Guard Against Job Scams: Spot the Signs and Avoid the Cons
Looking for a new job can be difficult enough as it is. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams out there that can make the job hunt even more challenging. Not only can these scams cause serious financial harm, but they can cause you to waste a significant amount of your time that you could be using to pursue legitimate job opportunities. This is why learning how to identify job scams is so important.
Studying the Scammer
Knowing what a scammer is trying to accomplish and who they tend to target will make it much easier for you to identify job postings or job offers that are scams.
What They’re After
Scammers go after job hunters for several reasons. The most obvious one is money. They may offer you a job that’s too good to be true but then require you to pay for something in order to get the job, whether it’s a credit report, software or a review of your resume. Once you pay them, you’ll never hear from them again. They may also be after sensitive personal information, such as your social security number, which can be used to steal your identity. Lastly, some scammers use job scams as a way to launder money.
Who They’re After
Scammers have no prejudices. They will go after anyone that might be vulnerable. This means they will likely post their job scams to popular social platforms, job boards and forums in an attempt to reach as wide an audience as possible. They will target anyone that engages with their posts. In some cases, they may even reach out first -- especially if they have information that the individual is unemployed.
Types Of Scams
Understanding what a scammer is after will help you identify potential job scams; however, knowing what some of the most common job scams are will make it even easier for you to avoid them. Here are some of the most common job scams to look out for:
Bait and Switch Scams
Bait and switch scams are often done by actual employers but they are still scams. The way they work is that a company will post a job opening and then schedule you to come in for an interview. During that interview, they may reveal that the position you came in for doesn’t actually exist. They will then offer you a different position. Obviously, this is not a very honest practice and you won’t want to work with an employer who demonstrates a lack of transparency right off the bat. The reason some employers do this is because it may be a job that nobody wants. They think that they’ll have a better chance filling the position if they are able to speak with candidates in person about the job.
Career Consulting Scams
Individuals or companies attempting to sell certain career-related services or products may reach out to you as a “career consultant.” They will tell you that they are impressed with your resume and that they want to represent you. While you might think that they are actually interested in helping you improve your resume or find a job, what they’re really interested in is selling you their services, such as reviewing your resume, writing your resume, or helping to “market” you to employers.
Credit Report Scams
Many states, such as California, do not allow employers to run credit checks on most job candidates and never until an actual job offer is made. You should be wary of any employer that requires you to pay for a credit report, especially if they direct you to a specific service. They will often tell you that the service is free but it will most likely end up costing you. In some cases, the scammer may use the credit report to obtain your personal information and to steal your identity.
Direct Deposit Scams
Direct deposit scams are most commonly found on Craigslist as well as job boards in general. If you respond to the posting, you’ll likely get an email offering a position with high pay, minimal hours, and no in-person interview required. They will also request your bank account information. The scammer will explain that they can only pay you through direct deposit. They will then use that information to steal your money. While some employers do pay their employees through direct deposit, this is usually an option that the employee can choose. Real employers won’t ask for your account information until they’ve done an interview, extended an offer, and completed new hire paperwork.
Money Laundering Job Scams
Scammers will often pose as employers in an attempt to get you to use your personal bank account as a way to launder their money. They will tell you that they cannot transfer funds themselves because they are in a foreign country. They will get you to deposit money into your bank to move to another account, allowing you to keep a small percentage of that money. This money could potentially be stolen money. If you deposit a bad or stolen check, you will be held liable by the bank. You could also face criminal charges as a result.
Some less reputable recruiters may reach out to you and tell you that they have clients that you might be able to qualify for even though they don’t have any positions that need to be filled at the time. They will then offer training sessions that you can pay for which will help improve your qualifications for other positions. These recruiters aren’t actually trying to find you employment, they just want to sell you their services.
Phishing scams are an attempt to trick you into providing personal information that can be used to steal your identity. They can also be used to simply collect your personal information, which is then sold to a third party. With a phishing scam, a scammer will typically reach out to you through email notifying you that they came across your resume and that you might be a good match for a job position. They will then provide a link to a page that asks you to fill out a form with your personal information.
Some job postings may claim to offer work-at-home jobs in which you repackage and forward goods. These are known as shipping scams. There’s absolutely no reason why a company would need to send goods to you that you would then have to repackage and ship to another destination. It’s postal fraud, plain and simple. The way it works is that the company will require you to pay for shipping with the promise of being reimbursed later. You’ll then be shipped stolen goods that you will be sending to an address on their behalf. The company may ask you to declare the packages as gifts as well, which would leave you vulnerable to criminal charges for falsifying government documents. Even if the company does pay you for the work you’ve done, it will often be in the form of a fake check, which means you’ll not only end up paying for the shipping charges out of your own pocket, but you’ll be held liable by your bank as well.
Watch out for any service that offers to complete or file your unemployment insurance claim on your behalf. These scammers will often tell you that they have connections within the State Labor Department that can help get your claim processed faster. Scammers can use the information you provide to them to steal your identity or to steal your unemployment benefits.
