Florida college students warned of work-from-home job scams

Scammers spoof college email address to recruit for fake jobs

An employee at the Science Museum of Western Virginia works to create a computer science curriculum for Floyd County Public Schools. (WSLS)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – College students looking for chances to work from home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic should be warned that scammers are looking to take advantage.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a Consumer Alert to students at Florida colleges and universities about scammers targeting students in work-from-home job scams.

Moody said the scammers send emails that appear to be from a college or university, advertising fake work-from-home jobs. The scammers use the false recruiting emails to steal the student’s personal information and even convince students to cash counterfeit checks and send them the money.

“During the COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic downturn, Floridians are looking for work, and it is unconscionable that scammers are exploiting these times of uncertainty to prey on our college students,” Moody said. “Students who fall victim to this scam could face serious repercussions to their financial stability and credit record. I am urging all students currently enrolled at Florida colleges and universities to take extra precaution when receiving online job offers.”

Here’s how the scam works:

  • A fake recruiter sends an online job advertisement from a false “.edu” email address offering college students an administrative position
  • As part of the scheme, the student receives counterfeit checks in the mail, or via email, and is instructed to deposit the checks into a personal checking account.
  • The scammers then direct the student to withdraw the money and make a payment necessary for the job.
  • Often, after the student sends the money, the checks are confirmed to be fraudulent by the bank.

Students who fall victim can end up having their bank accounts closed because of the fraudulent activity, and the bank might file a report against the with a credit bureau or law enforcement agency, according to Moody’s Consumer Protection Division

The student is also then responsible to pay the bank back the total amount of the counterfeit checks, which can ding their credit record.

To avoid these types of employment scams:

  • Research the company before accepting any job offer. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Search for what others are saying about experiences with the company.
  • If the solicitor is communicating via email, locate contact information for the sender through the school’s website and confirm whether the job offer is real.
  • Look for red flags, such as typos and grammatical errors. Offers of employment or pay without an interview are another sign of an employment scam.
  • Never send funds in the form of cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers to secure a job or as part of an assigned duty by a new employer.

To view previous Consumer Alerts about emerging COVID-19 related scams, click here.

Anyone who believes they are the victim of hacking or a COVID-19 related scam should contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or MyFloridaLegal.com.

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.