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9 Characteristics of Job Search Scams

By Susan P. Joyce

Job search scams are everywhere. Some are easily recognized, but many others are not. The scammers are getting smarter, so we must be less trusting.

You will find these scams in social media and in e-mail sent to you by people you don't know. You'll also find fake jobs posted on legitimate Websites, like Craigslist, and also on fake versions of job boards and employer websites.

For more information on where you may find scams, read the Guide to Avoiding Job Scams home page.

Two Important Cautions

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.

Your birthday is essential information for people who steal identities and money.

If you have posted your birthday on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social media site, remove it if you can or change it to another date!

NOTE: Leaving off the year or using the wrong year is not sufficient -- birth years can be easily guessed.

As long as they aren't the same as your 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. A wise friend of mine uses January 1, 1901 as her "official online" birthday. Everyone knows it isn't real, but the online systems accept it.


2. Do not wire transfer money.

Once you have wired money to someone, you cannot ever get it back. That money is gone, even if you sent it in good faith.

One of the most successful scam jobs involves asking people to deposit a check (that eventually bounces), deduct a "commission," and then wire the balance to the scammer. When the first check bounces, what you have wired to the scammer is gone permanently. Read Reshipper and Payment Rep Scam Jobs for the details.

9 Common Characteristics of Job Scams

If the opportunity seems "too good to be true," it is probably a scam.

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.

  1. "No experience is necessary!"
    That's usually the sign of a scam. The description is only a sales pitch, or the job described is 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 would qualify. Often, poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling are used in the description/pitch.
  2. "Respond immediately!"
    These requests are very urgent! You don't have time to wait -- respond NOW! They don't want you to take the time to think about what they are asking or to do any research before you respond.
  3. The job is very easy to do.
    Although you must start as soon as possible, very little of your time and not much effort are needed to do the job. However, they will supposedly pay you very well for performing those few "duties." Again, "No experience necessary" may be part of the job description or pitch.
  4. Job interviews are not required.
    They are already so impressed with you that they don't need to talk with you about the job. Or, the interview can be done very quickly via text message or email because...
  5. Very limited contact information is available for them.
    Contact is only via e-mail to an address at or some other e-mail service not associated with the name of their business. If they are supposedly hiring for a legitimate employer, the only contact information provided for your application is not associated with the alleged employer. No website, domain name, or other public record of the "employer" is available.
  6. They have a very urgent need to hire you.
    They need you to start immediately -- today, preferably! You must begin working as soon as possible.
  7. You must immediately provide very sensitive information.
    They require you to provide your Social Security Number, bank account number, credit card number, and/or other personal financial information so they can pay you without delay. Tell them you need to have them send you a check, at least initially.
  8. When you Google them, you find nothing, only job postings, or warnings.
    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.
  9. You need to "invest" in training, tools, or inventory to get started.
    They want you to pay them for tools or inventory to start work. Or you need information they are happy to sell you so you can qualify for the job or start working.

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!"

Typical Online Job Scams:

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 Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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