It’s an amazing employment opportunity – or is it? Scammers often hijack the job market and ensnare hopeful job seekers into their schemes. If you’re job-hunting, it’s a good idea to review the way these scams play out and how you can avoid them. To help you out, we’ve put together a short primer on what you need to know to stay safe from job scams.
How the scams play out
There are several variations of job scams. Here are the most common ones:
- Bogus job listing. There’s a Help Wanted ad for a dream job, and the job-seeker applies with great optimism. They’ll share their information and even pay a small fee to submit their resume, or to cover alleged job supplies. Sadly for them, the job doesn’t actually exist and they’ll never hear from the “employer” again.
- Imposter hiring. An alleged rep from a well-known agency, government institution or hiring firm reaches out to a target asking them to send the funds to cover a screening fee to be considered for a job. While the job does exist, the representative is a scammer, and the money the victim has shared will go directly into the scammer’s pocket.
- Phishing emails. Like any phishing scam, a victim is targeted directly via email. The email will offer the victim a fantastic job, but first ask that they share confidential information. If the victim complies, they’ll be giving their personal information to a scammer.
- Inflated payment scam. In this ruse, a target will be hired for a remote position. When payday arrives, the victim will receive a check written for an amount that is for more than the “new employee” should have received. The employer will ask them to cash the check and mail back the extra funds. Unfortunately, a few days later, when the check doesn’t clear, the victim realizes they’ve been scammed.
How to spot a job scam
Learning to identify the signs of a job scam can help you avoid them and find gainful employment. Here are some red flags to watch out for while job-hunting:
- Unprofessional emails. If the emails you receive from a would-be employer or HR rep are riddled with spelling mistakes and typos, or are formatted in an unprofessional manner, you may be dealing with a scammer.
- No physical company mailing address. Even a business that mostly hires remote employees needs a street address. If you can’t seem to find one on the company’s site, and your “employer” refuses to share this information with you, the company may be a cover for a scam ring.
- Upfront fee. Most legitimate employers will not ask a new hire or hopeful employee to pay a fee for supplies or to submit a resume. If you’re asked to do so, you may be looking at a scam.
- Inflated checks. If you receive a check from a new employer that is made out for more than your wages or salary, and you are asked to send back the surplus, you’re being scammed. Don’t cash the check and terminate all contact with the “employer”.
- Premature request for information. While it’s perfectly okay for an employer to ask a new employee to share their Social Security number, date of birth and even their checking account information, these details should not be shared until an official contract is signed and the employee is sure the job and the employer are legit. In fact, it may be a good idea to hold off on signing up for direct deposit of your paycheck until you’ve been employed for a while and you know the job is a keeper.
- You’ll be underworked and overpaid. If a job is promising a high salary for very little and/or very easy and unskilled work, it’s likely a scam.
Before applying to or accepting a job offer, do thorough research. Ask for references of past or current employees and check out the company website to see if it’s secure and has real information about the firm, including a street address. Check out the company’s social media pages, like LinkedIn, as well. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the employer, or the person doing the hiring, any questions you may have about the company or the job.
Job-hunting can be stressful, but getting caught in a job scam can bring that stress to a whole new level. Stay alert and stay safe by following the tips outlined here.
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a job scam? Tell us about it in the comments.