How to Spot a Job Scam
When reviewing job postings, look for a few tell tale signs that indicate whether or not the posting is a scam. Watch for these common signs that a job posting is a scam:
Offer is Too Good to be True
- Bait and Switch Scams
If an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. For example, if the job posting is offering a much higher salary than you are expecting to earn and the work requirements are minimal, it’s likely a scam. These kinds of outlandish offers are used mostly in bait and switch scams.
Job Details are Ambiguous
Career Consulting Scams
Money Laundering Scams
Legitimate employers will usually provide plenty of details regarding the position they’re looking to fill, such as the title of the job, the job requirements, the skills that are required, the experience needed, and a rough salary range. Legitimate employers don’t want to waste their time going through resumes of non-qualified job candidates. A job posting that is ambiguous is likely to be a scam.
Application Process Seems Too Lax
A typical application process will involve multiple interactions with an employer. You’ll find the job posting somewhere online. You’ll submit your resume. They may reach out to you about an in-phone interview. If the phone interview goes well, they will schedule in an-person interview. If an employer reaches out to you out of nowhere, be wary. If they offer you a job without an application, an interview, or any kind of interaction at all, it’s probably a scam.
Hiring Requirements are Suspicious
Credit Report Scams
Direct Deposit Scams
A legitimate employer will never ask you to pay for any kind of products or services (such as training or supplies) as a prerequisite for getting the job. They will also not ask for confidential credit card information. Any job that requires money or credit card/bank account information to be hired is likely a credit report scam, direct deposit scam, or phishing scam of some sort.
Emails Look Unprofessional
How to Tell if a Document is Fake
A legitimate employer will take great care to make sure their job posting and any emails they send out are professional. If the email you’ve received seems generic and is filled with errors, such as grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation mistakes, it’s likely a scam. A professional email or job listing will also contain the name of the business and their contact information.
However, keep in mind that some scammers will actually put some effort into creating an official looking email. If you’re not expecting an email, be careful about clicking any links or attachments. Look for signs that the email might be from a scammer; for example, look up the name of the company online. If you can’t find it anywhere, it’s probably a scam. If you do find it, visit the website and compare the contact information on the site to that on the email address. Scammers do sometimes use the official name and logo of existing businesses. If the email or contact information doesn’t match, you know it’s a scam.
Follow up Scams
There are a few types of follow up scams. For example, if you’ve engaged with a scammer but show obvious hesitation in fulfilling their request (such as providing your bank account information), they may follow up with another scheme in an attempt to earn your trust and encourage you to do what they want. They may also pass your details on to another scammer who might try a whole new approach.
If you’ve already been scammed, then the scammer may attempt a follow up because you fell for it once and they think you might be able to fall for a different scam a second time. For example, some scammers will pose as law enforcement agencies and will offer to investigate the scam and retrieve the money you lost for a fee--of course, no law enforcement agency will charge you for their services. Sometimes a scammer will contact you claiming to be the spouse of the scammer and that they need money to escape the scammer. They will try all sorts of different schemes to get more money from you.
Seeing all of the potential scams that are out there can be a bit frightening if you’re currently looking for employment. Fortunately, as long as you’re careful and you protect yourself, you should be able to identify potential scams and stay clear. A few tips on how you can protect yourself from potential job scams while searching for employment include:
Secure Personal Information
Make it difficult for scammers to obtain your personal information by securing it, both online and in real life. For example, don’t just toss out bills and other important documents without shredding them. Make sure you use password protection on your smartphone and computer. Someone could steal your phone (or find it if you left it somewhere) and access all of your personal information if your phone’s not locked. You should also make sure that your computer is secure by using passwords that are not easy to guess (use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols). Make sure your WiFi is protected with a password as well. Do not visit websites that require passwords or the input of personal information when using public Wi-Fi. Take time to review all of your social media account security settings. Scammers will often find information on victim social media accounts that they can use to their advantage.
Do Your Due Diligence
Being aware of what types of job scams are out there will help tremendously when it comes to reviewing job postings and emails from employers. When deciding to respond to a job posting or email, make sure you do your research first. Look up the name of the company to make sure that they are real. Find out if the company is legitimate as well by looking at online reviews and by looking them up on the Better Business Bureau’s website.
If something feels off about an email or a job posting, be very cautious. Don’t follow links or open attachments to emails that seem off. If someone contacts you out of the blue and claims to represent a well-known company, whether it’s through email or through the phone, be careful about what they want from you, especially if they’re asking to have remote access to your computer (a sure sign that they are a scammer).
Always be wary when shopping online and you’re asked for unusual details or payment methods. Make sure that when you shop online that you do so on a secure website that has a well-known reputation. Unsecure sites have ways of selling your personal information to scammers.
Listen to Your Gut Instincts
If something feels odd to you about an interaction with a potential employer, be sure to trust your gut instinct -- even if you’re not sure that they’re a clear cut scammer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, if an employer reaches out to you through email out of nowhere, ask how they obtained your email address or your resume. It could be legitimate (for example, maybe a colleague recommended you), but it’s much better to be safe than sorry, and no legitimate employer will be offended by your due diligence.