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Job and employment scams  

Fair Trading has found that some advertisements promoting job and employment opportunities are actually scams. They sound terrific but sometimes they don’t tell the full story.

Types of employment scams  

Employment scams can take many forms. Advertisements such as ‘Work from home for only a few hours each day’, ‘Regular income guaranteed’, ‘Earn up to $5,000 a week - for very little effort’ appear in all sort of places: on power poles, newspapers, community notice boards and even email.

Some offers promise rich financial rewards for performing simple tasks like stuffing envelopes a couple of hours week. The scammer may ask you to deposit an up-front fee into a bank account or send money to a post office box before the work can commence.

Once you have paid your money, the person offering the work may get you to run similar advertisements to suck other unsuspecting victims into the scam.

Other job and employment offers are thinly disguised illegal pyramid or trading schemes based on the chain letter principle. You will be urged to purchase products of little value and then encourage friends and relatives to join the scheme. Earnings depend upon the number of participants you sign up, not product sales. They are heartless tricks designed to rip-off vulnerable consumers.

In a recent case, a family was persuaded by a con artist to ‘invest’ their hard earned money into a new scheme that was guaranteed to make them wealthy. After parting with $25,000, the family received ‘membership’ to an online gambling system that did not lead to the riches they expected. The scheme has since collapsed.

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Who scammers target 

The cold-hearted scammers don’t care where their money comes from. They target vulnerable people who may find these offers particularly attractive:

  • unemployed people wishing to supplement social security benefits
  • people who care for the aged or sick at home
  • backpackers seeking money to finance their travels.

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What these scams can cost you 

The cost of employment scams varies enormously and the full amount is rarely revealed up-front. Some may involve as little as $30 – a sum so small that most victims don’t bother complaining to Fair Trading about them.

Others involve significant amounts. For example, some work from home employment offers are promoted as ‘fool-proof’ computerised gambling or stock market systems. By the time victims have paid an inflated price for a computer and the associated software, they could find themselves out of pocket to the tune of $25,000.

IMPORTANT - Treat any employment offer requiring the payment of an up-front fee with suspicion. Chances are it’s a scam.

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How to spot a scam 

There is a strong probability the employment offer is a scam if it:

  • promises substantial sums of money for performing simple tasks
  • fails to spell out precisely what is involved
  • uses a post office box number or mobile phone number as the only contact
  • requires the payment of an up-front fee.

Generally you will not meet the people who promote these scams. You will usually only have contact with them via letters, email or phone. By the time you realise your mistake, the scammer will have disappeared with your money and recovering it will be virtually impossible.

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The penalties 

The promotion of bogus job and employment offers is an offence under the Australian Consumer Law. Individuals found guilty of such offences face maximum fines of $220,000. Corporations can be fined up to $1,100,000.

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If things go wrong  

If you have been a victim of a scam or if you know of any scam please report it to the Report a scam web page or call 13 32 20 or visit your local Fair Trading Centre. The information you provide could prevent others from making the same mistake.

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