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Scammers target online job seekers during COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'Calgary job seekers and BBB warn of growing employment scams' Calgary job seekers and BBB warn of growing employment scams
WATCH ABOVE: Online employment scams are a growing problem as the pandemic drags on. Tomasia DaSilva has the story of two Calgarians who fell victim to these scams and has tips on how you can avoid them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created greater unemployment, and scammers are cashing in.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay told Global News it has seen an increased number of calls during the pandemic inquiring about phony job offers.

It’s now warning job seekers to do their due diligence, especially online.

“In the desperate need for a job, you may be tempted to jump at the first opportunity that comes,” the BBB’s Shawna-Kay Thomas said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus-related scams have defrauded Canadians $1.2M: official

Calgary job seekers scammed online

Calgarian Sara Noble thought she had found the perfect job when she came across an online posting for an inside sales rep for a reputable Canadian grocer.

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She thought nothing of applying, especially since she was on a reputable site.

She signed a contract and was sent a cheque, which she deposited.

“When I found out it was actually a scam was when my bank phoned me and told me there was fraudulent activity noticed on my account,” Noble said. “The amount these people were trying to take matched the cheque.”

Noble was shocked and disappointed, especially since she has been trained and educated to look for phishing emails and phishing scams.

“The scam was very in-depth,” she said. “There were fake interviews, fake websites that these people created.”

Despite the sophistication of the scam, Noble still can’t believe she was a victim of a cyberscam.

“I felt kind of naïve not picking up on the red flags,” she said. “Looking back, there were quite a few.”

Noble was able to work with her bank to not incur any losses.

Calgarian holds up fraudulent cheque sent as part of online employment scam
Calgarian holds up fraudulent cheque sent as part of online employment scam. Global Calgary

Global News was also contacted by another Calgarian who had been almost duped by an employment scam.

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Hayley Sands recently got a job offer directly related to COVID-19. It involved going to recently reopened businesses to evaluate their pandemic protocols.

She then got a cheque, supposedly from the company, but with a different company’s financial information. She also got some strange instructions.

“So they wanted me to collect this $4,000 cheque, deposit it, then they wanted me to transfer that cheque into an unknown bank account.”

Sands questioned that, and contacted the person she had been hired by.

“As soon as I told him I was uncomfortable about the transaction, he immediately hung up on me.”

Sands also said she was surprised by the lengths the scammers went to.

“The company goes as far as to say they were representing the World Health Organization as well as the Canadian government,” she said.

“When you read that, you think it’s legitimate. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case.”

Sands was not out any money because she didn’t deposit the cheque.

READ MORE: Canadians targeted by scams taking advantage of COVID-19 fears

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BBB advice on what to do

The BBB warns people searching for jobs to thoroughly research the job and the company.

  • Do an internet search for the company making the offer
  • Check their website to see if the job offer is on there
  • Reach out to the company with a phone call with the listed number — not the number the scammers provide
  • Check to see if the website is actually legitimate

“Often what scammers do is they mimic legitimate organizations, they mimic legitimate companies,” Thomas said. “They’re even setting up fake websites.”

The BBB estimates that about 30 per cent of websites that it sees are indeed fake and that number has increased during the pandemic.

It also warned people not to cash any cheque from a company that expects money back because most legitimate companies will not do that.

Global News reached out to the companies listed on the job postings as well as the cheques. We heard back from one of the companies which told us it was indeed not legitimate and it has filed a complaint with police in Ontario where it is based.