Students: watch out for online job offer scams

PNC Bank has cautioned us about a scam they are seeing at branches near college campuses. The scam takes advantage of college students’ naivete and desire for part-time work. In one case, the scam job advertisement was listed at a college’s official placement office.

Here’s how it works:

  • A student responds to an online ad or to email inviting applications for personal assistants, secret shoppers, that sort of thing.
  • The student receives email saying, “You have the job!”
  • The “employer” gives the student a task: “Help me transfer some money between my bank accounts.”
  • The scammer sends the student one or more money grams, money orders, or other commercial wire transfers.
  • The instructions are, “Deposit the money orders in your account, then have your bank wire me the money, but keep $XX for yourself.” ($XX could be $25, $35, $100 — some small fraction of the amount being sent.)

What the student doesn’t know is that he or she has received a fraudulent or stolen money gram or money order and that he or she could be liable for the entire amount of the transaction.

Never accept money from unknown persons who want to give you a sum of money to hold then transfer back to them.

Below is an excerpt from the notification we received from PNC:

Subject: Fraud Attempts

  1. A female student deposited two $925 money grams yesterday at the Ben Franklin office of PNC. During the conversation with the Head Teller, she said she found a job as a personal assistant. When she came in today, the Branch Manager had a further conversation with the student. She said she found the job through her college placement office, and that the person lived somewhere else. The Branch Manager asked if she had to send money back. The student initially said no, but then told her that money was supposed to be transferred to another account.
  2. Today, a student presented two Money Gram money orders, each for $925.00, for deposit at the Farmers office of PNC. The teller began to question her as to where the money orders came from, and if she knew the person who sent them to her. She told the Teller they were from her employer, who travels extensively, and that she was to run some errands for him. In response to further questioning, she told the Teller that she was to keep a small portion of the funds, and send the remainder via Western Union to the Philippines. The Teller explained that this was a scam, and that the student would be personally responsible in the event that these money orders were returned. The Teller then placed a call to our Loss Prevention Department, who also confirmed that it was fraud.

Scammers are targeting students who are looking for employment. The scammers have been placing ads looking for personal assistants, secret shoppers, nannies, etc. Please, let’s make the students aware that they must be VERY cautious of online job offers, and of any individual asking a student to send monies back to them after depositing a check or money order.

Brian E. Tymon
Vice President, University Banking
PNC Bank