As if trying to find a job wasn’t hard enough, you have to be on your toes to make sure that someone isn’t trying to scam you. Scammers are getting smarter and are coming up with new schemes every year, so it’s important to be on the lookout to keep your identity and other personal information safe. Scam artists know that job seekers can often be so desperate for work that they’ll overlook something that would normally make them suspicious. What should you know about avoiding a job scam? There’s a lot, but we’re here to help walk you through it.
Scammers will often post their fake jobs on legitimate job boards, like Indeed, Monster, or Glassdoor. These thieves are trying to get ahold of two main things: money or personal information (that they can use to get money). The FBI and The Better Business Bureau have estimated that for every 1 real job opening, there are more than 60 scams disguising themselves as opportunities. This means that you need to keep your guard up when applying to keep your personal information safe.
We all know to decline offers from a kindly Nigerian Prince and to reel back from phishing schemes. But do you know how to suss out a schemer? Here are 11 major red flags that you should be aware of while job hunting.
1. They Force you to “Invest” Money
Any job that requires you to pay money in advance is a scam. These “companies” will run off with your hard-earned cash. This includes companies that require you to pay them a training fee, to buy and send them supplies, or to purchase a large amount of their product to sell your own wares, including pyramid schemes and multilevel marketing companies. These are all schemes to get you to part with your money. Don’t fall for it. A reputable company will never make you pay to get trained and will cover the costs of your onboarding.
2. They Want to Send You Money
By far one of the most common scams today is the email money transfer. The scammer will send you a (bogus!) check for a large sum of money, have you cash the check, and transfer it to another account. If someone ever tells you to send them money through Western Union, moneygram, or Bitcoin, stop all correspondence with them immediately. After you cash the check and transfer the money to the “employer,” the check will bounce and you’ll be on the line for the thousands of dollars that you wired away. It is not uncommon for these scammers to impersonate legitimate authority (police or FBI) to bully you into transferring money. Screenshot all correspondence, block them from everything and contact the authorities right away!
3. They Want You to Pay to Apply
If a prospective employer wants you to pay for any part of their application process (from submitting your resume, to getting it read, to having an interview scheduled), stop pursuing the role right away. Any legitimate business will not expect you to pay to apply. Job hunting is rough enough; added fees would make it considerably worse.
4. They Ask for Credit Card or Bank Account Information
Employers don’t need this information while you’re still in the throes of the application and interview process. The only time you should give a company your bank account information is when you’ve already been hired and you’re setting up your direct deposit.
5. They Ask for your Social Security Number
Just like your bank account information, real employers and recruiters have no need for this information during the interview process. Only after you land the job should you provide your social security number and other personal details to your employer.
6. You Receive a Job Offer … For a Job You Didn’t Apply To
The initial emotions of getting a job offer – excitement, relief – are overwhelming. Job offers are usually something to celebrate. But if you don’t remember ever applying for the job you’re being offered, or if the email states that they found you online and want to hire you immediately, tread carefully and don’t send any response until you’re sure that you’re dealing with a real company. It’s very likely that the job doesn’t exist and a thief is waiting for you to give them all your personal information in the form of fake onboarding documents.
7. The Interview is Conducted on Instant Messenger
This is a technique that has developed over the last decade or so. Scammers will ask you to create a Yahoo or Gmail account to “interview” with them over instant messenger or Google Hangouts. This is because it’s cheaper and faster to chat and they can conduct dozens of “interviews” at once. If you agree to this IM interview, it also means you’ve made the scammer’s short list of potential targets. Real companies will typically have you meet with them face-to-face or talk with you over the phone or via Skype to determine if you’ll be a good fit with their company. If an interviewer is dodgy about providing concrete details about the company or the job itself, you are right to be suspicious and should investigate the opportunity further.
8. They Don’t Require a Job Interview at All
If the only correspondence you get is a “You’re Hired!” email within a few days of applying to a job, beware! Real companies want to take the time to get to know you. This can either be through phone screens, onsite interviews, or Skype calls. Personal interaction is what will let you know you’ve got the green light to go ahead with taking the job.
9. Their Emails are Sloppy
If a recruiter emails you and their spelling, grammar, and punctuation is poor, your fraud-senses should immediately start tingling. Trustworthy hiring managers and recruiters are professionals, and their emails should come across as such. But truly crafty scammers will make their correspondence completely error free.
10. Their Email Address is Unprofessional
One key detail you should always check is their email address (and their LinkedIn profile, if possible). The vast majority of recruiters and hiring managers will use a company email address. While it is not always the case, a Yahoo, Live, or Hotmail account emailing you is definitely a sign to dig deeper. Get a better understanding of the company that is contacting you before proceeding.
11. The Company Doesn’t Have an Online Presence
If googling doesn’t turn up the company’s website, you should become immediately wary. You’re not talking to a ghost, but you should probably be spooked. Any legit company will be checking your online presence, and you should be checking theirs! Even the least tech-savvy companies have a web page that describes the basic aspects of their business. The company’s mission statement, products or services offered, and other run-of-the-mill information should be be available online. At the very least, the business should be mentioned somewhere in the depths of the internet – like on Yelp, Angie’s list, or the Better Business Bureau. If there is no website or the website only shows job openings and nothing else, there’s a high chance that it’s a scam.
If one or more of these red flags pop up while you’re job hunting and you think you’re dealing with a scam artist, act fast. Cut all contact with the scammer and block them from your phone, email, and social media. Fortunately, scammers will often move on to their next victim quickly if you become unresponsive. If you get entangled with one, contact the non-emergency police. Have your banks freeze or flag your accounts to keep your savings and personal information safe. It’s also a good idea to inform the FBI’s IC3 unit of the scam so that they can warn others. We hope that pointing out these red flags will help you with identifying and avoiding a job scam.