Safety

Internship Scams: Protecting Yourself from Thieves

As you get further into your college career, you may find yourself looking for more practical experience outside of the classroom setting. One of the best ways to obtain this experience is through an internship. Working as an intern in a professional environment is a wonderful way to learn while earning experience future employers will appreciate.

However, there is a dark side to internships. There are people who will take advantage of college students eagerly looking for experience. If you’re on the hunt for an internship then you need to know about this common internship scam. I’ve also added some helpful tips at the end about how to spot and avoid internship scams.

Internship Scam

The Internship Scam

The  internship scam presented here follows a very common pattern. Here’s how it works:

  1. A scammer will create a posting on a communal job board. The posting is usually part-time, paid, and features the name of a reputable company.
  2. When you apply, you will receive a quick response asking for an interview. The scammer then schedules the interview to take place via a video message program (even if the company has an office near where you live).
  3. Typically, on the day of the interview your contact will say something unexpected came up and ask to complete the interview via chat software. However, some scammers conduct face-to-face video interviews.
  4. After the interview (usually short), you will receive a job offer and instructions to start training immediately. Training will involve purchasing specialized computer programs (ex. accounting software). They will offer to send you money to purchase the necessary software.
  5. They will send you check via email with instructions to print and deposit it in your bank account using your bank’s mobile application. This prevents the check from ever being in the hands of a teller who would recognize the check as fraudulent. Also, the delay time caused by mobile uploads will allow you access to the money before many banks withdraw it out of the check issuer’s account.
  6. After the mobile upload, they will ask you to go to your bank to withdraw the money in cash and deposit it into a provided bank account (typically at a different bank than yours). They will probably stress several times to complete the transaction in cash. Their reasoning is the other bank account belongs to their computer software vendor and the money is to pay for the specialized programs.

The Result

At this point, I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Your bank will try to collect money for the check you deposited and will discover the check is a fraud. The money is then removed from your account for insufficient funds. Because the money you withdrew to pay the other account was in cash, there is no way for you to rescind the payment. The representative who interviewed you will no longer answer your messages or e-mails. It all becomes clear; there was no internship and the money you paid was lost for good. I know of scams that ask for up to $2,000 under the pretense of purchasing training supplies. There are several different variations of this same scam, though this format is the most common.

Internship Scam

Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Scams

Getting caught in an internship scam is scary, but you can avoid it. Here a few good rules to follow in order to help you avoid internship scams.

  • Check the Company Website – Most scammers use the name of a big company on a job board to entice people to “apply” for the internship. Most large companies have a job board on their own website. Check the company website to see if the internship is listed. If so, apply directly on that website rather than through the job board.
  • Check the E-Mail Address – Large companies will have a dedicated e-mail address. If the person you are in contact with is using a general address it may be a scam. Example:
    • Good – johndoe@largecompany.com
    • Bad – johndoelargecompany@gmail.com
  • Never Pay Money – You should never have to pay money upfront for any internship or job.
  • Never Give Out Personal Information Online – Your never give out your social security number, bank account, or other sensitive information online. You should only give these numbers to an employer in person while you are at the place of employment.
  • To Good to Be True – If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. A part-time, work-from-home internship that pays $35 per hour should signal a red flag.
  • Get Out – If at any point during the interview process you become concerned about being scammed, get out. Politely tell the interviewer that you feel this internship is not for you. You don’t need to be rude. Simply say you don’t feel like it is a good fit and end the conversation. Protecting yourself is your number one priority.

Have any other tips for avoiding internship scam? Leave them in the comment section below!

Big Girl Pants: Staying Safe in a New Environment

No matter if you’re a 260 lb solid football player or you’re 100 lb soaking wet, there are tips you should know about staying safe while in another area. No matter how high and mighty, no matter how many punks you beat up in high school, no matter how many times you beat up your older brother, staying safe isn’t about strength. Its about being aware.

