St. Louis, Mo., May 22, 2012 – The owner of a St. Louis business said Internet thieves have stolen the name of her company and are using it to get cash and personal information from job seekers in an elaborate work-at-home scam, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
A man in Florida may have lost nearly $8,000 to the scammers.
The BBB is warning consumers not to respond to job offers from Web Business Solutions of St. Louis County. The company’s real owner and president said the thieves have been instructing consumers to give them a variety of information, including copies of driver’s licenses and bank account numbers, in order to get jobs.
“I don’t want these people to be ripped off,” said the business owner. She said she reported the scam to local and national law enforcement authorities. The scammers appear to be preying on people who are desperate for work, the woman said.
Michelle Corey, St. Louis BBB president and CEO, said the case is typical of schemes in which thieves use the names of legitimate businesses to steal from consumers.
“Here is a case where job seekers are misled into believing they are working with a business that has an ‘A’ grade with the BBB, but in reality find themselves dealing with crooks,” she said. “These are leaches who troll the Internet looking for ways to victimize businesses and consumers.”
Among the victims is a man from Boca Raton, Fla., who sent out several pieces of personal information and then set up a bank account that took receipt of a phony wire transfer for $7,933 from the thieves. The man said he then removed most of the money from that account, in cash, and sent it via MoneyGram and Western Union to two employees overseas described by the thieves as computer programmers. Unless the situation can be resolved with his bank, he says he will be forced to repay the money and may have to file bankruptcy.
The president of Web Business Solutions, with a mailing address at 87 Grasso Plaza in St. Louis County, said she started the company in 2006, but it has not been active in recent years.
A few weeks ago, she arrived home to discover two calls on her answering machine from consumers who said they had been asked to fax personal information to Web Business Solutions. She said she contacted the callers and told them they were being scammed. Several days later, a bank called her and asked her to speak to another consumer who was convinced that the scammers were operating a legitimate business.
Still another caller told her he had faxed his driver’s license, bank routing numbers and other personal information to the thieves before learning he had been duped.
The scam came to the attention of the BBB after it received several phone calls from consumers around the nation inquiring about the company. The job searchers believe the scammers found their resumes posted on online job sites.
Emails from the thieves ask that employees set up a checking account in order to receive funds from the company and disburse them to other employees.
The scammers noted in an email that “we are listed with the BBB and proudly contribute all efforts to maintain our business reputation flawless in all respects.” An employment contract purportedly is signed by the company’s CEO, but the signature is misspelled on the document.
“I should have known better,” said a Nashville, Ga., man who gave personal information to the scammers. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten hooked into something like this.”
The BBB offers the following tips for job searchers posting resumes on the Internet:
- Beware of work-at-home scams. Most job offers promising pay for working at home are not legitimate.
- Research the employer thoroughly before you divulge any personal information. Understand that scammers can masquerade as legitimate businesses.
- Do not put sensitive, personal information, such as a Social Security number or birth date on an online resume.
- If a job offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Check with the BBB for BBB Business Reviews at www.bbb.org.