By Sharon Hassler—Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to be a freight forwarder or some other representative for a foreign company and make over $50,000 a year working part-time? Sign me up and let me give you my bank account or paypal info so you can direct deposit into my account. Whoa, there! Every “great” job offer I’ve seen, especially the ones from overseas, are scams.

Never give your financial information to anyone you don’t know or whose reputation you can’t verify. It’s like giving them all the money you have in the bank because they will promptly take it out. Or you’re giving them everything they need to steal your identity. Or they may send you an advance and overpay you a really large sum “by mistake.” They they’ll ask you to send them only part of the money back and keep the rest for your trouble. It’s not the windfall you think because their original check will bounce and you’ll lose whatever amount you “return” to them. What’s ironic is, to demonstrate their credibility, they frequently warn that they will confirm information on your resume and require a criminal background check, U.S. citizenship, and high school diploma or college when, in reality, they couldn’t pass a background check themselves because they’re crooks!

Also, be on alert for anyone purchasing anything from you through Craigslist or any classifieds if they’re out of the country, particularly if they offer to pay you more than the item is worth. The tricky part is finding out where they’re actually from because they can set up phony U.S. addresses and accounts and use throwaway cell phones. These con artists also scamming businesses with fake orders. A restaurant in my little town of Prescott, Arizona, recently accepted advance reservations for a large group of students from Delaware who were supposed to be in town for several days. The phony organizers sent a cashier’s check for $3,250 to hold their reservations, then called a day later to say some students were dropping out and asked for a $1,400 refund in a money gram which the restaurant owner sent. The next day, they called and cancelled and asked for a partial refund of another $1,000 which the owner sent, thinking she still made some money on the deal. It was a few days after that when the cashier’s check proved to be bogus. Now that restaurant owner, who was already struggling, is out $2,400 cash. A local bookstore also got hit for a large order, but fortunately the order was delayed because the bookstore was out of shipping labels and the check bounced before the labels came in. So many Americans are vulnerable right now because of the economy, and it’s tragic and infuriating that these scammers are taking advantage of them. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true…