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Online job scams have cost Edmontonians $240K this year

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Edmontonians have lost more than $240,000 this year so far after falling victim to online employment scams.

Between Jan. 1 and July 15, 2019, the Edmonton Police Service received 93 reports of online job scams with an overall loss of $240,924.83.

Police say scammers are using “advanced tactics” to appear legitimate and are mainly targeting people applying for positions where they can work from home.

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The way it works is, the scammers create realistic online presences on popular job search websites such as LinkedIn, Monster, ZipRecruiter, Facebook, Indeed, Craigslist, Kijiji or CareerBuilder.

The scammers either create fake company websites or clone real ones, police said.

Once a connection with a potential employee is made, police say the scammers initiate an online interview through email, video chat or text message.

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Successful applicants are then offered the “job,” and asked to provide personal and banking information. Police say the scammers use fake, but official-looking documents to obtain this information.

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Once employment begins, police say the scammers tell the employees they must use their personal accounts to manage financial transactions until they are done training.

The fake employers transfer money to the employees via e-transfer or fraudulent business cheques, according to police. The money is meant to be sent to “clients” for equipment and supplies

Employees are then being asked to send the money to the “client” via Bitcoin and Ethereum currency, iTunes gift cars, e-transfer, vouchers purchased through Flexepin, or direct deposit into a third party bank account provided by the scammer.

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Police say this will continue until the employee’s bank picks up on the fraudulent deposits, or the employees themselves become suspicious.

Police warn that anyone can fall victim to this scam.

“Scammers do this for a living and have many people helping them build their elaborate scams. They take legitimate company and employee details and incorporate them into their scheme,” police said in a media release Tuesday.

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Police say it is difficult to track down the scammers, particularly if they’re overseas.

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“Typically they’re in Turkey or they’re in South Africa, Nigeria, Guiana,” Det. Linda Herczeg with EPS economic crimes. “We can’t always find them but what we can do is we work with our policing agencies that are international, they’re worldwide. So we work with banking institutions, we work FBI, secret service.

“Working together, sometimes we can maybe make a dent or make it more difficult for them to do.”

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to this or any other scam, contact police at 780-423-4567. Tips on how to avoid falling victim to a scam can be found on the EPS website.