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In this year's red-hot job market, competition for seasonal 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. 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. 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 increased as many Americans were laid off or furloughed from their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 14 million victims in 2020 who reported financial losses totaling $2 billion. BBB published an in-depth investigative study in September 2021 that takes a more detailed look at job scams.

So far in 2021, more than 3,000 job scams have been reported to BBB Scam Tracker.

A St. Louis woman reported losing $1,000 in November 2021 after applying for a "freelance media specialist" job. She told BBB Scam Tracker she was hired quickly after an on-the-spot interview via WhatsApp, then received a mobile check to purchase a computer and other needed equipment for the job. The "company's" purported human resources manager then told the woman to send $1,000 via Zelle to a vendor. In reality, the mobile check was a fake, the woman's account was frozen for fraud, and her contact disappeared.

Fake checks are a staple in many job scams, figuring in fraudulent job offers such as mystery shoppers, car wraps, nanny or caregiver jobs, and even bookings for legitimate small businesses such as photographers. BBB's 2018 investigative study on fake checks goes into more detail about their role in job scams.

Tips for seasonal job hunters:

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.

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 at BBB.org/scamtracker.

Michelle Gleba is the Mid- Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.

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