YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Patricia Barnes of New Middletown has been looking for work.
When she landed a job offer as an administrative assistant on the Ohio Means Jobs website, she thought she had struck gold.
“Oh, I was very excited,” Barnes said. “They had offered quite a bit of money, salary wise and it was an in-home office.”
The company sent her a large check to set up her home office for Mectron Engineering. They told her to send back whatever she didn’t use, and she said that sent off warning bells.
Barnes was almost drawn into a check-kiting scam, which takes advantage of the ‘float’ time between when a check is deposited and when a bank realizes the money doesn’t exist.
Barnes’ bank suggested she deposit the check but put a hold on it until the funds cleared. That way, she would not be held responsible for any fees or overdrafts on her account.
“How many other people go through this, not as suspicious as I am? And not having the friends at the bank to help work you through situations like this?” Barnes asked.
Just last year, the Ohio attorney general’s office took more than 150 complaints similar to Barnes’. Some of those crimes started on the state employment website.
“We take a number of steps to make sure that the job postings are as safe as possible,” Ben Johnson with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said.
Jobs posted through state offices are screened. But the site automatically pulls in every job in Ohio that’s posted on the internet.
Right now there are 170,000 jobs on the site.
“We have a staff that is continuously monitoring the website and looking for postings that seem fishy and seem like they may not be legitimate,” Johnson said.
WKBN contacted the real Mectron Engineering to find out if they knew about the scam, but the company is based in Singapore and has been unable to be reached.
The Attorney General has some tips on how to avoid job scams online.