Pinellas County woman warns about online job scams after losing thousands of dollars

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Amanda Robbins offering a warning after losing thousands of dollars to an online job scam.

The Pinellas County woman found a work-from-home position through ZipRecruiter. Her job was to buy gift cards with her personal credit card for a company called 1 Great Gift and they would reimburse her.

"When I started this I was trying to be very careful because it sounded a little strange to me to you know you purchase things and then they pay you back," said Robbins. "But the money came right back in my account so you know I thought everything was fine."

She said everything was fine at first until one day the money she was getting back from the company was pulled from her account. She attempted to get in contact with the company to figure out what was happening.

"Well, I left messages. Then, she contacted me back and said well that was my mistake [problems with the account] and they wanted all this extra information. I was like wait a second, something is not right here - you have enough information to give me my money back," said Robbins.  "And then I went to their website and it was gone ... all their emails got kicked back to me from their server."

Robbins says she notified ZipRecruiter and pulled the company off their website.

Unfortunately, Robbins has thousands of dollars worth of charges on her credit card that she is required to pay. She filed a lawsuit against Zip Recruiter, claiming the company seemed like it would do more to safeguard people against potential scams.

We reached out to ZipRecruiter to find out about the company's fraud and protection policy.

Scott Garner, the Corporate Communications Manager replied with the following series of statements:

"We at ZipRecruiter take great pride in our role in bringing job seekers and employers together. We are also acutely aware that there are bad actors out there who, whether on job boards or on other platforms for internet commerce and communication, seek to use the cloak of anonymity provided by technology to take advantage of others. And while we are pleased that our growth has enabled a dramatic increase in both the number of people we can help and the quality of our service, we are also aware that we have become more visible not only to legitimate participants but also to bad actors.

That is why we have implemented, and continue to refine and improve, our systems to address this important issue. On the front end, we use proprietary detection software and have stringent client on-boarding processes to vet potential posters and deny access for those who fail to pass our screens. On the back end, we re-run our detection software on job listings as they're posted and have customer service representatives available seven days a week to investigate and weed out suspicious posts.

Still, no system is perfect, no matter how sophisticated or well-intentioned. That is why we take steps to educate job seekers about how to spot suspicious activity and encourage reporting of all such activity to us so we can investigate and take prompt remedial action. Any such reports should be sent to our dedicated email address: trustandsafety@ziprecruiter.com."

Here are some ways to protect yourself from potential scams:

  • Report suspicious emails 
  • Be wary of anyone requesting you transfer funds to a different account of writing a check on your account and sending it to them 
  • Check with your bank to make sure any check is legitimate before you attempt to cash it 
  • If you discover that a check is fraudulent, file a report with your local police department

ABC Action News is taking action for you to try to save you from falling victim to similar fraud.

Doug Templeton with Pinellas County Consumer Protection offers several pieces of advice for people seeking jobs online. He explains there are several types of work-at-home jobs that typically involve a scam: mystery shopping, shipping/receiving packages from home and stuffing envelopes. 

He says to ask yourself a few questions: 

  1. Does the job sound too good to be true? 
  2. Are you required to send any money up front? This could be an application, to "process" an application, or purchase supplies need for the job. 
  3. Have you talked to anyone over the phone or is all the communication via email? 
  4. Were you required to provide any tax documents? A W-2s or 1099s form? This could be an attempt to steal personal identifying information.

Templeton says there are a few signs to watch out for: 

  1. Any potential job ad that tries to play on your emotions 
  2. Any multilevel marketing/sales programs 
  3. Business start-up kits 
  4. Anything where you are required to send money, wire money, or cash checks

If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of a scam: 

  1. File a police report 
  2. Report it to Consumer Protection 
  3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

You can also report identity theft and get a recovery plan at www.identitytheft.gov.

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