GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - It's a risk you take every time you log on to the internet.
"Any time you're doing anything on the internet, now, from finding a recipe to buying a car to finding a job, you never know who's looking at you while you're looking at them," warned Gautier Police Detective Matt Hoggatt.
At any given moment, that person could be a thief or a scammer. Hoggatt said two Hispanic South Mississippi women almost fell prey to the same scam in the past two weeks. One woman received a bill addressed to her for a Fedex account that didn't exist, asking for $1,000.
Just a few days later, Hoggatt said the same woman received a check in the mail that wasn't written to her and reported both suspicious mailings.
Just a few days later, another woman became suspect when she applied online for a job, using a popular classified ads website.
"A lot of times what these guys will do is they'll offer a job as a translator," Hoggatt said. "If they want to prey on Hispanic people, they'll offer a job for translation from Spanish to English."
"Basically, you work from your home," he said of the alluring job descriptions used for the ploy. "You don't need to move to the area to be employed by this company. [It] seems like a great job. You can make up to $500,000 per year."
Hoggat said part of the job description for this particular scam is to deposit checks sent to you into your own bank account, then wire most of the money to an account overseas. The checks sent by scammers are fake, and they bounce, but the victim won't know until his or her money is gone.
"I guess they think Americans will open up these emails and look at these job announcements and pursue them, and they'll send out hundreds of them or thousands of them," Hoggatt said. "Thousands of emails or thousands of people see the job postings online."
It's a scam that's been around since the dawn of the internet, said Hoggatt, but it's evolving.
"They've changed the deliver method a little bit," he said. "Instead of an email, they're using online job advertisement sites to advertise for online respective jobs. They think they're legitimate employers although they never see them personally talk to them, they're still sending their information."
Hoggatt said the groups who are most vulerable to these job postings are immigrants, who might not know job seeking protocol in the United States.
Hoggatt said there are ways to help ensure that you are dealing with legitimate people online.
"If it looks like an offer or deal that's too good to be true, it probably is," he said. "Refrain from dealing with anybody that you can't see in person, who you can talk to on the telephone. And if you can do all those things, try to verify their credentials before you go a step further and give them any information."
He also has advice for how to transfer money after an internet correspondence.
"Never send money to someone without having something that, in writing, that you can verify as legal," Hoggatt said. "If you have any questions, you can always go to your local law enforcement and show them the ad or whatever, and they should be able to verify it before you make any decisions."
Unfortunately, Hoggatt says these criminals are almost impossible to catch because most of them are in foreign countries.
For us to actually find a physical door or an address, one that someone could knock on, even if we could actually do it to affect an arrest, it's almost impossible," Hoggatt said. "The way that their tracks are covered."
But he said you'd probably be surprised at the number of people affected.
"There's two random people in Gautier, Mississippi, affected by the same scam in two weeks," he said. "It's scary to think about the numbers. They must be staggering, throughout the County, State and United States. All the people who must be affected because this is small town USA. And right in our back yards, this is going on."
He also said the number of legitimate ads far outweighs the number of scam ads.
"For every two or three scams we uncover, there's probably 200, 300 or maybe thousands of legitimate ads and legitimate people who are doing business on there," Hoggatt said.
To report a cyberscam, Hoggatt said call local law enforcement or click HERE.