Massive layoffs have been hitting hard, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees jobless and desperate. Dazed but determined to find new employment, they became perfect prey for various job scams.
Such fraud is nothing new, but it has skyrocketed in the past few years. According to the BBB, more than 14 million people fall victim to employment scams every year, with cumulative losses of $2 billion annually. These scams are lurking everywhere, and being cautious is not always enough.
To help you stay safe and protect yourself, we’ll teach you to instantly spot a job search scam and prevent it from happening. Keep reading to see how!
Job scams involve criminals pretending to be hiring professionals or employers in order to persuade job seekers to give them money or sensitive personal credentials.
The most widespread scams involve fake work-from-home jobs, fake job postings on social media platforms and job boards, data entry scams, government boards, postal frauds, and envelope stuffing.
All scams have red flags that give them away, such as surprisingly high salaries, bad command of grammar and language, and asking for financial or personal information, as well as upfront payment.
To protect yourself from scammers, you should never make wire transfers, give away personal information, or accept job offers that guarantee extremely high payments for very little work.
15 Common Types of Job Search Scams to Watch Out For
Job scams may vary in types and approaches, but they have one thing in common: they try to trick you into giving away your credentials or paying money in order to start working. And as BBB figures demonstrate, they can be pretty successful.
Luckily, all these scams have specific telltale signs by which you can recognize them—they are always too good to be true, promising whopping payments for very little effort.
Check out our list of 15 common types of employment scams to learn what to watch out for.
#1. Fake Work-From-Home Job Offers
Work-from-home jobs sound like ideal stay-at-home mom gigs or side hustles to fill holes in the home budget. However, some of them are nothing but fraud, particularly if they promise high remuneration for doing almost nothing.
A fake online jobs list is too long, but they all follow the same pattern. They will require you to pay a significant fee for registration, training, or enrollment, which will never be refunded. They may ask you to buy expensive equipment on your own or send you a check that will bounce immediately.
#2. Fake Jobs Offered via Email
Receiving a fake job offer via email is another common employment scam. You get an email from a recruiter who claims that they are impressed by your professional background and that you’re a perfect candidate for their position (which you didn’t even apply for).
They would like to offer you a job you can’t resist, but they also want you to share:
Personal Information you Shouldn't Share
Your ID or driver’s license
Your card number and bank account information
Once they get hold of such personal information, they may steal both your money and your identity.
#3. Fake Job Ads on Social Media
Social media platforms are a perfect place to advertise fake job ads, given that 60% of the population uses social networks regularly.
To advertise their bogus job offers, scammers typically use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In the majority of cases, they advertise job postings using fake profiles.
Still, there may be instances when genuine accounts post phony employment offers. These ads resemble genuine offers; however, if you click on the links provided for filling out the application, you will be directed to unverified sources.
#4. Data Entry Scams
Data entry employment fraud promises great pay for entering information into a database or typing documents from the comfort of your home. Plus, you won’t need any previous experience; you should only complete the training provided by the company. Sounds perfect, right?
Certainly, except for the fact that it’s you who will be paying for the training that will never be organized. Instead, the scammers will disappear with your money or personal information and never reach out to you again.
#5. Government Jobs
Some job scams promise a lucrative position in US government agencies such as the United States Postal Service. In order to qualify for the position or pass the qualifying exam, you need to pay a certain fee.
Any legitimate job, particularly one within a government agency, will neither ask you to pay for anything in order to apply nor will it guarantee upfront that you will be employed. You’ll need to meet all the requirements and take an interview in order to get it.
#6. Fake Job Postings
Even legitimate job search websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn aren’t safe from fake job postings. Luckily, the job scam text is easy to spot, provided that you read the ad carefully.
For instance, job scams on Indeed are typically remote, highly paid for entry-level positions, and have imprecise or ambiguous job titles like ‘assistant,’ ‘manager,’ etc. Job scams on LinkedIn may, on the other hand, feature serious grammar and spelling mistakes or lack job and company details.
