With millions of people laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, competition for season employment this holiday season will be fierce. Shipping companies and online retailers like Amazon have seen their business boom as the pandemic has driven online shopping through the roof, and it is expected they will hire thousands of seasonal employees this holiday season. Some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers also are hiring seasonal workers.

“Major retailers’ plans to hire seasonal workers are welcome news for job seekers during these difficult times,” said Stephanie Garland, BBB Springfield Regional Director. “While holiday jobs are usually temporary, many retailers end up hiring some holiday workers permanently. Amid all the legitimate jobs, however, job seekers should beware of employment scams such as mystery shopper jobs that don’t exist.”

Employment scams were the riskiest scam nationally in 2019, according to BBB Scam Tracker statistics. So far in 2020, nearly 2,500 employment scams have been reported nationwide via BBB Scam Tracker.

A Hillsboro, MO, woman told BBB Scam Tracker in June 2020 that she was offered a job to be a “secret shopper.” She received a check for $2,430 and was told to purchase gift cards. She was to scratch the cards off and photograph them with the PIN numbers visible. She sent the photos via text message to the scammer. The woman said she was to be paid $430 for her work. Instead, she received a notice from her bank that the check was not good and wound up losing the $2,430.

BBB’s 2018 in-depth investigative study on fake check scams details fake checks’ role in mystery shopper scams.

BBB offers the following advice for job hunters this holiday season:

• Start your job search earlier rather than later. Retail, shipping, restaurants and catering companies are common sources of seasonal employment. This is the time for job hunters to determine which job suits them best, identify companies they’d like to work for and then begin submitting applications and resumes.

• Work where you shop. Try to identify seasonal employment opportunities at businesses where you shop. You will already be familiar with the company and its products, and discounts available to employees can mean significant savings when shopping for gifts. Discounts can range from 20 to 40 percent for seasonal employees.

• Put your best foot forward. Even if you are just picking up applications at stores in the mall, dress neatly and be prepared for an interview. This includes being familiar with the company’s brand and products. Retail job hunters need to focus on impressing potential employers with their customer service skills because they may be dealing with stressed-out shoppers, long check-out lines and holiday returns.

• Be flexible. Full-time employees usually have first choice on preferred hours and shifts. As a seasonal employee, you can expect to work long, sometimes inconvenient hours, possibly including Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. If this is a second job in addition to your day job, be upfront and clear with your new employer about your available hours.

• Beware of classified ads for mystery shopper jobs or other employment opportunities requiring payment. As detailed above, these scams may steal money from victims; they may also use victims’ personal information to commit fraud. Report any scams to BBB Scam Tracker.