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By Kathryn Pins
After updating your LinkedIn profile and cleaning up the resume, you may be excited to apply for a new job. You want to spend your time thinking about workplace cultures, commutes, opportunities and benefits. No one wants to worry about getting scammed out of thousands of dollars or having their identity stolen. However, fraudsters are always trolling job boards, looking for their next victim. They’ve gotten very sophisticated and it can be hard to spot a job scam, especially when the opportunity sounds exciting. We’re here to help you spot the job scams and potentially save yourself from a catastrophe.
You could spend hours on sites like ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn applying for positions. Before clicking “apply,” take a close look at the job description and the organization.
The company name is spelled wrong. If you recognize the organization, take an extra look at the company’s name. The spelling could be only slightly off. A good example would be Jonson & Jonson instead of Johnson & Johnson or Sefora instead of Sephora. You may think these examples are obvious now, but when you’re looking at hundreds of job postings, it gets harder to recognize the fakes.
The requirements are not specific or exclusive. Requirements are meant to help job hunters know if the application is worth their time. It also helps recruiters “weed out” candidates. Requirements are meant to be exclusive, meaning that batches of people will not meet the requirements.
So, if you read the requirements and think, “wow, anyone qualifies for this high-level position,” then you may need to investigate the job posting some more. Fraudsters want as many applicants as possible so they can target more people. Before uploading a resume, don’t forget to take a step back.
The job sounds too good to be true. You only need to work five hours a day, four days a week for a salaried position at $90,000. Who wouldn’t want that job?! If the pay seems extremely high for the job type, it may be too good to be true. Another perk to note is remote positions. Not every work-from-home position is a scam, but scammers try to create opportunities that sound great to job hunters. Remote jobs are a perk that many people want, and fraudsters know that. Just take an extra look if the job sounds too good to be true.
While researching a position, you may head to the company’s website and social media accounts. There are a few things that can help you spot a fake job opening.
The employee photos can be found on Google. This is one of my favorite tricks! When you’re in Chrome and on the company’s website or social accounts, right click a photo of an employee. On most photos, one of the options is “Search Google for image.” Click on that option, and the results for that photo will appear. If it’s a real employee, the results could show sites that feature the person. If the fraudster pulled this image from elsewhere, you may find inconsistencies.
The business content is vague on their website and social accounts. If you can’t find client examples, press releases, an address or specifics on the products or services they provide, then the company may be a fake. Years ago, when I was applying for jobs, I came across a website that centered on how great of a place it was to work. I thought it was strange. Isn’t the goal of the website to promote the business or assist current clients? It was a red flag, and after even more research, I definitively determined it was a fake. If something feels off, listen to your instincts.
Don’t forget to check Facebook and LinkedIn. Many legitimate organizations have both, so fraudsters will create profiles knowing that people will do research. If the content is brand new and is also vague, do some more digging. Does the number of followers make sense for their business? Are the images legit? Does the content reflect their industry correctly?
The location and contact info isn’t quite right. Do a Google search of the company address to make sure it is legitimate. Check out pictures of the location on Google Maps. If they don’t have a location listed, that could be a red flag as well.
There are checks you can do to catch fraudsters posing as reputable companies as well. If you’ve been given an email address, see if you can match it to the site address. If we use the Jonson & Jonson example again, you may have gotten an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. However, the real company website has a different spelling.
Communication is super informal and has misspellings. Even trendy tech startups take their hiring very seriously. So, if a recruiter reaches out to you via text or chat, it could be a red flag. When you get an email, verify the email address and the person who contacted you on LinkedIn and other platforms. Look for any misspellings and grammar errors, especially the tricky ones. Examples include “its” instead of “it’s” or “Human Capitol” instead of “Human Capital.”
Also, a red flag could be if the recruiter refuses to do a phone or in-person interview. Chat is a popular vehicle for fraudsters. They can set up an account quickly, paste scripts and better hide their identity on these platforms.
You get the job right away. After a couple minutes of chat, the recruiter tells you, “Congrats, you got the job!” They may also tell you that the job starts right away. If you feel it’s too soon or that you haven’t given enough information about yourself, it could be a red flag.
They quickly ask for your information, including social security number and banking account. If you are feeling rushed, it may be because fraudsters are trying to seal the deal. A legitimate employer would want you to fill out paperwork via a secure channel. If you’re asked to send something over chat or an unsecured email, ask if they have a secure portal. A great rule of thumb is to never give out your banking information, including your credit card information. If you want to set up direct deposit, wait until you start the position.
You’re told you need to pay for something or move money. A fraudster may send you an email of an initial “paycheck” and ask you to print it and make a mobile deposit. This is a common scenario in scams and is a big warning sign. Then they may tell you to either send money or gift cards to an account while you wait for the check to clear. Spoiler alert: the check isn’t going to clear.
Another common scenario is when a fraudster tells you that you’ll need to purchase a software update. Many times, they’ll say that you must buy it through them. Again, a good rule of thumb is to never send money to people you don’t know. If you need to buy a software update or equipment for a new job, only buy through reputable sources.
If you see something suspicious or your gut tells you something is off, you should report the incident. First, report the scam to usa.gov. They cannot rectify any issues for you personally but can find patterns in scamming behavior.
Next, report the scam to the platforms that host the fraudster’s content. This includes social media platforms, online job boards and LinkedIn. To find out how to notify these companies of the scam, I recommend searching “how to report job scam on [platform name].” Reporting scams are important, and you can feel better knowing you’re making fraud more difficult.
Note: It’s important to not engage when you think a job posting is a fraud. Simply report it to the channels above.
You may have noticed some common behavior that can remind you to step back. In general, here is what you need to look out for to avoid becoming a victim of a job scam: the process is informal, the recruiter wants personal information immediately, the job is too good to be true or something just feels off. At the end of the day, trust your gut. Hopefully with these tips in mind, you could bypass the scams and get closer to a career you love. Good luck!
Kathryn Pins is a marketing content specialist at Alliant. She’s passionate about finding and communicating meaningful financial information with Money Mentor readers. Kathryn is a saver who gets more excited about certificates and her Roth IRA than shopping. When she does spend her earnings, it’s on furthering her education, travel, unique experiences, and loved ones.