Avoid Job Scams: 9 Characteristics of Scam Jobs
By Susan P. Joyce
When you apply for a job, you usually provide very sensitive personal information, so you are a gold mine for scammers!
Sometimes the scammers want to take all the money in your bank account or sell you something useless (or nonexistent).
Other times, the scammers will use you to commit crimes, like receiving stolen property or money laundering, so you end up at even greater risk.
Sometimes the purpose of the scam is to collect personal information from you to sell to other scammers.
These scams are everywhere:
- Posted in social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, and others.
- Email apparently (but not really) sent by someone you know.
- Email apparently (but not really) sent by an employer or recruiter.
- Fake jobs (for fake employers or pretending to be for real employers) posted on legitimate websites, like Craigslist, Indeed, and other job boards.
- Fake jobs (for fake employers or pretending to be for real employers) posted on fake versions of real job boards.
- Fake jobs posted on fake versions of real employer websites.
- Fake jobs posted on websites of fake employers.
- More ...
For more information on avoiding job scams, read the Guide to Avoiding Job Scams and The Job Scams Self-Defense Sniff Test.
Nine Signs the Job Is a Job Scam
If the opportunity seems "too good to be true," it is probably a scam. Pay attention to what your instincts tell you if something feels "off" about the opportunity.
Before you apply for a job or respond to an email with a copy of your resume, make sure the opportunity doesn't match these criteria.
It's a scam if: You must purchase something from them -- or FOR them -- to get started.
They want to hire you immediately, but first you must pay for some supplies needed for the job. Only they can provide the appropriate supplies. Or, possibly, you need to pay them for some special training that they will provide you to help you get started.
NEW Scam (July, 2019): They send you a check so you can purchase a computer. Then, you must then send the computer to them to have software installed. When their check bounces, they have a new computer, and you have a bill to pay.
It's a scam if: "No experience is necessary!"
That's usually the sign of a scam. The description is only a sales pitch, vague, or so simple that anyone could do it. No particular skills, experience, or education are needed to do the job. When you analyze it, the job doesn't make sense, and anyone/everyone qualifies.
Often, poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling may be used in the description/pitch.
It's a scam if: The job is VERY easy to do, and pays VERY well.
Although you must start as soon as possible, very little of your time and not much effort are needed to do the job, but you will receive a handsome salary for minimal effort. "No experience necessary" may be part of the job description or pitch.
It's a scam if: A genuine job interview is not required.
A minimal fake interview can be done very quickly via text message, Skype, or email.
Or, they claim to be so impressed with you that they don't need to actually talk with you about the job. (Which means you don't get to ask any troublesome questions!)
It's a scam if: They found your resume on a job board you have never used - or haven't used in years.
This is usually an emailed scam although it may come via social media. They claim to be following up on an application you have made, and you are perfect for their job. They are ready to hire you immediately. They may even thank you for your (nonexistent) application for the job.
It's not your memory failing you. The application didn't happen!
It's a scam if: The employer's and/or the recruiter's identity is not clear.
The job description may look real, with some duties and responsibilities or a few tasks, but there is no clear indication of who the employer is.
Or the alleged employer is well-known (e.g. Amazon, Google, Apple, etc.), but the only contact is an email address through a general service like Gmail, rather than an address associated with the employer.
Before you apply, be sure to ask for and verify the name of the contact person and the employer.
It's a scam if: When you Google them, you find only job postings or warnings.
If contact with them is only via e-mail to an address at gmail.com or some other e-mail service not associated with the business, it is a scam. If they are supposedly hiring for a legitimate employer, the contact information provided should reflect that.
A legitimate business does more than hire people. A legitimate business -- even one only a few weeks old -- has a website for customers and potential customers/clients. And that website is very likely visible to Google so it shows up in a Google search.
An "invisible" website, or no website, is the symptom of a scam. If there are warnings, pay attention. The Job Scams Self-Defense Sniff Test offers more details for Google searches.
It's a scam if: They URGENTLY need to hire YOU -- IMMEDIATELY!
They know that you are exactly the employee they need (without talking with you or anyone who knows you), and you must begin working for them as soon as possible -- preferably today!.
It's a scam if: You must provide very sensitive information before anything else is done.
Before you have been interviewed or finished your research about them, they need you to send them your Social Security Number, bank account number, or a credit card number so they can pay you without delay.
Tell them you need to have them pay you by check, at least initially, and be particularly cautious if they want to know your birthday (even only the month and day), mother's maiden name, the first school you attended, or other very personal information.
If you really have no idea why someone would pick you to pay you handsomely to do a very simple job, get your guard up! As the old sergeant from Hill Street Blues said to the police officers as they headed out for their day's work, "Be careful out there!"
Three Important Ways to Protect Your Identity
Job search scams are everywhere. The goal of these scammers is often to collect important personal information from you that they can use to steal your identity.
Protect these important personal facts about yourself.
1. Keep your birthday a secret!
Avoid responding to requests for your birthday, Social Security Number, and/or bank account -- from people you don't know as well as those you do.
You are not required by law to provide your true birthdate in social media, but your birthday is essential information for people who steal identities and money.
Leaving off the year is NOT sufficient because the birth year can be easily guessed.
It is illegal for employers in the USA to ask you your age, if you are not a minor, so a legitimate employer has no need for your birthday.
By providing your real birthdate to social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, you are making age discrimination (whether you are too old or too young) much easier.
If you have posted your birthday on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social media site, REMOVE IT, if you can. OR, make it private (not shared with other members). OR, CHANGE IT to another date!
As long as the dates are different from your real birthday, use a sibling's or a friend's birthday, your parent's wedding anniversary date, your own wedding date, or some other date you can easily remember if needed, like April 1, January 1, or even December 25.
A wise friend of mine (HR manager) uses January 1, 1901 as her "official online" birthday. Everyone knows it isn't real, but the online systems accept it.
2. Do not provide your Social Security Number.
Until you know that an employer is legitimate, that you will be doing a real job, and that you are holding a written job offer in your hand, do not provide your SSN or bank account number.
3. Do not provide your bank account number.
Scammers use a number of reasons that they need your bank account number. They will use the number to remove money from your account, but their stated reason for needing your bank account number is allegedly to:
- They need it to pay your salary.
The scammers may claim that they will deposit your salary directly to your bank account, so they need the account number immediately.
Tell them that it is difficult to set up at your bank, so you prefer a paper paycheck initially. Tell them that once your bank has seen the real checks clear, they will let you arrange direct deposits.
- They need it for funds transfer, often international.
Perhaps, this alleged employer claims that they need to use your bank account to transfer funds for their business since they are not located in the USA.
Think about that for a minute: a business that needs to use your personal bank account to move their money around the world? Really? That's ridiculous.
Worse! If those deposits actually happened (they won't!), the IRS would expect YOU to pay taxes on those funds, so you can explain that you cannot afford that expense.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, many scammers see job seekers as their "happy hunting ground," and they are very happy to take advantage of your interest in earning a salary. Don't let them take advantage of you!
More Information About Job Scams:
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. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.