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Guide to Avoiding Online Job Scams

By Susan P. Joyce

Guide to Avoiding Online Scam Jobs

Job search scams look very appealing, and even smart people "fall" for them. The result can be loss of the money you do have, trouble with the IRS or other law enforcement agency, and identity theft when your SSN and other very sensitive personal informaiton (like your bank account number) is provided to the fake "employer."

Obviously, not every job is fake, but to be safe >> Trust AFTER you verify!

How to Avoid Job Scams

The best defense against job scams is conducting research before you apply or respond to a recruiter's email. If the employer or the staffing agency name is not in the job posting or email, ask for it before you apply. You don't want to waste your time applying for a fake job.

Veryify that the employer is legitimate by Googling the employer's or the recruiter's name, and then checking for other signs that the job and employer/recruiter are legitimate (or not). Read the Job Scams Self-Defense Sniff Test for a thorough process to verify that a job opportunity is real.

Typical Job Scams

Unfortunately, safe online job hunting requires attention and care. The scam jobs are everywhere. When someone emails you these opportunities or sends them through social media, hit the delete key.


1. Work from Home Jobs

Legitimate work-from-home jobs definitely exist, but you won't usually find them in email sent to you by a stranger or a message from a stranger through Facebook.

The work may involve stuffing envelopes, doing data entry on your home computer, taking surveys, or thousands of other variations, but they come to you, eager to hire you to work for them. And, they provide very little information about their company, which may be in another country.

The purpose, typically, is to collect information and/or money from you.

[MORE: Driver's License Job Scam.]

2. Money Transfer/Payment Rep Jobs

For some unknown reason, this employer cannot effectively use the world banking system. They need access to your personal bank account to manage the issue, and they will pay you handsomely for that access. Unfortunately, the only direction the money goes is out of your account and into their account where you cannot recover it.

If someone you don't really know wants you to "wire transfer" money to or for them, KNOW that this is a scam, and DO NOT PARTICIPATE!

Again, very little information about their company, which may be in another country, is provided.

3. Re-Shipment Jobs

Again, an employer which cannot use the world's package processing system without your help. They need you to accept shipments which you re-package and re-ship to their customers, typically in another country.

Unfortunately, the goods in the shipment to you are usually purchased with stolen credit cards. So, when law enforcement tracks down those "stolen goods," guess who they find? YOU!

[MORE: Reshipper and Payment Rep Scam Jobs.]

4. Pay-to-Play Jobs

It's a great job, but you must first invest in inventory (to assemble or to sell), training in their process, and/or equipment needed to do the job. No!

If they want your credit card information or access to your bank account, avoid the "opportunity."

5. Pay Them for Access to "Undisclosed" Jobs

In the USA, these "undisclosed" jobs are purportedly for the US Federal Government or the US Post Office, and -- for a fee -- these people will give you access to those jobs. NO!

Federal and Postal Services jobs are posted on their websites where you can find them, for free.

Purpose of the Scams

The main goals of these scams are to collect information from you which the scammers will use and/or sell. They will:

  • Take money from your bank accounts.
  • Run up bills on your credit cards.
  • Steal your identity so they can scam banks, merchants, and others while ruining your credit rating.
  • Send spam email to you and your contacts.
  • Sell the information they collect from you to spammers and identity thieves.
  • Gain your cooperation in an illegal activity for their benefit, like receiving and then re-shipping stolen property.

These are the general categories of scams. New scams do pop up all the time, so this is not, unfortunately, a complete list.

Bottom Line

Unfortunately, best practice is to be skeptical of anyone you don't know (and probably some people you do know). As the wise old police sergeant from Hill Street Blues warned at the start of each shift, "Be careful out there!"

For More Information

Good, reliable information about job search scams is also available here:

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.

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