Searching for a job? You’re probably already anxious and maybe a little stressed. You start getting responses but something just feels a little “off” about a few of them, and you find yourself wondering if the offer is real or a scam. You know there are scams everywhere, but did you know that internet scammers victimize job seekers too?
Scammers troll job boards looking for victims. To reduce the chance you’ll get scammed, use reputable job sites that have privacy policies and only allow verified employers to post job listings.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate and scam job offer situation. We’ve put together a list of common online job scams that target job seekers—including job scams on Craigslist. Keep these tactics in mind so you can more easily identify and avoid scams designed to waste your time, get your personal information, and steal your money.
Ambiguous Job Requirements and Job Description
Scammers try to make their emails sound professional by listing job requirements. Most times, those requirements are very basic, so that anyone could apply: must be 18 years old, must be a US citizen, must have access to the internet, etc. Descriptions for scam job will be just as vague. They will say things like “we will train” or “learn as you go.” Years of education or number of years of experience in the field are never mentioned.
If an employment advertisement is legitimate, requirements will be quite specific: employers will look for particular skills like customer service, or software experience with Microsoft Word or Excel. Below are two excerpts from legitimate job listings. You’ll see that very specific skills and experience are listed in the job ad—because those employers know what the job will actually require.
- Desktop Support Technician: At least two years of experience in: hardware and software troubleshooting, application support experience with Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Office. Technical knowledge of current network hardware, protocols, and standards, including TCP/IP.
- Full-Time Journeyman Plumber: Must have valid, active Texas Journeyman plumbing license. Must have a minimum of 3 – 5 years trade experience with commercial and residential service calls. Ability to diagnose and resolve plumbing issues independently.
Too Good to be True?
If a job or job posting sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If they initiated contact, saying they read your resume online and you’re the candidate they were looking for, beware. Sometimes scammers will lure you saying that you made the cut and they are interviewing the finalists for the job—even when you haven’t applied. After a quick phone or instant message interview, the “interviewer” immediately contacts you to offer you the job.
Legitimate companies hire professionals who write well. Most emails from scammers are quickly written, or even translated from other languages. If the email contains numerous spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or grammatical mistakes, be on your guard.
If the email doesn’t include the company’s address, phone and contact person, it’s a scam. If the interviewer makes an excuse for using a personal email address by saying the company’s servers are down, or the company is experiencing too many problems with spam, or the company hasn’t yet set up its email system, it’s a scam.
Search Results Don’t Add Up
You should be able to find information about the company by doing an online search if the business is legitimate, but keep in mind that some scammers pretend to represent real companies. Experienced scammers set up professional-looking websites or email addresses that are very similar to legitimate business emails—but remember, looks can be deceiving. Before agreeing to an interview, do your homework: search for information about the company, including the company’s name, address, phone and fax numbers, and their email address. Finding information does not guarantee that the company is legit, but if you can’t find anything, you can bet it’s a scam.
Online Instant Messenger Interviews
If you’re applying for an online job and you’re told that the interview will take place online via instant message, research the company and its representatives before you agree to an interview. Instant messaging is popular with scammers; after all, accounts are free and easy to create and delete. If you agree to be interviewed, ask plenty of detailed questions about the job and the company during the interview. Never give any personal information during this exchange.
You’re Asked to Provide Confidential Information
Scammers ask for your bank account information to set up direct deposit for job payments, or ask you to open a new bank account and provide the information to them. They may even ask you to use your personal bank account to transfer money from one account to another account.
You may be told your first payment will be in the form of what appears to be a cashier’s check. You may be instructed to deposit the check, keep a specified amount for yourself, and transfer the remainder via Western Union or MoneyGram. Then, a few days or weeks later, you get a call from the bank saying the check was fake.
Other scammers will tell you to go to a website and fill out a credit report form or provide confidential information so you can participate in the company’s medical insurance. Don’t do it!
They Want You to Pay for Something Upfront
A trustworthy company will not ask you for money. It’s a scam if you’re asked to pay for services, goods, or software such as asking you to pay for a credit report, a resume review service, or training programs. Be especially concerned if they require you to use a money transfer service to make the payments.
Scammers are continuously evolving their tactics for their schemes. Researching the company in question is the best way to keep yourself safe. In interviews—whether a legitimate company or not—ask many questions and keep note of the responses. Never feel pressured into giving out any personal information or making any commitments. If it turns out to be a scam, report it to the authorities. Trust your intuition if the process starts to seem suspicious. Finding a good job takes time and effort. Remember the saying: if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.