5 Signs You May Be Falling for an Online Job Scam

online job scam

Guest writer Michael Osakwe of NextAdvisor.com gives advice on how to make sure that gig you’re applying for isn’t too good to be true.

Job searching can be a long, dreadful process. To make matters worse, scammers benefit from this misery by posting phony job ads and attempting to extort job seekers. While online job scams may not seem like a major issue, a FlexJobs survey found that for every one legitimate job listing, there are about 60 to 70 scams. While spelling and grammar errors, weird job descriptions and unreasonable requests made by job posters were once the hallmarks of a scam, today’s scammers are savvier. Though the unemployment rate is lower than it was a couple of years ago, some anxious job seekers may find themselves the next victim of a job scam. To help you steer clear, we’ve made a list of telltale signs you’re dealing with a scammer instead of a potential employer.

Before the application

Beware of false branding. Trusting a job post or inquiry based on a company name alone isn’t good enough anymore, as scammers have been known to use real company names and logos. The problem is so serious that some companies, such as GE, have a page dedicated to addressing it. Whenever you’re unsure of a job post’s legitimacy, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you should make sure you Google the company and check if the sites and job details you find resemble sites and details you’ve been linked to. Oftentimes you’ll find official company page(s) on Google which you can use to reach someone in the HR department or find the posting on the company’s page to verify the authenticity of any job post or communication you’ve received about a potential job.

If you can’t find the job posting on the site or get in contact with an HR representative, you can also use a site like WHOIS that is dedicated to verifying the owner of domain names and where the application is hosted. Simply plug in the company’s domain name (as detailed in the email or job posting) and the information will pop up. Results that state the domain name is owned by someone other than the company likely mean the post is a scam.

Generic email addresses and incomplete websites. A scammer usually isn’t able to create an @company_name.com email address and will often use Gmail, Yahoo or other free email providers. This is almost always a bad sign, unless you’re specifically applying to a position at one of those free email providers. While there may be times when someone just started a business and has not yetcreated a domain name, this at the very least shows a lack of professionalism — especially since domain names are relatively simple to purchase and set up. This same rule applies to a company’s website. Though many scammers are tech savvy, some may have pages that are “under construction” or poorly designed with little-to-no information. These incomplete or very simplistic sites may often be a sign of a scam. That said, it’s also important to point out that some businesses, such as a local coffee shop, may not have a website at all. At the end of the day, common sense should tell you if a company will likely have a functioning website or not.

Enthusiastic unsolicited offers. After a while it’s hard to keep track of where you applied, and sometimes you may find an offer or application in your inbox asking you to apply to a certain position immediately. Scammers often don’t have to jump through hoops to approach you in a way that feels timely, familiar and/or relevant. If you opt for features like “searchable resume” on sites like CareerBuilder, then scammers pretty much know what you’re looking for. While you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by enabling features like these, they are more trouble than they’re worth, as you’re making your information viewable to essentially anyone. As such, scammers can use this free information to send you new “opportunities” or pretend you have an outstanding application with them. Bolder scammers will also pretend to share mutual contacts or be a part of your existing network and pitch you potential job matches. To combat these scammers, you’ll want to make sure that you scrutinize all unsolicited outreach on LinkedIn and other job sites as well as email. As you submit job applications, keep a running list of which companies you’ve applied to so you can cross reference any inquiries. While all unsolicited communication isn’t inherently bad, you’ll be more vigilant if you remember what you’ve actually applied for and who’s in your network.

During the application process

Forced credit checks. While it’s normal to fill out a job application before you’re asked to come in for an in-person interview, some job scammers will take that a step further and also require you to submit a credit check. Often the applicant will be sent to a credit scoring site of the scammer’s choice. If you click on the site link, you may be falling for a phishing scam or even signing up for some dubious credit reporting service that will likely charge you some ridiculous sum of money or steal your identity.

The key to avoiding this type of phishing scam is scrutinize any and all links that are sent to you via email. While some links sent via email may be legitimate, it only takes one bad link for your identity to be stolen. If you’re not sure how to verify the legitimacy of a link, it’s best to enlist the help of an Internet security software, as it will alert you of potentially dangerous web pages before you visit them. Another great rule of thumb to remember is if you’re asked to pay for any aspect of your job application, it’s likely a scam — almost no trusting company will have candidates pay out of pocket for mandatory aspects of the process.

After the application

The bait-and-switch. This isn’t a scam per se, but it’s definitely deceitful and often seen as a scam by job seekers. Sales positions are most exemplary of this, usually involving a tricked applicant who thinks they’re applying for a professional job with an extremely high salary in a popular industry. Since these positions are almost always listed as entry level, they’re targeting college and high school graduates who are looking to earn a decent salary. When it’s time for the applicant to come in for an interview (if there even is one), the interviewer will often dodge questions about pay and benefits or provide very general responses. Although some employers may actually be providing you some sort of job, they are usually very different positions (often commission-based with little-to-no hourly pay) than you thought you were applying for. If you find yourself in a situation like this, recognize that the company and/or interviewer may not be as honest as they appear — likely a quality you don’t want from a potential employer — and don’t be afraid to ask to be removed from the list of potential candidates.

If you feel you’ve been affected by a scam, you can report it to several groups, including the Federal Trade CommissionFBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or Better Business Bureau.

Also, it may be beneficial for you to invest in an identity protection service while you apply for jobs because you’ll be sending your information to numerous potential employers who may or may not store or destroy that personal information, such as your name or home address, securely and appropriately. Most identity theft protection services come with a free trial that allows you to test out the service prior to making a financial commitment. Read our reviews of the top-rated identity theft protection services to learn more, and keep up with our identity theft protection blog to see how you can protect yourself from scams.

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