions Government Division. Thank you so much for joining us.

TALCOVE: Thank you so much for having me today. I really appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.