MILWAUKEE - Audreanna Watson spent many afternoons online looking for work. Like most job seekers she used credible websites.
“I use more of the online to put my resume and I wait for an employer to contact me,” said Watson.
A newly unsealed warrant shows in the fall of 2013 those looking for work, like Watson, received job offers and ended up getting scammed as well. According to court papers "approximately 65 identity theft victims" were scammed.
Here’s how it worked. Once people posted their resume, court papers showed they were contacted by "what they believed to be a legitimate representative of RWB"---that’s Robert W. Baird, the billion dollar Milwaukee capital investment company.
The people were to work from home and earn from $12.00 to $18.35 an hour. To get started job seekers needed to buy equipment and were asked to sign up for online pay. The scammer sent "counterfeit paychecks to the victims in amounts exceeding the victims' earnings.”
The workers were told to "correct the error by cashing the paychecks and returning the overage to the perpetrators.” Once they did that job seekers were scammed out of hundreds of dollars.
Since the scammers used Baird’s well known name, a red flag didn’t pop up until the investment company determined "unknown actors are using RWB's identity in a phishing scheme." The Wisconsin Department of Justice started to investigate.
Baird issued the following statement to the I-Team:
"We are aware of the situation, which involves parties outside of Baird, and have been working closely with authorities to address it. Beyond that, we have been asked by the authorities to not discuss this in the event that doing so would compromise their ongoing investigation.
In general, job seekers should be cautious about any situation where they are approached with a job offer that appears to be from a potential employer where they have not applied for employment. Anyone who receives an unsolicited inquiry regarding employment with Baird should contact us immediately at email@example.com."
The DOJ said this is an active investigation and it’s unclear how much money was stolen. They are working to determine how many other company names were used in this scheme. Right now they can’t say if they know who exactly is behind the scam. They are searching emails and phone records. No one is in custody.
As for online job seekers it’s recommended you do your research and if you have doubts always contact the company directly to verify you are working for a legitimate company.