Student lured by job listing scam

While many college students pursue part-time jobs for extra cash, these adventures into the working world don’t always turn out as expected. Christopher Graham, a third-year computer science major, recently pursued a job listing from Seawolf Jobs, the university’s job search platform, only to discover that the employer was fraudulent.

“I was looking for technology related jobs, any way I could get my foot in the door,” said Graham. 

“ACOM is a huge technology corporation, and that’s what I was looking for. Their summary of their business [on their job posting] was something I wanted to be a part of, especially since they said they were a Fortune 500.” He said that the first sign of suspicion was the lack of phone calls.

Some fraudulent employers take advantage of the Seawolf Jobs page and students in attempts to access bank accounts and personal information. This personal information can be sold to companies and used to hack into private accounts. 

Although the dangers of online activities, particularly in regard to online banking and other personal matters, have been widely circulated within the past decade, when people visit a site that they believe to be secure, they may be lulled  into a false sense of security. Although Graham is currently the only student to have reported receiving and depositing a check from a fraudulent employer, another student is reported to have received a check, but felt uneasy and alerted the bank soon after.

“There was communication but it was via texting, which in current day, it’s not a surprise to have bosses texting,” said Graham. After realizing that he had been scammed, Graham immediately called his bank. 

The influx of dishonest opportunities is not specific to Sonoma State; other CSU campuses have experienced the same issue, and some campuses, like Fullerton and Fresno State, both have lists of tips for student job seekers on their websites.

“Federal law makes fund accounts available in your account within one to five days, regardless of if the checks are cleared or not,” said Graham, who is currently struggling to communicate with Sonoma State to correct the error. He contacted the head of the Seawolf Jobs page the following Monday after the incident, but said he has yet to receive a response.

Some scammers resort to pretending to belong to legitimate companies, hiding under the reliable title of an established group. 

On every Seawolf Jobs listing, there are disclaimers and security alerts.    

“Students need to be responsible when looking at job posts to ensure that if they are communicating with someone online through Seawolf Jobs that they have confirmed the legitimacy of the business,” said Career Services Specialist Ann Mansfield. 

Seawolf Jobs sent out a warning to the university including the following tips: 

Do not respond to jobs whose e-mail addresses are associated with free accounts such as Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo without checking if they are legitimate employers. A credible representative will almost always use an e-mail address specific to their respective company. 

When searching for jobs online, there are a few different signs to keep an eye out for, particularly if you suspect that the employer may be fraudulent. One red flag is if you are asked to give your credit card or bank account numbers, or copies of personal documents, but are not asked to do so in writing, as well as the request that you make any payments via wire service or courier, or if you are offered a large payment or reward in exchange for allowing the use of your bank account for depositing checks or transferring money. 

Other signs include the employer assigning you tasks for which you get paid, but which do not require you to ever see an office, a website or a representative of the company, or if the employer claims to be conducting business outside of the country.

Sometimes, the employer will send you a check for work you did not do; once you have deposited the check, the fraudulent company gains access to your account and may cause a number of issues.

Additionally, the job descriptions may include broad, alluring requirements, such as required English proficiency, a hands-on mentality, and a quick learner. 

When searching for jobs online keep in mind that not everyone is who they say they are, and that the Internet may not be as safe as we think.