COVID Con: Woman scammed after trying to apply for work-at-home job during COVID-19 pandemic

(WSVN) - As the coronavirus pandemic continues to force people out of their jobs, scammers are hard at work. This time, they’re using people’s desperation against them. 7’s Kevin Ozebek has advice from a state official on how to avoid becoming a victim in a “COVID Con.”

Thousands of people across South Florida are desperate to find jobs, including Monica Correa.

After being laid off right as the coronavirus pandemic struck, she decided to try to find a job where she could work from home.

Monica Correa, scam victim: “I thought it was legit, and apparently, it wasn’t.”

After posting her resume on an online job-finder site, she got a message from a New Jersey-based shipping company.

They were looking for people to work as shipping inspectors.

Monica Correa: “I was supposed to be inspecting packages that would come in and inspecting them to see if they were in good condition. They told me they would offer me at least making $650 a week.”

She filled out a tax form, emailed a copy of her driver’s license and then downloaded a link, which would install the company’s software onto her laptop.

Monica Correa: “Everything just looked legit. Emails, information about shipping, the things that I had to do, order from UPS, FedEx, USPS, boxes.”

But, just as Monica was ready to start working, her laptop started to malfunction. A few days later, when she couldn’t log on at all, she called a family member for help. He gave her the bad news. Her laptop was infected with malware.

Monica Correa: “He advised me to call the police and make a report, so that’s when it hit me, and I said, ‘Oh, my. I’ve been scammed.'”

Miami-Dade Police believe Monica’s new employers were scammers looking to cash in by using her tax and employment forms to steal her personal information.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney: “They’re trying to get information from you. They want your details. They want your social security number. They want everything about you.”

Fernandez Rundle says, if you are contacted for a remote job opportunity, you need to know what questions to ask before giving up any personal details.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle: “What is your business? Where is your business registered? What part is it registered in?”

The company that hired Monica claimed to be based in Newark, New Jersey, but 7News found they were not listed in the state’s database of registered companies nor at the address Monica was given.

Monica Correa: “I was fortunate that they didn’t take any money, but I am scared that they do have my information. They do have my Social Security number, my address.”

Monica’s job search continues. She hopes that with South Florida businesses finally reopening, she can find something soon and put this bad experience behind her.

Fernandez Rundle says her office has seen an increase in the number of coronavirus-related scams.

If you think you were a victim of one, you can report it at the office’s price gouging and scam hotline at 305-547-3300.

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