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Be wary: Internship scams are out to get you at MSU

Sitting in class, waiting for a lecture to start, the professor hands the microphone to a guy who has a spiel for the entire class. He starts out by giving general information about an internship opportunity that is available for the following summer. Not paying much attention, you fill out the form with your name, number, and make a brief list of skills to hand in to the speaker who distributed them.

Not even a week later, it’s a Saturday night and your cell phone rings. It’s the guy who gave the speech and he is wondering if you would like to come in for an interview for some type of leadership internship. You agree and show up on time, only to find out that it’s a scam.

Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Freshman Joey Dreyer shared this similar experience with a company called College Works Painters.

“In my math lecture, some guy came in and passed out a bunch of sheets of paper and if you’re interested to write your name on it.” Dreyer said. “I got an email two weeks later telling me that my achievements stood out to them, but they didn’t tell me why.”

Dreyer had suspicions about the company but decided to go to the interview anyway. “They told me to go to the International Center, and there were two other people there and I didn’t understand how a freshman like me had enough experience compared to a junior and senior,” Dreyer said.

The College Works Representative went on to explain a personal experience of how he made himself thousands of dollars over the summer with the internship to buy a Camaro. He also guaranteed a minimum of $2,500 and up to $60,000 to any student in one summer depending on how hard they worked. Little information was provided about the actual job.

Dreyer was excited to contemplate the possibilities of making so much money for little work.

“I was jumping up and down because I didn’t have to work at all and I would make thousands over the summer, but after I talked to my parents and other people, my excitement went down dramatically,” Dreyer said.

Unfortunately, Dreyer knew something was off when he discovered his brother had gone through a similar experience – and by a phone call he received after the interview.

“The College Works Representative wanted me to meet with the president of the company the following morning because he said I stood out from the rest of the interviewees,” Dreyer said.

In reality, an internship that seems too good to be true probably is. Experiential Learning and On-Campus Internship Coordinator Bill Morgan explains how most scams are for internships or part time jobs.

“On average we see a new job posting that we believe may be a ‘scam’ about a half dozen times a year,” Morgan said. “Most of the scams have been showing up when students are most likely to be looking for work—early fall semester and in December/January leading into spring semester.”

Other ways that companies look for uninformed students can be surprising.

“Additional job scams have been sent directly to students by email or are posted in off-campus job boards such as Craig’s List,” Morgan said. Fishy emails or unbelievable facts about a job posting should immediately raise a red flag. “Students should also watch out for “over payment” scams, often posted as a book-keeper, personal assistant, administrative assistant, etc., to assist in processing checks or mystery/secret shoppers,” Morgan said.

When looking for a part-time job or internship it is crucial to look out for signs that may lead to further investigation of a company. Graduate student Jeff Miller describes how he came across his worthwhile internship at Bodwin & Associates, P.C.

“At [Michigan] State we have a database called Career Network and you submit your resume, cover letter, writing sample and letters of recommendation on it,” Miller said. “Career services filters which job opportunities are on there.”

A legitimate posting will provide up to date, detailed information.

“I knew it was legit because we have internship reports from people that did it in the past and I interviewed at the law firm,” Miller said.

There are also career events for summer job and internship fairs where employers are eager to find future interns and employees with dates posted on MySpartanCareer.com. It is also important to network with professors, friends, and family that may know more information pertaining to a certain career field.

“Internships are challenging work opportunities related to your major or intended career that force you to reflect and integrate your college learning in the professional world,” Morgan said. Getting a meaningful internship or job can be a challenging task but knowing what to look for can greatly reduce the chances of falling for a scam that not only wastes time but money and effort as well.

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