8 Job Scams and 10 Signs to Watch For

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This story originally appeared on Zippia.com.

If you’re pursuing a job on the online market, it’s easy to feel bombarded by the sheer quantity of search websites and career options available to you.

When you’re looking through all this information, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a legitimate job and an unforgiving scam.

Not to mention that scammers continue to get more sophisticated and find new ways to take advantage of job seekers.

With all that in mind, it’s vital to be aware of common red flags you might encounter. After all, your best defense is your own knowledge and research.

Following are critical ways you can identify and avoid job scams.

While it’s unfortunate that there are people out there who take advantage of others, knowing these common red flags can save you irreplaceable time and money.

What is a job scam?

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Unfortunately, there are a variety of job scams out there with different goals in mind.

Scammers can attempt to steal your identity by collecting confidential information, try to get you to cash fraudulent checks or send them money, or get you to pay for services and supplies they want.

Often, scammers target social media sites, job boards, and forums, so you should pay attention no matter where you’re looking.

Frankly, whether you’re on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, or any site in between, you’re always at risk of running into scams. You can even receive unsolicited emails from people with dubious intentions.

With that in mind, here is a list of common job scams you might encounter in the job market.

1. Data entry scams

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Data entry scams are a classic case of “it’s too good to be true.” These scams offer you a high-paying job that requires very little to no experience.

Typically, these scams require an upfront payment for processing or training and very rarely pay as well as advertised. While there are legitimate data entry jobs out there, they will rarely offer extravagant wages.

2. Pyramid schemes

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As the title would suggest, pyramid schemes require the recruitment of and payments made by many people to support only a few.

Typically, there is no product involved in a pyramid marketing scheme, only the exchange of money from the lower-level members to the higher-level ones.

For someone to make money with a pyramid scheme, someone else must lose funds. Often, that someone might be you if you’re newly recruited.

For that reason, these scams are illegal in the United States and many other countries.

3. Bait and switch scams

Senior man fishing off a boat in Alaskan waters.
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With these scams, scammers try to reel you in by offering you an interview for one job, while actively planning to have you interview for another.

If you attend the interview, you may discover that the job you applied for doesn’t exist and that the company is trying to get you to accept a completely different position.

Generally, companies perform this type of scam when they have a job they’re sure no one wants. They may believe that it’ll be easier to convince someone to take the job if they discuss it with them in person.

4. Credit report scams

Credit report
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In this scenario, fake employers demand your credit score as a part of the hiring process.

Typically, the “employer” requests that you use a specific service for this that will cost you money, even if they claim that the process is free.

Ultimately, no part of this is legitimate, and they’re attempting to get you to pay for a credit report. Even worse, the scammer may be able to use the information they want to steal your identity.

5. Wire transfers

A bank transfer button on a keyboard
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These scams are popular with thieves worldwide, as the money transferred is instant and nearly impossible to track.

To make things worse, these transactions are extremely difficult to reverse, meaning you might never be able to recover your lost funds.

Even if the transfer request may seem legitimate, scammers have been known to pose as company executives, managers, and other people in influential positions, so you shouldn’t trust titles.

In reality, these scammers use several fake phone numbers, accounts, etc., so you should never wire transfer money to someone you don’t know.

6. Direct deposit scams

Man investing online
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Similar to a wire transfer, these scams are tough to recover from. For this scam to work, a fake employer will provide a job offer that’s “too good to be true.”

If you were to take the phony position, the scammer would then say that they can only deliver your paychecks via direct deposit and, therefore, require your bank account information. Unfortunately, after the “employer” receives this information, they will likely steal all of the money in your account, and you will never hear from them again.

7. Phishing scams

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Usually, this scam involves someone sending you an email that says you’d be a perfect fit for a fake company/position.

However, you’ll find that if you can’t apply directly for the position in question, and instead, you’ll be given a link to an unrelated website.

This website will ask you to fill out a form with your contact information and other personal information.

If you were to fill this out, the scammer would have access to your personal information, which they can use to either sell to a third party or steal your identity.

8. Unemployment scams

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Scammers can also use unemployment insurance and benefits to lure you into their scam. A person or fake company may offer to complete or file your unemployment insurance claim for a one-time fee.

They’ll try to come across as professional as possible and claim to be connected to your State Labor Department, but that alone isn’t a reason you should trust them.

Top 10 job scam warning signs

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Given the sheer variety of job scams out there, it’s essential to recognize the red flags that most scams will share. Here are the top 10 warning signs you should watch out for.

1. Unsolicited offers

Excited salesman
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Whether you’re being called, emailed, or messaged on social media, receiving unsolicited employment offers is generally not a good sign.

These offers are often for positions you’ve likely never heard of or applied to before, and offer either immediate employment or the opportunity to interview for a great job.

Scammers can claim to be from reputable job boards and social media sites alike, so you should never trust them based on their credentials or supposed source.

While a legitimate recruiter may reach out to you about a real job, you should always take caution when receiving unsolicited offers. Treat every unsolicited offer as a job scam — no matter where it comes from.

2. The job is “too good to be true”

Excited new office worker at laptop
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One of the easier ways to spot job scams is by evaluating the promised quality of the job with how simple the position requirements are.

When you compare these two aspects of the offer, you may find that the job is “too good to be true.” Here are a few examples of this:

  • You’ve been offered an entry-level position with significantly above-average pay.
  • The position requires little to no experience.
  • There’s a lack of application and interview processes.
  • You can start working immediately.
  • You were contacted first.

