Think that job you see advertised online or in a newspaper seems too good to be true? There is a good chance your hunch is correct. Employment scams are on the rise, making it more important than ever to be able to identify fraudulent job listings.
How can you tell if a job posting is fake? One tipoff is that the advertisement will probably be generic in nature in order to appeal to the largest possible pool of potential victims. In addition, the pay will likely be better than you would expect of such a position, there will be few requirements such as specific skills and experience, and identifying details such as the business name may be omitted.
For instance, a typical fake job listing might say: “Hello! We’re hiring employees to work from home as customer service representatives. Salary is $2000–$2500 per month. No experience required! If interested, please visit our site.”
Another clue: If you’re asked to hand over money or share personal information such as your Social Security number upfront, it’s almost certainly a scam. Prospective “employers” may tell you they need to set up direct deposit or they need money from you to pay for training—don’t fall for it. Legitimate employers are highly unlikely to request any sort of investment before you’ve started work.
In a twist on the upfront payment scam, fraudsters may appear to pay you, providing a fake check to convince you that the job is real. The problem is that it may take a week or more for your financial institution to determine that the check is fake; in the meantime, the scammers could ask you to pay them for training or other services. The key is to recognize that new hires, especially for entry-level positions, almost never receive money for nothing. It truly is too good to be true.
If a job looks promising but you want to be sure it’s not a scam, run an online search before you click on any links or send in your résumé. It’s a bad sign if you see the same job listing in other states. Also try adding the word “scam” or “fraud” to the end of your search to find out if anyone else has discovered the scam and posted about it. If a company name is given, you can also look for a review of the company through the Better Business Bureau.
In addition to online employment scams, you may run across in-person scams where a person will approach you in a public space. This is particularly common on college campuses, where students are frequently hungry for work. Beware of people who want to hire you on the spot, especially without an interview. And don’t be rushed into taking a position—no matter what they say, there’s still time to run that online search to make sure the offer is legitimate.
Finally, when reviewing job listings, remember the acronym TINSTAAFL, or “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Avoid any listing that suggests you can get something for nothing, or great pay and benefits without skills, experience, or even an interview. Real jobs aren’t as easy to get, but at least the payoff is real.