In a job scam, a criminal impersonates an employer, usually to get the victim's personal information or money. Their methods can be as simple as posting a fake advertisement to a job board such as Indeed. On the other hand, some scammers go as far as to create fake websites or even entire fake job boards.
These types of scams can be dangerous because they target job seekers who are struggling to find work. They also use the same platforms as actual employers: newspapers, online job boards, and other media. If you're looking for a job, read below for some tips on how to stay safe.
While you look for a job, be attentive to the warning signs of a scam. This is by no means a be all end all, but it should get you started. Here are some examples:
They ask you for a payment – When you get a job, the company is paying for your work, not the other way around. If an "employer" asks you to pay anything upfront to get the job, don't trust them.1
They ask you for sensitive information upfront – It's common for employers to ask you for bank information so they can set up direct deposit. However, this should only happen after you've accepted an offer. Be wary if an "employer" asks you upfront for information like your credit card number, bank account number, or Social Security number.1
It's for an "undisclosed" government job – All federal jobs are listed publicly on https://www.usajobs.gov/. Any "employer" who offers you a job that is not listed on this website is scamming you.1
They ask you to pay for a "credit report" – Credit reports are free to request from https://www.annualcreditreport.com. You should never pay for a credit report or get one from anywhere other than the website above.2
You didn't apply – If you get a phone call, email, or message about a job you didn't apply for, be cautious. If you're offered such a job, it's more than likely fake.2
It's too good to be true – If a job ad promises high pay for little work or seems otherwise unbelievable, be suspicious.2
The job seems to be hiding something. Be on your guard if a job posting seems like it's deliberately covering up information about the job. For example, be wary of jobs that don't seem to pay an hourly wage or salary.2
The company is suspicious – If you can't find any information about the company or it's unclear what they actually do, take into consideration that this may be a scam.
Job scams are easy to avoid if you're careful. Here are a couple of tips for staying safe during your job search.
Research the company. Do research on the company making the post before you apply for any job. Visit their website to see how well it matches the job being offered. Make sure they're legitimate and that you understand what they do. Also, look to see if there are any complaints about the company. You can do this online, at a consumer protection agency, the Attorney General's office, or the Better Business Bureau.1
Google is your friend. Google can tell you a lot about scams most of the time. If you're seeing a lot of complaints and other negative results after searching the company, that should raise a red flag.
Don't pay. This was mentioned earlier, but it can't be stressed enough. Never pay anything to get a job. Avoid any "offers" that ask you to make payments in any way – sending checks, wiring money, anything. At an actual job, the only thing you are offering the employer is your work.
Don't trust "get rich quick" offers. These are almost always scams. If you come across a job promising to make you a lot of money for little effort, ignore it.
Use common sense and don't let your guard down. In general, be careful when searching for jobs, and don't apply for every job you see. Finally, if something just "doesn't feel right," that may be a sign you need to be extra suspicious.
Discussing the different types of job scams in detail would be well beyond the scope of this article. For some more detailed information about common job scams and how to avoid them, The Balance Careers keeps a useful A to Z list.