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How to Spot a Scam in your Job Search

Searching for a new job is hard enough and the last thing you need is to get duped by a job post or job offer that looks amazing but is actually just a scam. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in employment scams and sketchy job offers, especially among remote jobs.

While getting a job offer is exciting, how do you know the job is legitimate? We’re here to help! There are a few red flags that might indicate a job post or job offer is a fake and we’ll be reviewing those in this post. 

How Do Job Scams Work? 

Job scams play on your eagerness to work. They may try to get you to hand over money upfront for training or equipment, share personally identifiable information like your Social Security or driver's license number, work in exchange for a fake check (or a check that never arrives) or do illicit work like "reshipping" products purchased with stolen credit card numbers.

Some employment scams are carefully conducted in a way that makes them look real. For instance, fake jobs may be posted side by side with a company's real jobs on job search sites. Scammers may even go as far as faking the identities of real company employees in communications. These scams tend to be more frequent for remote jobs, but they happen across the board. 

The bad news? Job scams are out there. The good news? You can spot them before they get you, if you know what to look for. Here are some telltale signs that a job posting may actually be a job scam.

They reach out about a generic position.

It’s unlikely that a recruiter will actively reach out to you for generic roles that you haven’t applied to. Most job posts receive many applications, so it's rare for a recruiter to have to scour job sites looking for qualified candidates. So, pay close attention to the type of job they’re recruiting for and how eager they are to hire you. This may be a sign that the role is hard to fill, the employee churn is high, or worse - it is just another job scam.

A recruiter calls you up and says that they found your resume online. “You're a perfect fit for this amazing position,” they might say. While you may think how lucky you are, don't be naive. Hear them out, but make sure to ask questions such as: “how did you find my resume?” and “can you send me a link to the job description you’re referencing?”. After the call, do your research on the recruiter, the company name and the job title. It might not be a scam, but you’ll want to do some legwork upfront to ensure you don’t waste any time on a fake opportunity.

The offers sounds too good to be true.

If you are hunting for a job, you probably have a good idea what the average salary is for your job and experience level. If you find a job posting that lists that position for two or three times the typical salary, be wary. Even if a company wants to get the best of the best, it can probably do so by beating the competition's salary by a small margin. Paying double the going rate is bad business and not likely to happen.

Additional examples could be complete flexibility over your schedule, reimbursement for supplies/equipment, etc. You've heard it before — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Your research comes up empty.

Trust your research. If you see a listing but can't find a good website for the company, consider it a red flag. The same goes for a recruiter; if you talk to someone about a job that could be a great fit for you, but you can't find the recruiter on Linkedin or a company website, consider it a warning sign. 

Something we recommend doing is googling the recruiter, their email address and the name of the company – if it is a scam, you might see a post from someone else who already went through this situation.

You notice a poorly written job post and correspondence.

You've seen this before: you scan a job posting or receive an email, and the wording is just … off. It may be overly formal and awkward, or it could be full of grammar mistakes and punctuation errors.  

Professional companies don't let this fly. A job posting should be easy to read and understand, and that doesn't mean that there can't be a typo or two. Think about it this way — if a job posting is unprofessional and awkward, what would it be like to work for that company?

The same goes for a job offer - if you receive a vague email that seems fishy, trust your gut. If there are spelling errors, or the recruiter is being pushy, or a start date isn’t listed, or they don’t mention pay…those are all potential red flags 

There is a vague job description or role requirements.

The hours are good and the pay looks great, but what exactly would you be doing? Job descriptions shouldn't be hard to understand. If you can't figure out what you would be doing in a particular job based on the description, it could very well be a scam.

Even if the job is posted on a legitimate job board, it’s best to stay away from any opportunity that doesn’t provide specific details about what you’ll be responsible for doing. 

The job listing has bogus company website or suspicious URL.

While doing your due diligence, you check out the company website that was either listed with the job posting or given to you by the recruiter. First, check out that URL — is the company name spelled correctly? 

Most companies want their website URL to be short and sweet because that helps Google identify their page easily, so a long and confusing URL may be a bad sign. You'll also want to check out the country code if there is one. If the URL is clearly from another country, weigh that against what you already know about the job posting. 

The recruiter has a generic email.

Whether your correspondence is with a recruiter from a recruiting agency or the HR person at the hiring company, you should expect that they'll have a company email address. If the recruiter is using a generic email service, like Gmail or Yahoo, they're either not legit or really unprofessional. In either case, you'll want to move on.

The recruiter’s emails have missing contact details.

If you can’t find any contact details (aside from the recruiter’s email address), there’s a high chance it may be from a scammer, or even a bot posting as a recruiter. Most recruiters list their phone number in their signature because they want an open line of communication with candidates. 

Be wary of responding to these sketchy emails - if you reply, the scammer may try to take advantage of you.

The recruiter asks for an interview via messaging service (no video interview or phone call).

Under no circumstances would a real company ever conduct an interview via text messages or online chats. Scammers pretend to be people they’re not, so if they actually speak to you, they’ll be found out.

With it being an increasingly digital world, remote interviews are more commonplace. However, there are still some basic guidelines that should be followed. Interviews are still typically held by phone or video conferencing software, like Zoom or Google Meets. Using a messaging or chat service is highly unprofessional and a good way for a scammer to hide his or her identity. 

Simply put, no legitimate company is going to ask you to interview for a job by way of a messaging service. If you can’t speak to the recruiter or hiring manager over the phone or through video interview, don’t engage.

You get an immediate job offer.

If you apply for a job and are offered the position almost immediately, something fishy is going on. Even a great resume doesn't tell the entire story. If you get a job without applying or talking to someone first, think twice. Legitimate companies want to talk with you first to get to know your personality as well as your list of accomplishments. 

You get asked for personal information.

Timing is everything on this one. There is a point in the interview process where the employer may need to get some personal information, such as your social security number, to conduct a background check

If an employer is asking you for your social security number, bank account information, or other personal information and you're still early in the interview process, it should trigger your scam alert senses. It should be clearly stated upfront why they need this information and if it makes you feel uncomfortable, it's probably time to move on.

You're asked to pay for something.

You've been looking for a work-from-home position, and you finally found one that looks amazing. The only problem is that you're asked to pay some money at the start to help fund the equipment you'll need to get set up.

Don't fall for it — this is a simple grab-the-money-and-run scam. No reputable company should ask you to pay them to get equipment for your job. It's that simple. 

In conclusion, protect yourself by doing your research!

The simplest way to help yourself stay clear of job scams is by doing your own research. If you see a job posting or receive a call that intrigues you but something seems off, put it on pause for a day or two and hit the internet.

Look for:

In addition, be on the lookout for the red flags we highlighted in this blog and if you see any, think twice before engaging. We hope this helps - stay safe out there and let us know if there are any other red flags we should add to this post!