Anthony Martino has been a police officer for more than 18 years, 10 of which he has spent heading the Utica, N.Y., Police Department’s computer crime investigations. In addition, Martino is the director of the Computer Forensics Research and Development Center at Utica College, and is an adjunct professor of cyber security. Martino has certainly been around the digital block — an estimated 20% of all of his cases deal with scams.
Martino has seen many people fall victim to scams, including college students, who he said have always been easy targets.
“I think of college students as a demographic are a trusting people,” Martino said. “And that’s a hazard of the age and the environment. College is designed to be. . .this kind of Utopian environment where people can act freely and think freely without danger or hazard, but the reality is that there are dangers, there always has been. Now they’re just different.”
According to Martino, society’s increasing reliance on technology has given scammers a new medium through which they can con others out of their money.
“The mechanisms change, the scams themselves change, but at its heart, it’s still happening at at least a similar rate that it always has,” he said, adding, however, that it is sometimes harder to avoid such scams.
“You lose all of those non-verbal cues and all the nuances of human interaction online,” he said. “Right off the bat whenever you’re dealing with someone online, you’re at a disadvantage.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for college graduates over the age of 25 was 4.7% in October 2011. This number is not far from the highest percentage of that same age group in July 2009, which was 5.8%.
Michael Haaren, co-founder and CEO of Staffcentrix, a company that provides screened telework and work-at-home job opportunities on a website and researches internet fraud and job scams, understands how work-from-home jobs can be attractive to college students.
“The problem is that there’s a 60:1 scam ratio in work-at-home job ads online,” Haaren said. “Your average college student going online to look for work-from-anywhere is probably going to walk into one of those scams.”
Haaren also said that they have estimated that job scams on Craigslist have a 100:1 ratio, which he said makes it almost impossible not to run into one.
“It’s hard to identify the employers,” he said. “There’s no expense involved and so it’s kind of a free-for-all.”
Martino advises college students searching for a job online should remember that legitimate business will have physical contacts like phone numbers and addresses. Students should play devil’s advocate and ask themselves what could be wrong with a job advertisement.
“If you come up with more than one or two possibilities, go get a job at Arby’s,” he said. “Fortunately some of the best advice in the world is the oldest advice in the world: If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”
Haaren agreed with this sentiment, and said students really need to look out for themselves because the government can’t keep up.
“The net is like Tombstone before the Eurps arrived,” Haaren said. “The FTC, the attorney general and all the consumer protection folks are way behind the eight ball. It’s really a wild west.”
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