Scammers targeting jobless trying to work from home, law enforcement says

A federal prosecutor tells ABC's Pierre Thomas the scams are "despicable."

April 24, 2020, 8:06 AM

With some 26 million Americans now thrown out of work amid the pandemic, people are desperate to pay the bills and scammers know that.

Law enforcement is cracking down on scams, warning of thieves promising jobs and the safety of working from home.

“The fact that we have this dark underbelly that is going to profit off of the fear that this virus has brought into our daily lives is … despicable. It’s really terrifying to think about,” Craig Carpenito, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

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According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers have filed more than 24,000 complaints since January, with losses totaling more than $19 million.

One call, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), described an opportunity to “make up to $400 in a day.”

“Hello, this is a courtesy invitation to work with Amazon from home,” the automated call says. “No sales or technical experience are needed. Spaces are limited so please call now.”

The FCC says that this call is fake and has nothing to do with Amazon.

PHOTO: A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in the early morning hours, April 23, 2020, in New York.
A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in the early morning hours, April 23, 2020, in New York.
Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Since the start of the coronavirus, scams like the fake Amazon call have increased astronomically.

According to the FTC, consumers have filed nearly 24,000 COVID-19 related complaints since January, with losses totally $19 million dollars.

Chris O’Reilly lost his job and then thought he found another one proofreading articles related to the pandemic.

"Part of the reason why I was extra sold on the job was because it would be helping put out material that would be educational for people,” he told ABC News.

O’Reilly said he received a check for $3,000 from this “company” for a computer and other items, and instructions on how to buy the items from some “approved vendors.”

But after paying the approved vendors, Chris learned the $3,000 check had bounced and no job or computer ever came.

"It's an extremely intricate scam that they run and they're sophisticated,” O’Reilly said.

The online service in Chris’ case tells ABC News Chris communicated with another individual – not the company directly – and “when parties message off the platform it removes our ability to detect or prevent malicious activity.”

In addition to tricking people into giving them bank account numbers, scammers can also get other information, too, the FTC says.

“You’re giving them your name your address your bank account routing number, your Social Security number,” Carpentito said.

Brie Reynolds, a career coach said that the best tip when applying for jobs during the pandemic is not to search for the obvious.

"The first is pretty simple: it is don't use the phrase work from home, or the phrase work at home when you're searching online for jobs. Most scammers are going to use those phrases, she said." Instead, experts say to use the terms “remote work, telecommuting or virtual work.”

Other tips are to do research on the company, check with the better business bureau and never give up any personal information or money before making sure the company is legitimate.

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