Step One: Open your eyes

Listening to your iPod on blast walking around like you own the place will not keep you safe. Be aware of your surroundings. Keep only one headphone in or keep in low enough so if a friend were to sneak up behind you and play the “guess who” game, you aren’t jumping out of your skin.

Step Two: If the situation you’re in were a scene in a movie, what would the soundtrack be like?

This trick will not only keep you safe, but its fun. When you are biking on the side of a windy street with cars rushing past and you don’t have a helmet on (something I did yesterday that I DO NOT recommend), what kind of music would be playing if your life were a movie? I’m sure it would be more like this:

And less like this:

Step Three: Never get stranded. Always have a back-up plan.

I am all for doing day-to-day things spontaneously. If I weren’t I wouldn’t have taken a 45 mile bike ride yesterday from Seaside, CA down to Carmel Beach after telling my roommate “I’m going for a quick bike to the beach.” No matter where you go or what you do, always be sure you have a ride home. Is there a bus nearby? Do you have the number of a friend or two who you can call in an emergency stranded situation? This doesn’t just apply to spontaneous, but also to dating situations. A guy asking to pick you up may seem chivalrous but also remember this person now knows where you live and knows you will rely on them for a ride home. Always have a back-up ride.

Your twenties are a time to go out, have fun, and explore life. Just know how to get back home safe and sound in one piece.

Study Abroad in Florence: The Scary Factor

When you’re anywhere in the world, home or in a foreign country, there’s going to be danger. Crime is literally everywhere. Whether it’s gangs, robbery, pickpockets or even more dangerous activities, there’s no avoiding it. When you’re by yourself in a new country, the danger factor may feel more escalated. In Florence, the main danger is pick pocketing—from gypsies and otherwise—and, mostly for the ladies, being followed around by creepy men. In just the 10 days I’ve been here, my roommate and I have been followed several times and had many encounters with gypsies. Any of these night and day excursions could have ended badly, if we weren’t careful.

Just because you’re somewhere new without family or your usual big group of friends to help protect you doesn’t mean you’re unsafe. There are lots of ways to travel safely in your new environment and not feel like you have to stay in your house at all times. The most obvious people here all the time, even at home, is to travel in groups. Being with at least one other person, male or female, instantly makes you a more difficult target. You have someone else to watch your back and pick up on the details you may not have noticed. You have a partner to help get you out of a bad situation or devise a plan to walk down a different route if necessary. The list goes on and on. If you must walk alone, pay attention to your surroundings. Watch your belongings and don’t just let your bag bounce around behind you where anyone can grab it. And do your best to stay on main streets unless wherever you’re going is in an alley, in which case…good luck.

Another way to stay safe is to simply plan ahead. Ask around to find out what people are up to and who you can travel with. Also specifically ask your friends if they’ll mind walking with you to get books or grab a bite to eat. Figure out the best route to take before you go—it’s ok to get lost, but at least having an idea of where you’re going is better than walking around in sketchy areas (especially if you don’t have a map on you). You should also consider what you need and/or want to take with  you. If you’re just going on a walk to explore the city, maybe leave your wallet behind. If you’re just running to the bookstore to pick up a book or school supplies, take a smaller amount of money and don’t bother bringing your camera. The less belongings, and expensive belongings, you have on your person will make you feel safer—and also make you less of a target.

Finally, be careful about who you talk to. I know this probably sounds lame, like your parents always telling you not to talk to strangers. But you never know who’s a creep and who just genuinely wants to be your friend. It’s always good to make connections in a new country—who doesn’t want an international buddy?–but you need to be perceptive. If they seem like a creep, they’re probably a creep.  Use your best judgment, and get your friend’s opinions too, and even when you’re meeting new people, don’t tell them your address (especially if you’re living with a host family)and be careful about handing out your phone number. Just in general, being more cautious than you would be at home is the best bet for maintaining your safety as well as your friends’.

Basically, to be safe you just have to take precautions and be aware. Plan ahead, know where you’re going and what you’re doing and ask people to go with you. If you follow these basic rules, you’ll get through it without losing any of your belongings and having the best time of your life.

