College students across the country are taking the bait on an employment scam that gives scammers access to their bank accounts, according to an announcement from the FBI.
The scammers send out emails and post advertisements for job openings, typically recruiting students to take on administrative positions. During the hiring process, students are told they need to purchase certain equipment or supplies for the new job, and the “employer” will send a counterfeit check to reimburse them for the materials. After the student deposits the check, they are asked to send a portion of the money from their checking account to a third party.
The FBI included several examples of the email instructions from scammers in its public service announcement.
- “You will need some materials/software and also a time tracker to commence your training and orientation and also you need the software to get started with work. The funds for the software will be provided for you by the company via check. Make sure you use them as instructed for the software and I will refer you to the vendor you are to purchase them from, okay.”
- “I have forwarded your start-up progress report to the HR Dept. and they will be facilitating your start-up funds with which you will be getting your working equipment from vendors and getting started with training.”
- “Enclosed is your first check. Please cash the check, take $300 out as your pay, and send the rest to the vendor for supplies.”
After a student completes all of these steps, the results can be damaging — they would need to reimburse the bank for the amount of the counterfeit checks, their bank account could be closed, their credit score could drop and they could be vulnerable to identity theft after divulging personal information to the scammers.
The FBI is encouraging students to report suspicious emails to their institution’s IT department and the FBI. The bureau also advises students never to accept a job that asks them to deposit or wire money.