Of course, you know to be cautious about unsolicited job offers that land in your email inbox. Of course, you're also tired of looking for work since graduating from college last spring with a degree that's tethered to a six-figure loan balance.
So when it's Microsoft that sent you the emailed employment opportunity, you respond promptly and figure your luck is about to change.
You've been sucked in by Internet scammers who are pushing a phony Microsoft "careers employment opportunity."
I've written before about the multiple ways thieves try to collect your personal information or get you to send them money. Earlier this year, for example, I warned about a Microsoft computer tech support scam involving telemarketers posing as employees of the giant computer company and offering to fix virus-infected computers for a fee. The Federal Trade Commission in early October cracked down on that international computer scam.
But Internet thieves are a bold bunch, and I don't expect they'll ever be completely thwarted.
The Microsoft job scam email forwarded to me is the latest example.
The pitch goes like this: You've been offered a position "to become part of the official staff of Microsoft" as a work-from-home financial agent. The job pays from $5,000 to $7,500 a month, plus commissions, depending on whether you work part-time or full-time. Your duties are to "receive and process" payments sent electronically by customers of the computer giant.
But here's the key phrase that raised a red flag. Client funds are to go into your "personal" bank account, not a Microsoft account.
"When the payments will be posted into your bank account," the job description notes, "you will have to transfer the funds to wherever your company will be needing them. The main advantage of such a service is the short time needed for us to receive the funds where we need them. This process must not be delayed as any delays will cause us to suffer financial losses. Keep in mind that you are handling money, so you must be responsible and attentive!"
Just hand over your bank account -- that's the scam in a nutshell.
There are hundreds of variations of job-hunting scams that show up in your email, on resume and career-search websites and social networking services, such as Craigslist.
How can you avoid being suckered? Here's common-sense advice from Internet scam experts.
-- Never provide sensitive financial or personal information, such as your Social Security number, bank account or credit card information.
-- Don't agree to have your earnings directly deposited into your bank account from any new or unknown employer, at least until you know you're dealing with a legitimate, trustworthy business.
-- Never agree to a wire transfer. "No legitimate job opportunity is going to involve wire transfers," said Randall Hansen, a career development counselor and author.
-- Don't be swayed by amazing testimonials or money-back guarantees.
-- Carefully examine the email details of unsolicited job offers. Look for typos, poor punctuation, incomplete sentences and other tell-tale signs.
-- Remember, legitimate companies like Microsoft don't drop out of the sky with $90,000-a-year starting salary offers.
(Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an e-mail to srosen(AT)kcstar.com or write to him at The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.)