Online jobs and work-from-home opportunities have exploded in recent years. Unfortunately, online job scams have exploded, too: many work-from-home job ads are fake ads hoping to prey on desperate job seekers.
If you are seeking a new position or just entering the job market, learn the most common signs of fraud to protect yourself during your job search.
The Rise of Online Job Scams
Nowadays, online job boards are peppered with fake job postings. Some scams try to gain your personal information or steal money from you, while others actively involve you in scams (such as reshipping).
If you’ve posted your resumé on job sites, you might receive unsolicited job offers via email or text.
Sometimes, something about the posting or offer might feel “off” to you. But if you’re in a tight position, you might be tempted to ignore that feeling. Unfortunately, this is why many fall victim to scams.
Signs of an Online Job Scam
Some job scams are obvious, while others can be sophisticated. However, many of them share some common red flags.
The job over-promises
Yes, some jobs require little to no skill or effort. But these jobs don’t pay impressive hourly wages or allow you to make thousands a month by doing nothing. Any job listing that claims otherwise is a scam.
Vague duties and job requirements
Again: some jobs require little to no skill, but even these have specific duties and requirements. If the job requirements are near-universal skills (like proofreading, putting data into spreadsheets, or sorting information) or are subjective or vague descriptions (attention to detail, productive, motivated), it’s quite likely a scam.
Spelling and grammar errors throughout the job ad
Be skeptical of job ads and postings that are littered with misspellings, grammatical errors, and punctuation mistakes. The hiring manager may be bad at spelling, but it’s far more likely that there’s no job at all.
Conducting “interviews” through text or hard-to-trace platforms
It’s not unusual to conduct a voice or video interview through Zoom, Skype, or other video call platforms. However, a legitimate job interview won’t take place only over text. According to the Edmonton Police, many scammers conduct text-only “interviews” through encrypted apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, or TextNow.
Conducting interviews on short notice
Legitimate employers don’t schedule interviews with less than a day’s notice; they know you likely have other responsibilities you need to attend to, and chances are, they probably don’t have time for a same-day interview either! If an employer is asking you to do an interview that same day or is pressuring you to do so, it’s almost always a scam.
Hiring you immediately after the interview or with no interview at all
Legitimate employers rarely hire on the spot; they typically want to see if other qualified candidates are available. If you’re offered the position at the end of the interview, there’s a significant chance the position doesn’t exist.
And if the employer hires you only after seeing your resumé, they’re a scammer. Real employers don’t hire based on your resumé alone, even if you have the most impressive resumé possible.
Asking for personal information
It’s not unusual for a new employer to ask for information that can personally identify you, like your social security number or a scan of your driver’s license; they often need this for tax purposes. However, they’re more than likely trying to steal your identity if they ask for your information before you even get the job.
Some scammers might also try to gain access to your personal accounts. For instance, on freelance sites like Upwork, they may offer money to share or use your account.
Getting money involved
Any job offer that asks you to handle money in any fashion is a scam. Some of the most common ones include:
- Check scams: They ask you to buy something for the job, like a laptop, and send you a check as reimbursement. The scammer hopes you’ll cash the check and buy the equipment before the check clears. However, the check is fraudulent and bounces, potentially forcing you to repay the bank.
- Asking for financial information: They ask for your bank account or credit card information.
- Saying you need to pay money for the job: They claim you need to pay to submit your job application or be considered for the position, send money to them through a wire transfer, or purchase materials from them.
- Asking for repayment in digital currency or crypto: They ask for repayment in gift cards, prepaid credit cards, or cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
You can’t verify the job exists
Some of the more sophisticated scammers will create fake job postings for a well-known company and try to make the job ad look legitimate. They may even go so far as to create a similar-looking email address. However, if you check the company’s website, they won’t have the job posting listed. That’s because the job doesn’t exist.
Avoiding Scams When Applying
Spotting online job scams makes them easier to avoid. There are multiple ways to skip the scams and protect yourself. (If you encounter a scam, report it to the FTC.)
Protect your personal information
Giving your SSN or other identifying details to a scammer puts you at high risk of identity theft. Never provide this information to any employer until you’re sure the job you’ve been hired for is real.
Cross-check with the company
If you see a posting for a well-known company, verify before you apply. Check the company’s website and see if the job is listed under their “Jobs” or “Careers” tab, or see if it’s listed on their social media page. If you can’t find anything, give them a call and ask.
Pay attention to detail
Scammers are often counting on you to either not notice the finer details, or be desperate enough for a job to overlook them. Keep an eye out for smaller stuff that seems unusual.
Is their email address a misspelled version of a well-known company name? Do they spell your name wrong or avoid using it altogether? Do they fail to include a phone number in their correspondence, or is the number disconnected when you try to call it?
Communicate over voice or video
Scammers often try to communicate over text-based platforms, making them harder to trace. Ideally, you should do video or voice interviews over trusted platforms like Zoom. Never agree to an interview over a text or instant messaging platform.
Never pay money
You’re being scammed if any potential employer ever asks you to pay money, deposit a check, or buy something from them. Stop responding to them immediately, and don’t pay them. If you do, there’s almost no chance you’ll get it back.
Trust your gut
If something feels “off” to you, don’t ignore that feeling; it’s there for a reason! The posting feels too good to be true? Something about the interviewer’s email makes you skeptical? Tread carefully and be ready to move on to the next opportunity.
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