[Updated Monday, September 12th, 2022]. While the majority of job postings are legitimate, it’s important to realize that job scams exist and con artists are trying to steal job seekers’ money or identities. Many job scams are difficult to spot because they illegally use the names of legitimate companies. Job scams exist locally, nationally, and internationally. They appear in real life and digitally through email messages, websites, social media, and text messages. The more we know about job scams, the less likely we will fall victim to these con artists.
7 Potential signs of job scams
Although many advertised jobs are legitimate, job seekers need to be aware that job scams exist. The following signs may indicate a job is a scam:
1. The company/employer displays common themes or scam verbiage
Job scams often offer positions where you can “work from home,” or they may indicate they are “seeking an assistant while they are working out of the country.” They may hire you without a proper interview or before meeting you in person. It may also be a scam if they urgently need to hire you—immediately.
2. The company/employer asks you to pay
You should never have to pay to get a job. If the company requests that you make an investment or pay for things like training materials, work-at-home kits, or software, this could be a pretense for getting you to reveal your banking or social security information.
According to Forbes, “The Federal Trade Commission has refunded more than $2 million to 90,000 individuals who were hooked by a work-at-home scam (operating under the names Google Money Tree, Google Pro, and Google Treasure Chest). These people paid for $4 shipping fee for a “work from home kit,” but weren’t told that by ordering it, they were also disclosing their account information and would be charged an additional $72.21 each month”
3. The company/employer asks you to provide a credit card, bank account, or other financial documents
Don’t give your credit card or bank account information over the phone or in email to a company that is offering you a job. As the Federal Trade Commission warns, “Anyone who has your account information can use it.”
4. The company/employer gives you upfront money
An example of this type of scam occurs when the employer gives you a check for “supplies.” The “employer” asks you to cash the check, purchase supplies, and wire the remaining money to the employer or to a third party. After you transfer the money, however, you discover the check this employer gave you is a forgery, and you are left without the money you transferred—as well as any overdraft charges. This is also referred to as “overpayment.” No legitimate company would overpay you and ask you to wire money.
5. The company/employer uses unprofessional communication in their contacts with you
Most legitimate employers will not send applicants a text message to invite them to interview for a job, so if an employer is communicating with you only through text messages or chat services, be aware that this is not considered appropriate and may be a scam.
Other unprofessional communication may include documents riddled with grammatical errors and misspelled words. If the document is not correct and credible, then more than likely, neither is the company. Additionally, if the company uses a free email account such as Gmail or Hotmail, it probably is a scam.
A student received a letter from a company that never once identified its name anywhere in the letter. After a Google search, the student identified the company’s name and product. Even if that company was legitimate, because of its secretive behavior, the student decided it was too questionable and avoided it.
6. The company/employer offers high pay for little effort
Regarding the secret company mentioned above, one aspect that initially interested the student was the high potential earnings and the fact that no experience was required. Additionally, if you’re offered a salary for doing very little work, then the job may not be legitimate.
7. The job posting is for “previously undisclosed” federal government jobs
Information about available federal jobs is free for anyone to access. And all federal positions are announced to the public on usajobs.gov. Don’t believe anyone who promises you a federal or postal job.
How to avoid a job scam
You can avoid job scams by conducting good research. Use the Internet to research companies. If you are not familiar with the company, enter the company name and the word scam into the search engine. If a recognizable company contacts you and asks you to apply on their website, make sure the URL is the correct, legitimate website and not a fake URL.
Some scammers are expert at making their sites look legit. If you hover your mouse’s cursor over the email or URL link, you should be able to see the actual address appear on your status bar. Do not click until you are sure it’s the company’s real address.
If you encounter a company/employer that appears suspicious, report it. The Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, state and local consumer agencies, and your state’s Attorney General’s Office provide additional information on job and consumer scams and contacts for reporting scams.
Through Handshake on the Career Center’s website, students and alumni may view full-time, part-time, and internship postings. If you see a position or receive communication from an employer that you suspect may be a scam, please notify the Career Center at 417-836-5636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can you tell if you’ve been scammed? Learn how to stay safe on Handshake as well as what to do if you have given your information to a fraudulent employer.