How to Avoid Job Scams


Feb 19, 2024 | Job Search Strategy

It seems like you can’t go anywhere on the internet these days without running into scams. While scammers used to stick with channels like email, text, and phone calls, they’ve evolved along with the rest of the world. Now every social media (yes, even LinkedIn) has scammers on their platform, who follow real folks and creep into their direct messages with promises of “get rich quick” methods, free products, and even a great new job.

Scams can, and have, ruined people’s lives. A fake job offer can not just financially undermine someone by gaining access to their bank account information and social security number, but they can lead you to quit your current stable job for an opportunity that doesn’t actually exist.

Jobseekers spend dozens of hours a month searching for, applying to, and waiting to hear back from jobs (and that doesn’t even include the time spent developing and updating a resume–but our writers can make this easier with a free critique.) It’s an exhausting and often disheartening process that leaves a lot of room to be taken advantage of – and there are an unfortunate amount of people eager to prey on the tired and the desperate.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

How job scams find you

Job seeking platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn are major hotspots for employment scammers. They can pose as recruiters for companies or individuals to convince you to connect with them, and even sometimes send you a message before you accept their connection.

Scammers may also reach out to you directly through your email. You don’t have to be a reckless internet user to have your information leaked or stolen. If your email address is available on your website or professional social profiles, they can find you. Even if you don’t, most public records are available in the U.S., and it’s legal for private companies to gather and sell your information.

You may already be receiving spam emails offering you lucrative “mystery shopping” positions, or other easy remote jobs that promise high pay rates. While some are easy to spot and typically filtered out by spam, other scammers are practiced at conning folks. This is where even the brightest jobseekers can get in trouble.

How to spot job scams

The good news is that employment scams are easy to spot when you know what to look for. Even the most convincing job opportunity scams can be revealed with a little due diligence.

Check the email address 

The first step in identifying if a job offer is real is to look at the address the email came from. Official communications from a company will come from a domain associated with that organization. If it’s from a free email site, such as Google, Yahoo, or Hotmail, or includes a string of random letters or numbers, you can be sure it’s a scam.

Check for professionalism

A red flag from even well-designed scams is a lack of correct professionalism. If the person claiming to offer you a job is rude, too casual, or makes several grammar and spelling errors, there’s a good chance they aren’t part of a formal hiring process. Companies care too much about their image to let error-ridden communication out to prospective employees.

Another major red flag is a sense of pressure and urgency. The hiring process takes time – weeks, if not months. Real recruiters and hiring managers know that choosing the right position for you isn’t always a quick turnaround, either. If the job is legitimate, they won’t tell you to sign the contract and get it back to them in a day. They won’t call you and tell you you have to make a decision right that moment or you lose the opportunity. They’ll encourage you to take your time and look it over. Real recruiters want someone who is confident in making a career move with them. Scammers want people to hand over their information as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next mark.

Check with the company

Scammers know that many jobseekers have caught wise to their fake business tactics. One can easily look up a company online and check its validity at the Better Business Bureau (BBB.) Now, scammers will impersonate someone from a real company, often a past employee, to convince you of their credibility.

When I was offered a too-good-to-be-true job from a company in California, I did my due diligence. I looked up the business, ensured it was real through platforms like BBB and Glassdoor, and checked the opportunities on its website to see if the offer was listed. I even looked for the person who has allegedly reaching out to me on LinkedIn, and confirmed she had at one point worked for the company. In my eagerness, I just assumed she hadn’t updated the profile since she had been promoted.

It wasn’t until I noticed the poor grammar and spelling in the contract, along with the high hourly rate they were offering me, that I started to feel that something was off. I messaged someone who currently worked at the company on LinkedIn. She confirmed that the individual no longer worked there, and reached out to the hiring team to confirm she had never been affiliated with its hiring team.

Check your gut

Is it simply too good to be true? Does it offer an immense compensation for limited hours? When you read the offer, does it make you daydream about all the ways your life will improve with this new job?

We truly hate to pull you down from the clouds, but a job that will solve all of your problems will not simply come out of the blue. You’ll have to go through several rounds of interviews for a position that good. Jobs that hire you on the spot, or only conduct a virtual interview by sending you a series of questions, aren’t real. While your skills may qualify you for the job, no company will invite you to be part of its team without meeting you first.

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Tips for avoiding job scams

From identifying red flags in job listings to protecting your personal information, there are several ways to avoid scams, ensuring your journey towards a new career is both successful and secure. By staying informed and cautious, you can confidently differentiate between genuine opportunities and deceitful traps, safeguarding your career aspirations and personal well-being.

Ask questions

Scammers rely on people who are afraid of being difficult by asking too many questions. Be difficult! Ask for specific details about the position and the company, especially their alleged role in it. If they’re offering you a real job, they’ll be eager to answer your questions, and encourage you to ask more. As soon as the person on the other side of the screen starts being rude, impatient, or unprofessional, you can rest assured it’s time to disconnect.

If you’re a freelancer who is being offered a lucrative gig, ask for a list of freelancers they’ve worked with before. If they can’t or won’t provide this, they’re likely not a real client. The scammer may try to pass this off by saying you’re the first freelancer they’ve worked with. That’s a good time to ask to meet over video chat. In my experience, scammers will disappear the moment you ask to hop on a quick call to discuss the project or position in further detail.

Don’t give out personal information

Under no circumstances should you give out your social security number to a stranger online. That’s how you get your identity stolen. It may seem like an obvious statement, but job scammers are nefarious. They may make you believe that you’re sending it to their HR team as part of the onboarding process.

Aside from stealing your identity, scammers can defraud you by saying you’ll be reimbursed for expensive work from home equipment. They may ask for your account information or home address to send you an electronic payment or check. But when their funds don’t go through, you’ll be the one left paying the fees and dealing with the financial fallout. They may even ask you to send them money so they can buy your equipment.

If it’s a real work from home company, it’ll send you equipment as part of onboarding. Don’t buy anything they tell you to with the promise of being reimbursed, and don’t give anyone your bank account information.

Insist on an interview

Real recruiters will require a face-to-face interview before they hire you, even if just through video chat, so they can get to know you and see how you respond to their questions. If you’re fast-tracked to an interview because of your skills, like one LinkedIn user, you may be tempted to give into flattery and believe them. Don’t. Insist on meeting the team so you can get a feeling for their company culture, if nothing else. As noted above, the quickest way to get a scammer to back off is to ask them to show their face.

Contact the organization

Give the company a call or reach out to an official email as listed on its website. Not only will you find out if the position and person contacting you is affiliated with it, you’ll also give it a heads-up if someone is falsely representing it. The company will then be able to take action, even if that’s just posting a warning on its hiring page or social media. That means one less scammer out there trying to take advantage of you and your fellow jobseekers.

Navigating the job market requires not only determination and skill but also a keen awareness of the potential pitfalls that lie in wait for unsuspecting job seekers. By applying the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to job scams, ensuring your path to a new career is both safe and rewarding. Remember, vigilance and due diligence are your best defenses against fraudulent schemes designed to exploit your job search efforts. Trust your instincts, verify the legitimacy of job offers, and never hesitate to seek additional information or guidance when in doubt. Armed with knowledge and caution, you’re well-equipped to pursue your career goals while avoiding the traps set by scammers.

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