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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Students mixed up in scam posted on Aggie Job Link

Sarah’s boss requested that she send $1,770 of her own money to a business partner in early October. Sarah did. Her boss provided a money order of $1,870 — $100 for Sarah to keep. Ten days later, Sarah learned that the money was fraudulent.

Sarah, a junior transfer student whose real name will be kept confidential for privacy reasons, was a victim of a job scam from the beginning: a well-described job post on Aggie Job Link (AJL).

After searching for “in Davis” and “paid position” on AJL, Sarah applied for an office assistant job, which appeared in the top five results. After emailing her cover letter, resume and references to the job poster’s personal email address, she got the job in August before moving to Davis for the school year.
“I saw the job on Aggie Job Link, and it paid $150 a week for me to do the basic office things. [The boss] said she was in Sweden and [that] she was an international consultant,” she said. “She didn’t email me back for a really long time, and I started to look for another job. About a week and a half [later] she told me she was in the hospital and had a heart attack and wanted to meet me in the nearest coffee shop.”

Sarah said this made her more sympathetic toward her employer, but the meeting never actually happened. Then Sarah received the money order and instructions to mail off nearly $2,000 from her boss, and learned from her bank that the money was fake.

According to Marcie Kirk Holland, project manager at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC), less than five frauds were posted in AJL in late September and early October of this year. About 10 students were involved in a similar situation, with one actually sending money to the scammer.

Holland said that the job postings themselves do not appear unusual at first.

“It does mention taking customer/account payments. That is a standard part of many legitimate jobs. Only fraudulent employers would expect this to be accomplished through an employee’s personal bank account,” she said in an email interview.

Mary Garcia, officer with the UC Davis Police Department, said types of fraud vary, but all scammers just want a personal signed check in the end.
According to Garcia, a common indicator of a fraudulent posting could be a medical emergency, being out of the country or a family emergency.

“They often claim themselves as doing international business and avoid [meeting] you in person or [talking] on the phone,” she said.

Sarah recalled a similar situation as her “boss” never showed up but only contacted her via email, and emails were often delayed, as if they came from other time zones outside of the country.

“I wish there [had] been a disclaimer on the Aggie Job Link because I would assume that everything is legitimate, and your school will protect you and never give you the opportunity [to fall victim to fraud],” Sarah said.

Holland also noted that students should be alert, as no employers should ever ask an intern or employee to write a check for a transaction that relates to their company’s operations. Students are encouraged to only communicate with potential employers through AJL, not through personal email addresses, and to keep in mind that employers do not send large sums of money to people that they do not know well.

In response to the fraudulent job postings, AJL has posted a notification on its webpage to warn students of fraud that can be associated with writing a check through a personal account, and it has removed positions of possible fraud from student view in the search results.
“We archive fraudulent postings for ICC records,” Holland said. “We will sometimes leave fraudulent postings accessible to students with the term ‘fraudulent posting’ in the position title so that students that refer back to the position while they are completing a resume or cover letter or applying through the AJL system will see the notice.”
UC Davis students are not the only victims in these cases. Similar situations have happened throughout the UC system. AJL has began working with other universities to keep job links clean and free from scams by notifying job link administrators to pull positions that were posted for multiple campuses and label them as “fraudulent.”MENGSHI SHAO can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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