Even if there are amazing jobs out there, it’s good to be cautious if you feel that an offer you’ve been given ticks off some of the signs on this list.

Evaluate your own experience and expectations before you start job hunting, so you have an idea of what positions realistically fit your qualifications.

3. The job description and requirements are too vague

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Even though scammers will attempt to create a believable job posting, they will tend to make the job description and requirements too ambiguous.

This is because they want the criteria to apply to as many people as possible, so more people are attracted to the scam.

For example, they may write that you must be 18 years old, a citizen of your resident country, or that you need access to the internet. They will almost never mention years of education or experience as a requirement for the position because that would rule out a large number of people who could fall into their scam.

Generally speaking, trustworthy job postings will have fairly specific requirements. When in doubt, do some online research on what is expected in certain fields or at individual companies.

4. Your research doesn’t add up

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When you’re deciding whether or not you want to pursue a position you’re interested in, you should do some research on the employer and company in question.

If you’re dealing with a real company, you should be able to find their website, social media page, or other sources that validate their legitimacy. Don’t trust a company you can’t find any information about.

Skilled scammers may set up believable fake websites, but in this case, be wary of either duplicate sites or utilize the site’s domain or IP address to trace how old it is. Typically, company websites that are under a year old aren’t very trustworthy.

Additionally, you might find that there are scammers who pretend to represent real companies. Doing research can help you uncover discrepancies in these fraudulent offers as well.

For example, if you were to receive an email from a well-known company about a job offer, look into how that company usually posts their job offers.

If the descriptions you were given don’t match the descriptions the company usually posts on job boards, you could be dealing with a scam.

5. Lack of contact information

Blank name tag.
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If you’ve received an email or found a job posting that interests you, be on the lookout for the employer’s contact information.

For example, it’s extremely unprofessional and unlikely that a company would send an email that doesn’t include their address, return email, and phone number at the bottom.

Further, don’t believe anyone who tells you that they have to email you on their personal email because the company’s servers are down or because the company has yet to set up their email system.

To be safe, copy and paste the email address from the email you received into your search bar and examine the results. You may find spam reports or the email address of the real company someone is imitating.

6. Spelling and grammar discrepancies

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When you’re looking over a job listing or reading an email you’ve received, be on the lookout for improper spelling and grammar.

Overall, a company would never post or send out professional job offers without doing a once-over. Professionalism is important to any valid company.

With that in mind, here are discrepancies you should be mindful of:

  • Spelling errors. While this is the most unlikely error you’ll run into, you definitely shouldn’t trust an email riddled with misspelled words.
  • Grammatical errors. Proper grammar can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, so you should be even more vigilant with that in mind. For example, “You’re invited to join us” is correct, whereas “Your invited to join us” is not.
  • Capitalization errors. Companies are careful to capitalize certain things. Company names, titles, and locations should all be capitalized: “Google,” not “google.”
  • Punctuation errors. Things like commas, periods, and parentheses should always be followed by a space.

7. You’re offered an online messaging interview or allowed to skip the interview

African American man in video call.
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Some scams will tell you that your job interview will be done using an online instant messaging service or might even try to convince you that you can start working right away without an interview.

Even if you were offered a remote working position, this is not normal, and if the “employer” refuses to offer you a phone interview or in-person interview, you may be dealing with a scam.

These scammers may also include instructions for contacting the hiring manager that require you to share confidential information.

If you decide to agree to a messaging interview, you’ll want to ask detailed questions about the position during the interview. Don’t be fooled just because the interview questions sound legitimate, and watch for any overly personal questions that involve your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card information.

8. They request confidential information

Woman with hearing loss
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In the case of many job scams, the scammer’s goal is to obtain information about your identity, bank account, or credit cards. With this information, they can steal your identity and your hard-earned money.

With this in mind, never trust a job offer or employer who’s quick to request your private information, such as your Social Security or credit card numbers.

For instance, scammers may attempt to send you to websites where you’re expected to fill out this information, even if you haven’t received an interview or any other credible information about the company.

While there are instances where you have to provide personal information, these steps are far along in the hiring process, when you should be well-aware of the company’s legitimacy.

Overall, you should check to make sure websites are secure and do your research.

9. You’re expected to pay for something

Confused woman holding cash
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No legitimate company is going to ask for you to pay for a part of the hiring process. If they do, you should refuse.

Here are some things scammers might ask you to pay for:

  • Buy and download this program/software. If an “employer” tells you that you need to pay for access to some program or software required to progress in the job hiring process, beware. You should never have to pay for the software or programs you need to work a position, and you shouldn’t trust anything they tell you to download.
  • Pay for a credit report. As mentioned previously, fake employers may ask you to use a specific service to generate a credit report. Even if they claim this service is free, requesting you provide a credit report is not a normal part of the job hiring process, and you shouldn’t trust it. In the worst case, the scammer may even be trying to steal your identity.
  • Pay to have your resume improved. Scammers may tell you that you need to update and enhance your resume so you can reapply for the position. They may refer you to a service or person who can review your resume and give you an estimated cost. No real employer would want you to do this.

Regardless of the request, you shouldn’t trust an “employer” who needs you to pay for something before you can get the job.

10. Trust your instincts

Worried man holds up hands in a stop or halt motion
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No matter how clever the scammer is, job scams will generally feel unsettling from the start.

Do your research, ask questions, and pay very close attention to the answers you’re given. Often, you can catch little discrepancies right from the start.

Never let someone pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. Trust your gut and stop talking to anyone who makes you feel uneasy.

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