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Christina Van Cleef of Escondido, had sent out so many résumés that she couldn’t keep track, so when the job offer came for a “part time data entry person to help with a temporary computer project,” she practically jumped for joy.

“I called the number and talked to an ordinary-sounding woman, a mom just like myself,” Van Cleef said. “I couldn’t believe something had finally come my way.”

Van Cleef was instructed to register on a website and give them a referral number. Then she had to use the links on that site to sign up for trial offers of services like the Disney Movie Club, and Netflix and Creditreport.com. The trials would cost between $1 and $5, which Van Cleef had to pay with her own debit card. Every time she signed up for five trials, $50 would be deposited in her PayPal account.

Van Cleef quickly went to work and signed up for about 20 trials.

“Of course I never heard from that woman again,” Van Cleef said. “And I never got my money back and had to get a new debit card. It’s bad enough out there without scammers making it even worse.”

You might jump at every opportunity to earn a paycheck, but be wary of any unwanted e-mails you may receive claiming that a company is interested in your résumé if you can’t even remember sending it out. Don’t be a victim. You’re already jobless and you don’t need any more stress in your life.

The first thing to accept is that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A lot of pyramid schemes and job scams will promise to pay you a lot of money for a job that doesn’t seem to require much experience, effort or skill. So even if it sounds great, think twice.

If a potential employer asks you to make an advance payment to get in on a business opportunity or asks you to wire money for whatever reason, it’s likely a scam. And if a potential employer won’t give you everything you need to know about the job in writing, that’s also a bad sign.

“When looking for employment on the internet, it’s wise to be wary of job scams,” advises Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.

“A new trend in scamming is when applying for a job, the candidate is asked to do an interview via IM (Instant Messenger) – be cautious of this as it’s easier to create a fake IM account versus phone number. Also, sites are created to look like a legitimate business and can trick a person into applying. Double check that the URL is actually the company it’s claiming to be. For example, a recent scam, that has since been caught, had the URL “http://cnbc.com-index.in/”. Notice how it looks like the URL is saying “cnbc.” However, adding the “-index.in” demonstrates that, indeed, this job is not coming from “cnbc.com”.

Many credible businesses now use online sites such as Facebook and Craigslist to recruit new employees. Conducting your job search on the Internet is convenient and popular in today’s job market.

“Some scams claim that before the jobs starts you will need to send money in order for them to send you a laptop, for example,” said Fell. “ Also, in the case of a popular scam, “The Mystery Shopper,” scammers actually send money and unsuspecting job applicants can get arrested for cashing an illegal check! In this particular scam, they can also say that they need your bank account information so they can deposit money into your account.”

To protect yourself, be cautious of red flags, such as those mentioned above. Again, is the job asking for personal information such as your social security number? Bank account? Are you being asked to send money? Are you being sent money before doing any work? In addition, you can always do a quick Google search of the company name, job description and the word “scam” to see if it has been previously reported.”

Don’t be discouraged. Be tenacious, diligent and optimistic instead.

Check out the Federal Trade Commssion’s ftc.gov/jobscams, where you can learn about employment scams and how to avoid them, or file a complaint.

Research employers by reviewing reports, complaints, and accreditation status ripoffreport.com.

Discover complaints about companies privacyrights.org.

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