#7. Fake Recruiting Agencies
Employment fraudsters may pretend to be recruiting agencies that claim to be able to land you a lucrative six-figure job in any industry. They may reach out to you via email or LinkedIn, asking for your personal information.
Their job offers are commonly vague, unclear, and absurd, and their communication style is poor. Besides the personal information, fake recruiters may ask you for money under the pretense of training, registration, or equipment. All these are red flags of a job scam you should avoid at all costs.
#8. Job Placement Service Scam
This is another popular fraud involving scammers acting as recruiters, headhunters, or staffing agencies. The fraudsters may offer you a job placement at a company while requesting payment for their services.
#9. Online Reshipping
This postal fraud involves being asked to receive and ship parcels or letters across the country or overseas. Scammers offer to pay for both the postage and your commission.
These scams are referred to as warehouse or shipping coordinator jobs. In reality, however, there are no warehouses whatsoever; you’ll be shipping items that were not legally obtained.
Plus, you won’t earn much money, but you might expose yourself to the risk of theft, as fraudsters know your home address. Even worse, you may also face legal charges for postal fraud.
#10. Career Development Grants
Career development grants aim to trick you into paying for training and other costs to help you attain your career goals. However, fraudsters will ask you to pay a lofty application fee upfront so that you can qualify and apply for the grant.
Alternatively, you may receive an email congratulating you on receiving a grant. To have it deposited, you only need to provide your credit card number and other bank account information. As expected, the funds will never be deposited to your account.
#11. Equipment Purchases
Some scammers may contact you to offer you a well-paid remote job. However, to be officially onboarded, you’ll need to make an upfront payment so that the company can purchase the equipment for you.
Normally, all the expenses would be reimbursed. But the moment a scammer receives your payment, they will disappear with your money and break off every contact.
A prospective employer may ask you to use your own equipment, but they will never ask you to make a direct payment to buy a computer and other required gadgets.
#12. Paying for Courses
Job scams targeting people who’d like to start their own businesses have become quite widespread these days. The scammers promise the ability to reap lush earnings after they complete costly training, courses, or certification processes to grasp ample employment opportunities.
The reality is much harsher, as you’ll only pay to discover that all the promises were hollow, as the guaranteed jobs are non-existent.
#13. Mystery Shopping Jobs
If you’re fond of shopping, then the mystery shopping job may sound perfect to you. You only need to go to a restaurant or store and share your overall experience. Of course, all the expenses will be paid back to you.
However, if you come across an employer that offers you to make a deposit so that you can start working and then requires you to wire the money back, run as fast as you can. This is their attempt to obtain information about you and your banking account.
#14. Envelope Stuffing
Scammers commonly advertise stuffing envelopes as a gig that can earn you a lucrative commission with very little effort. After you accept the offer, a scammer may request a payment in order to provide supplies, then send you a mailing list with people you need to “recruit.”
The commission you’ll receive depends on how many people you recruit; needless to say, all of them will also need to pay the registration fee to start working.
#15. Pyramid Marketing
Pyramid or multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes promise lush income from selling certain products or services. On the pretense of offering genuine earning opportunities, MLM schemes allure ambitious individuals hoping to prosper in today’s challenging gig economy.
In reality, what matters is recruiting new people into the program. Selling goods is less important, and you have no other way to make profit other than luring in more new members. Whenever newcomers join, they pay specific fees that go to the person who recruited them.
10 Job Scam Warning Signs
Even though scammers implement subtle techniques to swindle you into providing your personal information or money, there are still dead giveaways that indicate something is fishy. Here are ten warning signs:
Job Scam Warning Signs
Unrealistically high payments or easy money. When advertising their fake positions, job scammers always list high remuneration for minimal effort.
Requesting banking or personal information. An authentic employer will never require you to provide your bank account information, credit card details, or social security number.
