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Investigators: Work-from-home scams on the rise in the Mid-South

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 9:50 PM CDT
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GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (WMC) - The pandemic made working from home par for the course for millions of Americans, and unfortunately, scammers took notice.

Bogus Mid-South job schemes have almost doubled in the past two years.

The criminals pulling off these scams are slick, and they’re really ramping up their dirty work.

So, we’re taking action to protect you and your bank account.

Germantown retiree Lila Diehl got burned not once, but twice by work-from-home scams.

”A company contacted me from New York and they wanted me to work from home as a travel agent,” Diehl said.

Diehl says the company offered to train her and said her first clients were a couple traveling across Russia.

”They put $2,000 in my account. They said we want you to get a money order at Walmart and have it sent to this address in Russia, which I did,” she said.

But the check wasn’t real and Diehl was on the hook for the money.

”And of course, they were gone. Their phone number had changed. Everything was gone and I was out $2,000,” Diehl explained.

”It is something that can be really devastating,” said Daniel Irwin with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of the Mid-South.

Irwin says job scams create a double whammy as victims lose money and their personal information.

”You filled out paperwork for a job, including your social security number, your bank account number, your address. So, they have everything they need to open accounts in your name and steal your identity” he explained.

One of the biggest work-from-home scams right now is the reshipping scam.

”Essentially, they send you packages and labels. And you take the labels, put them on the package, repack the package, and resend it. You’re actually sending stolen merchandise that was bought with stolen credit cards numbers,” Irwin said.

Irwin says the victims never get paid for their work.

The second major work-from-home scam is the fake check scam.

”Somebody sends you a check for a large amount of money and you’re given instructions. Sometimes, it’s to be a secret shopper and go get gift cards with that money. Sometimes, it’s because they want you to wrap your car for an advertisement,” Irwin said.

The BBB Scam Tracker website is filled with bogus job reports.

“I’ve given up six weeks of my life for a total of $400,” wrote a victim of the packaging grift. “I have not been paid. I cannot get anyone to reply back.”

This Secret Shopper victim wrote, “The letter told us to deposit a check for $3,900, keep $1,000 and go buy gift cards. It seemed legit, so we did it. Turned out it was a scam. We are out the full amount.”

”Well, you know, you feel cheated. Somebody’s taken advantage of you,” Diehl said

The bad guys are scamming more often.

In 2019, the Memphis BBB received 58 reports of job scams for a loss of more than $13,000. In 2020 there were 87 reports for a loss of nearly $48,000.

So far this year, there have been six reports with victims out of more than $58,000.

When another shady company reached out to Diehl recently, she caught on to the scam much sooner.

”You know, they’re so slick. They would come back with things to reassure you and all that,” she said.

Diehl says she never actually talked to a human.

To avoid job scams:

  • Research the company
  • Go to their website
  • Call them up
  • Ask questions
  • Don’t respond to calls, text messages, or emails from unknown numbers or email addresses
  • Never share personal or financial information via email or text message
  • Check the BBB Scam Tracker

As Diehl now knows, doing a little homework can save you a lot of heartache and hard-earned cash.

”Don’t put money into anything until you’re absolutely, 100-percent sure of what you’re doing,” she warned.

You can track LOCAL scams using the BBB’s Scam Tracker tool.

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