Columbus woman warns others to beware of job phishing scams

At the end of the day, all Cindy Reese wanted was a good-paying job with a legitimate company.

What the Columbus resident got instead was an employment phishing scam designed to separate her from cash and pilfer private information that presumably can be used in future unscrupulous ways.

“You have to realize that someone who really wants a job, like myself — and I’ve been looking for several months — it does sound a little too good to be true initially,” Reese, 51, said Monday. “But then when they send you an offer letter with ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ on there, and they’re sending W-2 forms, it makes you think, OK, maybe they are legitimate. And, of course, I wanted them to be.”

Fortunately, Reese wised up before losing at least $500 in a scam that reportedly has been going on for months, if not longer. That’s the amount of money that a purported “human resources lady” attempted to get the Columbus woman to pay a vendor until a $2,850 check cleared her bank.

(Click here for the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker)

Reese, who came across the supposed HR person on the messaging site, Google Hangouts, said she was offered a job. But it came with the caveat of depositing a check sent to her in her own bank. She then was to go to a Walmart store to conduct a Walmart-to-Walmart transaction for the purchase of office supplies. Her bank could not process the check, however, prompting the “irritated” HR lady to ask for the $500, which Reese didn’t comply with.

There were no face-to-face meetings or phone calls. The scam was being conducted through the online messaging.

To top things off, the bogus human resources person was claiming to be with health-care insurer Cigna, and offering a job in their Columbus office. She even informed Reese that a meeting would take place this week with her supervisor.

There are reports online of a Cigna phishing scam that has been going on at least for months. It’s so prevalent that the company has posted at the top of its online career page a blunt warning.

“Please beware of phishing scams involving fake Cigna job postings and of individuals posing as Cigna executives making phony job offers,” the warning says.

The insurer advises everyone to not trust anyone reaching out to them who doesn’t use a email address or Cigna phone number. It stressed the company would “never” ask for any type of payment for consideration of employment and that anyone applying for a job must do it directly with the firm’s website.

Cigna doesn’t have a location in Columbus, but BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia does, with it operating within a new office complex in Muscogee Technology Park in the Midland area of the city. The company also has a considerable number of employees working from home, often handling customer service duties.

But BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia, a subsidiary of Anthem Inc., also has a warning at the bottom of certain job listings that it posts on its own career page.

“Please beware of phishing scams that promote work-at-home opportunities and which may also pose as legitimate companies,” the warning reads. “Please be advised that an Anthem recruiter will never ask you for a credit card, send you a check, or ask you for any type of payment as part of consideration for a role with our company. All of our careers require that you first complete an online application.”

Contacting companies directly online is now Reese’s recommendation for others. Although she did not lose any major amount of money to the scam perpetrators, she did give them her name, address, phone number, social security number and photocopies of her driver’s license. That means she will need to remain extra vigilant of fraudulent information appearing in her credit reports. She filed a report with local police, which also will come in handy if she should ever need to dispute information in her credit file.

Reese, who volunteers at a local hospital and with a disabled veterans group to keep busy until she lands a job, is simply wanting to put the episode behind her. She still has the phony check from her bank.

“If it’s a bad check, they’ll just charge me $5 for it being a bad check, and it will be over,” she said.

The Better Business Bureau website allows consumers to report scams via its Scam Tracker, with the information being placed in a listing online to warn others of their prevalence. On Monday, there were more than 60,000 listings nationwide related to a variety of incidents, including charities, sweepstakes, travel and vacations, online purchases and, of course, job phishing.