The ad makes it sound like the perfect job: high wages, flexible hours, and lots of opportunity for growth. The only problem? The position doesn’t exist.
Almost everyone who’s looked for a job online in recent years has come across these bogus-sounding ads. Eighty-one percent of job seekers surveyed by FlexJobs said they were at least somewhat concerned about fake job listings, and 17% confessed to falling prey to a scam at some point, including 20% of respondents between the ages of 20 and 29. In comparison, only 13% of job seekers over age 60 said they had been taken in by a fake job ad.
“We think that part of the reason millennials are the victims of job scams more than seniors is that they’re so heavily involved in the online job market, whereas fewer seniors are,” said Brie Reynolds, director of online content at FlexJobs. “They’re also highly likely to seek work-from-home and flexible job opportunities, and those are where the majority of job scams lie.”
Job scams tend to share certain characteristics, says the Federal Trade Commission. You’ll often be asked to pay money to receive job offers or hand over personal information like bank account details or your Social Security number. Promises of “easy money” are common, as are offers to work from home. Usually, those too-good-to-be-true jobs are exactly that, and a bit of healthy skepticism should protect job seekers from falling victim to fraud.
Yet not all scams are so obvious. Sophisticated con artists can create fake company profiles and real-sounding jobs to lure in even savvy job seekers. “We’ve noticed that people put their guard down a bit because they assume they’ll be able to spot a job scam,” said Reynolds.
You can protect yourself by familiarizing yourself with these five types of job scams.
1. The mystery recruiter
FlexJobs, which helps people find legitimate telecommuting positions, warns job searchers to watch out for scam artists posing as recruiters online. These fake recruiters may reach out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or even via text message or IM, with an unsolicited job offer. Others may just want to connect, perhaps so they can access your network of contacts. Or the email that looks like it came from LinkedIn may itself be fake; if you click the link, your computer will end up infected with malware.
Connecting to a fake recruiter on LinkedIn may seem harmless, but it could spell trouble. The scammer may try to connect with your connections, which could reflect poorly on you. Or, they may pester you with dubious business propositions and job offers, or even steal information from your profile.
Before connecting with an unknown recruiter, check them out online. If their headshot looks like a stock photo, they have very few connections, or an incomplete profile, you could have a scammer on your hands, according to Recruiting Daily. A Google search that reveals little or no information about the person or the company they supposedly work for is also a warning sign.
2. The copycat company
Con artists may claim they work for a real company in order to steal people’s personal information or trick them into giving up some of their cash. To lure you in, they’ll set up fake online profiles and steal the logos and contact details for a real company so they appear legit.
“Unfortunately, scammers have gotten increasingly sophisticated, using real company’s names and branding to lure unsuspecting job seekers in,” said Reynolds.
Consumer Affairs recently reported a story of a woman who’d been contacted by a recruiter who worked for a company with a name similar to that of a real business. But the “job” she was offered turned out to be a variation of a check-cashing scam. Double-checking the recruiter’s credentials and doing a little research on the company revealed the truth, but a less-suspicious job seeker might have been taken in.
3. The non-existent job
Recruitment agencies have been known to post ads for jobs that don’t actually exist so that they can gather resumes and information about candidates they may want to tap in the future, according to the Ask a Manager blog. These staffing agencies are legitimate businesses, but their tactics may rub job seekers the wrong way, especially if the agency is using the ads to gather salary data or get a sense of how easy it would be to fill a certain position (two other reasons recruiters might post fake ads, according to Recruiter.com). Sleazy employment agencies may also try a bait-and-switch, reported the Wall Street Journal, posting ads for good jobs to get someone to send in their resume, only to offer them a less-desirable position when they come in for the interview.
Spotting these fake job ads can be difficult. Warning signs include a posting that lacks specific detail about the company that’s hiring or the job duties, or messages that come from a Yahoo or Gmail account. If you routinely see the exact same job posting appear over several months, that may also be a red flag.
4. Envelope stuffing
“Make money at home stuffing envelopes!” Scammers have been fooling people with this fake job offer at far back the Great Depression. Eager job seekers pay a “set-up” fee and then receive instructions for placing similar ads, with the idea that other people will then send them money to learn about this supposedly great opportunity. The Federal Trade Commission has warned prospective job seekers about this pervasive scam, but people keep falling for it.
Similar job scams may offer you the chance to make guaranteed money online, perhaps by starting some sort of vague Internet business, or claim you can earn cash doing at-home product assembly or medical billing. Similar to the envelope-stuffing scam, these jobs often involve paying money upfront with little chance of ever making that money back. Before signing on for one of these too-good-to-be-true offers, check with the Better Business Bureau or your state attorney general’s office to see if any complaints have been filed against the business.
5. “Secret” government jobs
People looking for government jobs might be taken in by ads for “secret” jobs with the U.S. Postal Service or the federal government. If you bite, scammers may ask you to pay a fee to access a special list or jobs or buy study materials to help you get a high score on the postal exam. All these ads are scams, warns the FTC. It’s always free to search and apply for U.S. government jobs. Federal job listings can be found at USAJobs.gov and USPS jobs are advertised on the postal service website.
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