MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Remote job scams sending fake checks to unsuspecting Memphians are becoming more common.
The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South said work from home scams were common before the pandemic.
Since more people opted to work remotely during COVID, there's been a boom in scammers.
One woman who almost fell victim to one scheme shared the red flags she spotted.
“We at PrimeWalter Studios received your application for the position of graphic designer,” read Bartlett resident Kamaria Gunn from an e-mail she received this month.
“Which I do not remember sending,” she added. "The rest of it didn’t seem too crazy, it seemed pretty legit.”
However, the company wasn’t.
Gunn received the job acceptance letter in her inbox, offering her a chance to do the type of work she’s passionate about and has applied for more than a dozen times.
“They had a header, they had a watermark, they had the phone number, they had an address,” said Gunn.
The University of Memphis graduate said while PrimeWalter looked legitimate, she did spot some things that raised questions.
“It was a design job but there weren’t a whole lot of examples of all the past works they had on the website," the artist noted. "They were stock photos.”
She gave the company the benefit of the doubt, then went through the interview process, which was completed through an app by text.
“Two days passed and then they just offered me the job,” Gunn explained. “We totally skipped past the phone interview and I was kind of taken aback.”
Gunn’s assignment from home was to create media and logos for websites.
“I’ve been applying and applying for jobs and getting nothing but rejections," Gunn said. "Seeing that one acceptance, I kind of disregarded the red flags I initially had, thinking maybe this is a company that’s finally giving me a chance.”
Her suspicion increased when she got a $2,700 check with instructions to send money to a vendor for supplies.
Gunn said the catch was to send the funds before the check cleared.
“Anytime you’re asked to take some money, put it in your bank account, take it out and send it somewhere that’s going to be a scam,” advised Daniel Irwin with the BBB of the Mid-South.
He said other red flags include Gmail accounts used for real companies, finding no company name by a Google search, and obvious spelling and grammar errors in emails and text messages.
Irwin explained it's important to research job offers fully, and never send back money for anything, including supplies and secret shopping.
"Just because you're able to get the bank to give you those funds doesn't mean the check is cleared," said Irwin. "Once you've gone and you've taken that money and you've followed the instructions and sent money back, it doesn't matter. You can't get that money back."
Gunn shared her fake employer's reason for asking for money.
“They were like, 'This is a way to build trust between us and the employer',” she recalled. “You would think if you've already gone through the trouble of hiring me, you would already trust me.”
Gunn’s check ended up bouncing. Thankfully, she was only charged a minimal fee.
“It's even more egregious to (scam people) during a pandemic,” she said. “When there are so many people trying to find the quality job right now and to prey, on those people who are desperately trying to find that job that's it's just horrible.”
The BBB said job seekers should take their time when using popular job boards. Fake companies commonly post on them.
The Mid-South BBB has seen 137 employment and fake check scams five months into this year. Consumers lost over $8,000. In 2021, the BBB confirmed over 100 employment scams reported.
If you suspect a suspicious business or employer, you can report it here.