In a perfect world, an employer pays you, not the other way around. The internet is ripe with job scams that seem too good to be true but are designed to take your money instead. In fact, cybercrime expeditions and fake job offers now outnumber real ones 60 to 1, according to Fortune.
Consumer Affairs notes that good old-fashioned check fraud is still a preferred method scammers use to steal money. But tricks are becoming much more advanced these days. Scammers absolutely troll job boards looking for their next victim. The company might be real, but the job offer is fake. So how can you discern between a legitimate job offer and scam expertly designed to steal your money? Here are eight signs to watch for and what you can do if you fall victim to a scam.
1. They give you the job right away
Job scammers often attempt to speed up the process of identity theft and fraud by offering you a job instantaneously. And while such a strong interest from a potential employer does wonders for your ego, a costly money trap does not. Real employers will go through the application process methodically, meaning they’ll conduct a phone interview, an in-person interview, and a follow-up before ever submitting a job offer. If you’re guaranteed a job — no application required — it’s probably a scam.
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2. They use a bait-and-switch sales pitch
Hopeful job seekers are the perfect target for scammers looking to score a little cash from a desperate candidate. Less-than-honorable career consultants or recruiters may employ a sneaky bait-and-switch tactic to sell you services rather than recruit you for legitimate job openings.
In this instance, they’ll hook you by saying they’re impressed with your resume and offer to help you find a job, but proceed to only pitch costly products, services, and training sessions that help improve your candidacy. Most career consultants are valid, but if they’re not putting words into action, it could mean they have no openings available and are just after your money.
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3. They ask for money to guarantee an offer
Sometimes con artists will guarantee job placement — but only if you cough up a few bucks first. This is a telltale sign of a job scam because legitimate employers will almost never ask you to fund training materials, certification fees, credit reports, or other onboarding expenses during the application process. Steer clear of nearly anything that ask for money upfront. Understand that these people will likely take your money and disappear forever.
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4. They use a generic job title with massive pay incentives
Certain positions lend themselves to job scams more than others. The Better Business Bureau warns you to be wary of work-from-home, secret shopper, or direct sales positions that require little to no special training. Scammers often pair generic job titles with high pay in their fake ads to attract a bounty of applicants. The promise of large paychecks for little work is likely a scam, as is the possibility of a six-figure income off-the-bat. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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5. They ask for contact information like it’s no big deal
People casually asking you to provide confidential information through a job posting is almost always a sign of a scam. What used to be a no-brainer is now a gray area, as nearly everyone asks for your Social Security number or credit information these days. Some scammers request your driver’s license number, bank account, or credit card information flippantly. With this info, they’re well on their way to committing identity theft.
Use your best judgment in these scenarios and understand that it’s best to be overly cautious with your private info. Until you’re sure the employer is real, this information should remain confidential.
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6. They do their best to “look” professional
A job posting with glaring grammatical and spelling errors should always be viewed as suspicious. Real human resource professionals will take great pains to post positions that portray the company properly. But even if a job description is mistake-free, scammers often sneak faulty email addresses and contact information into the text to trick you.
Always research the email address provided. Never trust a scammer who uses a personal email address from a Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, or Hotmail account to communicate. Frauds also occasionally use fake domains that mimic company names. Just because it sounds appropriate, doesn’t mean that it is. Know that any type of imitation can be caught by proofreading the email provided.
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7. They contact you first
Jobs that fall from the sky will seem like an answered prayer. But being contacted by a company you never applied with could be a scam. Unless you’re a freelancer with a heavy online presence, it’s unlikely a legitimate company will contact you first. Job seekers who want to protect their money should be extra wary of communicating with these scammers and conduct thorough research to ensure the company is authentic.
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8. They claim to “represent” another notable company
Seventy-six percent of organizations report being the victim of a phishing attack. A proper phishing scam goes like this: You get an email saying their company has a client with open positions they need to fill. As luck would have it, your resume catches their attention and your qualifications are a perfect match for the client in need. They provide you a link that redirects you to the “job description” and application form where you are required to fill out a form of personal information to move forward.
This is a sneaky trick scammers use to collect your personal information and sell it to a third party. The Federal Trade Commission warns all job seekers to be wary of emails containing links and job inquiries you can’t apply for directly. Usually, there’s no real “client” or “job opening” available in these types of scams.
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What to do about job scams
The FTC offers a few tips for avoiding fake job scams. Your local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau can help you vet potential scams and tell you if any prior complaints have been filed about a company. A thorough internet search will also reveal any prior fishy activity or complaints.
Domain White Pages will tell you when a website was created, offering you additional insight on validity. If the website is less than a year old but the company has been around for decades, be on your guard. Should you uncover a sneak job scam, report it to the FTC by filing a complaint.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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