Be careful and have fun!

 

 

10 Safest Countries to Travel To

A trip right about now sounds nice, huh?  Well, whether you are planning on a week away or a study abroad trip, researching places to go can be a daunting task.  What are your priorities?  For most, the safety of an area plays a major role in deciding on a destination.  As it seems the world is in constant chaos, and watching the news or staying updated might not be your favorite hobby, let’s take a look at the most peaceful places in the world based 60 percent on internal peace and 40 percent on external peace (according to the latest the Global Peace Index 2011 Report):

Iceland tops the list, rising from 2010’s second place most peaceful place.  Although in 2008 to 2009 Iceland experienced financial turmoil and political instability, the reformist Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir has managed an economic recovery and created more jobs during 2010.  “Icelandic society remains essentially harmonious, with measures of safety and security including violent crime, internal conflict and the number of homicides all accorded very low scores,” according to the report.

New Zealand is named second most peaceful country as they have had a “rise in the number of internal security officers.”  The country has also scored lowest in comparison to the other 153 countries in terms of “likelihood of violent demonstrations, the homicide rate and the level of respect for human rights (Political Terror Scale).”

Although Japan has suffered multiple environmental catastrophes, a strong earthquake, a deathly tsunami and “ensuing nuclear crisis” Japan ranks highly in terms of overall domestic peace and ranks low on their level of militarization.

Denmark has increased the penalty for illegal gun possession which largely contributes to their fourth place ranking.  “Danish exports of major conventional weapons per head declined to the lowest possible score,” says the GPI report.  Some of the other factors that has landed Denmark a fourth place spot is their freedom “from internal conflict,” their political stability, and their lack of conflict with neighboring countries, according to the index.

The Czech Republic is the fifth most peaceful country in the world.  This is due to their “strongly Europhile foreign minister, Karel Schqarzenberg,” who has “pursued an active but pragmatic foreign policy, combining liberal economic positions in international and EU affairs with a careful eye to the Czech Republic’s national interest,” says the GPI Report of 2011.

The next five most peaceful countries are Finland, Canada, Norway, Slovenia and Ireland.

It should be noted that traveling to places other than these ten can be generally safe, especially as the United States has ranked 82 out of 153 countries, according to the report by the Institute for Economics & Peace.

As safety while traveling is always important, be sure to download the Smart Traveler App provided  by The US Department of State to find safety tips about the country you are looking to visit.  Also registering your trip with the State could literally save your life.  A friend of mine traveling in Japan was notified about the tsunami and was able to avoid the catastrophe.

Good luck and safe travels!

-TravelBug

I’m reading Calculus

Facts about Four Loko

Unless you live under a rock, you have most likely heard about Four Loko. If not, quick update: FourLoko is an alcoholic beverage combined with caffeine that has skyrocketed in popularity among college aged adults.
FourLoko is ideal for the broke college student because one can contains a significant amount of alcohol for a small price. What could be better? We will let you be the judge, but to help you make the decision, here are a few facts that you should be aware of, and can be found on Four Loko’s website.

-Four Loko was introduced to the market in August 2008
-The 23.5 ounce cans can be sold at local liquor stores for only $2.50
-Each can contains 6-12% alcohol by volume depending on state regulations
It comes in 8 different flavors
-The alcohol content of one can of Four Loko is comparable to wine and some craft beers
-Each can of Four Loko contains about the same amount of caffeine as a tall coffee from Starbucks

There has been much speculation in the media recently about this beverage. Most recently, the company that produces Four Loko has removed caffeine from Four Loko. The FDA ruled that the caffeine in alcoholic drinks is an unsafe food additive. There have been some unfortunate situations recorded believing Four Loko to be a serious factor in the events. The drink, Four Loko, was banned from four states: Washington, Ohio, Utah, and Oklahoma. So while it might all be fun in games, this drink is not one to mess around with. Now that you have some of the facts, what will you spend your $2.50 on?

With love
Kat VonD

I’m reading Marketing Management