Career Aggie, a site created by Career Services to match Utah State University students and alumni to potential employers, has experienced an outbreak of fraudulent postings and emails this week.
Visitors to the site are greeted by a disclaimer in red, warning students to be wary of potentially fraudulent job postings.
When Hayden Atwood, a senior at Utah State, received an offer for a job he didn’t remember applying for through Career Aggie, he was immediately suspicious.
“The job promised $15 per hour and about 20 hours per week just doing menial tasks like picking up mail and making phone calls,” Atwood said. “The part that sounded fishy to me was that this person was doing research in Brazil.”
Atwood was wary of a situation that would require no face-to-face contact and would likely require him to provide his bank account information. Atwood received the offer on Saturday; his suspicions were validated when his wife received the same email from a different sender later that day.
“I knew then that it was fraudulent and decided to contact Career Services before someone fell into the trap and lost their money because of it,” Atwood said.
Miguel Beal, a senior at Utah State, received a similar email. Beal said he was contacted by a woman who claimed she was looking for an assistant while she worked from Brazil.
“Her email address was an odd name from an AOL account,” Beal said. “Who uses AOL anymore?”
Beal, too, was suspicious of the offer of high payment for such simple tasks.
“All I got out of the email was that she wanted someone to have a long-distance working relationship while getting paid too well for a job that was too simple,” Beal said. “Usually, if it sounds too good to be true then it is.”
According to Diana Maughan, the recruiting coordinator at Career Services, Beal is one of many students who have been contacted by scammers through Career Aggie’s email service.
Though Career Aggie has seen fraudulent posts and emails in the past, several email scams have reached students through the site within the past week.
“Our latest rash will attach themselves to a legitimate company and access our database for email addresses,” Maughan said.
Allowing hiring businesses to access student email addresses is a central feature of Career Aggie, often utilized by employers on the site.
“We like to have our email addresses out on Career Aggie because legitimate employers look at those email addresses and will contact students,” Maughan said. “There are people that have been contacted and gotten great jobs through Career Aggie through this method, so we don’t want to take the whole method away.”
According to Maughan, although Career Services works hard to prevent fraud, the organization has to find the balance between preventing scams and crippling the website’s utility to legitimate users.
“It’s out there and we do everything we can to keep it from happening, but they are going to slip through because we do want employers and students to be accessible to each other,” Maughan said.
Maughan encouraged students to protect themselves by researching the jobs they are offered through Career Aggie.
“Always check out the job,” she said. “Check out their web page. Try to get ahold of them not through this person, but through the company.”
Since scams often rely on an attachment to a legitimate company, it’s important that students verify through the company — not the individual — that the individual is actually associated with the company, Maughan said.
Maughan said that one frequent scam requires its victims to spend money sent to them in the form of a check.
“You’re going to go spend your money, or supposedly this check’s money, but then there’s no money in that account,” Maughan said. “If they’re going to send you money for your work and it seems like a really good paying job, it’s most likely a fraud. Last spring we actually had over $10,000 worth of bogus checks in our office that students had brought in.”
Students with questions are welcome to bring them to Career Services; Maughan encouraged students to look for red flags in the jobs being offered.
“Most likely, if everything is done through email it’s not going to be legitimate,” Maughan said. “There should be some phone calling going on, interviewing going on. If they’re just going to hire you without interviewing, most likely it’s not going to be a legitimate job either. It comes up to the student to be responsible and do the due diligence to make sure it’s legitimate.”
Mikala Lindhardt, Katherine Taylor, Conrad Rowe, Ben Nielsen and Weslie Hatch contributed to this report.