Highlands Ranch woman warns of online job scam

Data pix.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- A Highlands Ranch mother has a warning for people looking for employment. She just got caught up in an online job scam in which the criminals posed under the guise of a real company.

Melissa Piccone spent 90 minutes in an interview Monday for a job that turned out to be fake.

Piccone, an artist, has her resume posted online. So when she received an email requesting an interview for a graphic design position, she was interested.

“They said, 'We only need you for 10 to 30 hours a week and it doesn’t matter when you work.' I was like, 'That’s perfect'," Piccone said.

The woman said the job was with the McChrystal Group, a consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C. area.

Piccone would be able to work from home. She cross-referenced and found the company's website, the job posting and even a picture of Claire Avett, the woman who allegedly contacted her for the interview.

“I looked her up and there’s a bio on there of her,” Piccone said.

Piccone says the interview was done over the chat group ‘Google Hangouts’ and says her prospective employer asked detailed questions, including about how she handles stress and what integrity means to her.

Piccone was told she was hired, but then she was asked how she would like to get paid: check or direct deposit.

Piccone grew suspicious. She asked for the interviewers to turn on the webcam, while messaging the Avett through a separate platform on LinkedIn.

“I said, 'Can you please turn on your web cam so I can verify who you are?' And then they blocked me,” Piccone said. “Claire Avett responded almost immediately on LinkedIn and said, 'Yeah, that’s not me. It’s a scam'."

The Better Business Bureau told the FOX31 Problem Solvers employment scams and identify theft cases are on the rise.

“More of our lives are taking place online and of course employment reaches into that space. But it can be hard to figure out what’s real and what isn’t,” said Ezra Coopersmith, BBB investigations coordinator.

Experts say be skeptical if you are hired on the spot with only one interview and nothing further. They say be cautious if you didn’t apply to the job.

Independently research the company and call them directly to verify. They say do not agree to have your earnings direct deposited from any unknown or new employer.

While the McChrystal Group did not provide an official comment, it says its IT team worked on the issue all of last week.

For Piccone, she reported the domain addresses used in the interview and wants others to be careful.

“We may not be able to stop it completely, but we can at least shut down their accounts," she said.

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