Employment scams on the rise, BBB San Antonio warns

Scammers also lure people on legitimate career website

SAN ANTONIO – The Better Business Bureau is advising job applicants to be extra cautious of scammers during a time when companies are offering generous incentives to new employees.

Whether full-time, part-time or a side gig, the BBB reports that in the last few months, the number one scam reported in San Antonio were employment scams.

“We’ve seen a variety of job scams,” said Jason Meza, the regional director of the BBB San Antonio. “They followed so many different variations, everything from the overpayment check scheme to car rep schemes.”

Verónica Juárez is one of the latest victims of scammers posing as employers.

“It’s just devastating,” Juárez said. “It’s devastating to work so hard for something, and then in less than a day (for someone) to take it all the way.”

Her bank account is nearly $1,000 negative, but she has lost close to $2,000 total.

“I put (out) applications, and then, so, when I got that text, I was like, ‘Thank God,’” Juárez said.

An answered prayer quickly turned into a nightmare.

“First of all, they sent me a text saying, (they had received my) application, reviewed it and (were going to hire me,” Juárez said.

She had applied for a secret shopper job the day before.

Juárez said the recruiter explained she’d survey a business on customer service by purchasing gift cards. The scammer reached out via text, sending instructions and asking for updates on Juárez’s first assignment.

Be very wary of mystery shopping or secret shopper positions, BBB warns. (Veronica Juarez)

At one point, the scammer reminded Juárez that completing the first assignment within 12 hours qualified her for a $200 bonus.

“I went (to the bank), and I got I took the funds out. I took about $1,500 (out), and I started doing what I thought I was supposed to be employed for,” she said.

However, the BBB warns those are empty promises and a deployment tool to steal people’s money.

“Shady recruiters are getting better, unfortunately, and it’s working against us,” Meza said. “They do communicate via text, and they kind of put the pressure on you to say, ‘Are you there? Can you get the gift cards?’”

Juárez purchased gift cards from eBay and later received a company check in the mail valued at $1,950.

“Once it comes in the form of a company check, it could take weeks for your bank to detect it’s a fake check,” Meza said.

The check, unfortunately, bounced, froze Juárez’s bank account and left her with regret.

“After I withdrew the funds, I was trying to log into my account that night,” Juárez said. “For some reason, it wasn’t letting me. I called the bank, and they’re like, ‘Well, we froze your account because the check that you deposited was a fraudulent check.’”

Since then, the scammers have stopped texting her, but she’s still trying to get her money back.

“I tried to I send them everything,” Juárez said. “All of the text messages, the emails, everything that they sent me (and) the police report (to try) to show (the bank) that, you know, I didn’t know that it was wrong.”

Her chances to get refunded, according to Meza, are low.

“It’s just like cash in the wind,” Meza said. “Zero to 2% of the time do we see people get any money back or any relief from giving money via gift cards. It’s just highly untraceable.”

So if you’re looking for a job, be extra careful of offers that sound too good to be true.

Red flags for employment scams

  • No requisition number on the job posting
  • Automatic qualification for job
  • High pay
  • Fees including for application, background check, etc
  • Use of gift cards, bank account, cash applications or wire transfers

“You really want to stop and, you know, put the breaks and research, investigate the offer and the company itself,” Meza said. “There is usually a requisition number, a job number, attached to every position posted.”

Be leery if that number doesn’t exist on the job posting and company’s web page.

“We’ve seen a lot of recruiters email potential (candidates) through personal accounts. That should be a red flag right there.”

Job candidates should never be required to pay anything upfront.

“If the job offer includes you having to pay for a background check or having to use your own account for something to buy equipment, be very leery,” Meza said. “Because, again, that’s your own money going out the door right off the bat. Anything online should be used as a credit card, a true third-party intermediary who can help you dispute a charge.”

In Juárez’s case, she may never see her money again as she used a gift card with a non-refundable policy.

“Money goes back and forth with gift cards,” Meza said.

Meza also advises staying away from virtual transactions.

“Cash apps, which can be opened and closed pretty quick as well, and they’re linked directly to our bank accounts. Also, wire transfers can be picked up by anyone at any location across the country.”

If you lose money to a job scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission and the BBB’s Scam Tracker tool. You can also report it to your state attorney general.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.