Job search scams come to you via email, but you also find scams posted on various assorted Websites as well, from the Big Names to a local employer (or is it?).
If you are unsure of a job opportunity you may find, or that may be sent to you by someone you don’t know, use this Sniff Test to see if the opportunity is real. Yes, it is a P-I-T-A (as in, a pain-in-the-a…) to do this research, but right now you really don’t have other viable options to protect yourself.
6-Step Sniff Test to Verify Before You Trust:
1. What Does Google Know About Them?
Google the employer’s or recruiting company’s name, address, and phone number, or other contact information you have, to see what you find. If they have a Website, Google should find it for you. However, do NOT automatically trust them because they have a Website (see # 2, below)!
- Employer name look-up:
Search on the employer’s name by putting the name in the add inside double quotes, like this “[employer name]“. If the only results from that search are job postings on many different job boards, that is a VERY BAD SIGN. A legitimate company, to stay in business, must have more of a presence on the Web than just job postings.
NOTE: Be sure that you match the exact spelling and wordingin your query! “Smith’s Restaurants” and “Bill Smith’s Restaurants” may or MAY NOT be the same organization.
And, SmithsRestaurants.com and SmithsRestaurantsInc.com may – or may NOT – be owned by the same organization. One could be real. Both could be real, but unrelated. Or one could be bogus, pretending to be the real one.
- Phone number look-up:
If they’ve given you a phone number, Google the phone number to see what Google can tell you about them and to see where else that phone number appears. If Google doesn’t know about the phone number, it is on a Website listing sources of annoying phone calls, or it shows up on a completely unrelated list of phone numbers (e.g., dial-in numbers for an Internet service provider), do NOT trust it or the job posting or the job posting source.
- Address look-up:
If they’ve given you an address, Google the address to see what Google can tell you about it. If Google has the address in their database, check Google Maps to see what it shows you – a business district, a cemetery, or an empty field. Google isn’t always right, so double-check with SuperPages (see # 3 below).
2. Who and Where Are They?
Once you are positive you have a name match, look for concrete, verifiable contact information on the Website, on the home page or on Contact or About pages - a street, city, state, and Zip plus a non-800 phone number.
- A form for you to complete tells you nothing about them and is NOT sufficient “contact” information.
- A link that opens up a new email message from you tells you nothing about them and is NOT contact information at all.
If you only have an email message from them, look for contact information in the signature space at the bottom of the message. If there is nothing or only a phone number, do NOT assume that the requestor is legitimate. IF there is information, verify it (more below) before responding.
3. Does a Legitimate 3rd Party Directory Have Them Listed?
Do a quick look up using the company name on Hoovers.com (for large companies), SuperPages.com, or Yahoo! Local to see if the address and/or phone number for the employer or recruiter are listed. Compare with the job posting or Website to confirm that the contact information belongs to the employer or recruiter.
4. Is the Email Address Associated with Who They Say They Are?
If there is an email address for response, check to be sure it is from the employer’s domain name, e.g. HR(or recruiting or a person’s name)@[employer-name].com and not [employer-name]@gmail.com / yahoo.com or whatever. Take Job-Hunt’s “Scam/Phish Proof Quiz” and read the “Understanding Domain Names” article to be sure you understand how domain names and email addresses work.
5. Do the Domain Name and Contact Info Match?
If there is a Website associated with the job posting or even just an email address for responding, check that the domain name really does belong to the employer you think it does by doing a “WhoIs” lookup at DomainTools.com.
- The Registrant and Admin Contacts addresses should agree with the SuperPages listing (exception could be a large employer with many different physical locations which can be verified through Hoovers).
- If the domain registration is “Private,” meaning that you can’t see the names and addresses of the people who really own the domain name – don’t trust it.
If the domain name was registered very recently, a few days to a few months ago, don’t trust it. [For more infomation about domain names, read Job-Hunt's "Understanding Domain Names" article.]
6. Contact the Employer
If you still aren’t sure, contact the employer, using the SuperPages.com or Hoovers.com official contact information, to confirm that the opportunity is real. If they haven’t posted the job, they will appreciate knowing that someone is abusing their name and identity. If they have posted the job, you’ll get a chance to talk with them to see if it’s still open and how friendly they sound.
If the situation doesn’t feel right to you, follow your instincts and walk away from the opportunity. It may be your smartest move.
Good luck with your job search!
(c) Copyright 2009. Job-Hunt.org All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter @JobHuntOrg.