Poor communication. As previously mentioned, scammers typically have bad written communication skills; their emails or messages are full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, randomly capitalized letters, and run-on sentences.
A suspicious email domain. You receive a job offer from a personal email instead of the company’s.
Vague job descriptions. Scammers will never let you know precisely what your duties and responsibilities are.
You’re asked to pay a non-refundable fee or purchase equipment. This is a clear red flag that something is off since you will never get such a request from a legitimate employer.
No job advertisement on the company’s website. You can find job ads only on online boards; the company’s official website features no similar job postings.
Strange-looking website. The employer’s website seems weird, featuring extra numbers or characters (e.g., go0gle.com or gooogle.com instead of google.com).
Same rules for everyone. The job requirements apply to all candidates, regardless of their seniority level.
Urgent hires. The employer insists on immediate hires or within the week of application.
7 Expert Tips to Protect Yourself from a Job Scam
Being able to spot a job scam is a huge advantage. However, fraudsters are constantly improving and reinventing their hoaxes, so it’s good to know how to stay safe.
Here are seven tips to protect yourself from job scams:
Tip #1. Do Your Research
If you stumble upon a job ad that seems suspicious, google the job poster—a recruiter or a company—and check out the results. If the company is non-existent and all you can find is social media profiles, then it’s obvious that the job posting is a scam.
In case you’re familiar with the company and know it’s authentic but a job advertisement looks off, check out the company’s website. If there is no job posted there, everything should be alright. However, the lack of job ads may raise doubts.
Tip #2. Protect Your Personal Information
Never reveal sensitive information, such as your card number or social security number, to strangers, particularly when they openly ask for it. Legitimate employers will never require such information before they officially hire you.
If a recruiter ever asks for your financial information or SSN, cut off every form of communication with them. Their only goal is to steal either your money or your identity.
Tip #3. Don’t Do Wire Transfers
Scammers love wire transfers; they not only manage to get hold of money fast, but they also have all the banking information they need. Plus, wire transfers don’t allow fund recovery, as is the case with PayPal.
Therefore, if you receive an email or a message from a recruiter asking you to wire them money, it’s a red flag for a scam. No employer will ever require you to make payments to them, regardless of the payment method.
Tip #4. Don’t Do Interviews via Instant Messengers
Legitimate companies will always conduct online video interviews through platforms such as Zoom, HireVue, or Google Meet. Scammers, on the other hand, opt to conduct them via instant messengers like Telegram or Signal in order to hide their identities.
Never say yes to such an interview; if, in the worst-case scenario, you fall prey to scammers, you won’t be able to pursue them legally as you won’t be familiar with their identities.
Tip #5. Don’t Accept Jobs You Didn’t Apply For
No matter how attractive a job offer hits your inbox, don’t be tempted to accept it if you didn’t apply for the position in the first place. Scammers are well aware that these times are hard for jobless people and will do everything to swindle them.
Keep a detailed record of the jobs you apply for. That way, you’ll know if you have ever submitted an application to a company when you receive an email from a recruiter.
Tip #6. Reject Offers That Require No Experience
If you ever come across a job posting offering a high payment for a low-effort job requiring no experience, you can rest assured it’s a huge scam.
If you don’t know what the salary range in your industry is, you can check it on job search websites or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tip #7. Trust Your Intuition
If your intuition is telling you that something seems suspicious, it probably is. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety may prevail when you feel jeopardized by the job offer; it’s your guts letting you know that something may not be alright.
Hence, triple-check the company and the offer to make sure everything is legitimate. If the feeling of discomfort is present even after you confirm that there is nothing improper without the company, the job might not be right for you.
While the gig economy is facing serious challenges, job scams are on the rise. Numerous scammers are coming up with innovative schemes to take advantage of job seekers and get hold of their money and credentials.
In order not to fall victim to such fraud, it’s critical that you learn how to protect yourself. We hope that our guide will help you recognize them and stay safe during your job search.