We’ve all experienced scam phone calls. You know the ones. They claim to be calling from the IRS and ask you to “verify” your important details over the phone. Or the ever-prevalent scammers who target the elderly and trick them into sending them money. These days I think most people are savvy to this type of scamming. Thankfully, most of our phones even label many of these calls “Scam Likely”. You could spend endless amounts of time on YouTube watching people exact justice on the perpetrators. Here is a favorite channel of mine. I recommend watching these when you are not at work because they are addicting and you will not want to stop after just one.
Another kind of scamming that is all-too-common, but less known to the average person, is employment scamming. This is becoming an increasingly popular way for scammers to try and procure personal information for the purpose of identity theft. In April of 2021, the FBI released a warning about the dangers of fake job scams. During the course of 2020, over $59 MILLION was lost to employment scams.
In their warning the FBI states that, “Fake Job Scams have existed for a long time but technology has made this scam easier and more lucrative. Cyber criminals now pose as legitimate employers by spoofing company websites and posting fake job openings on popular online job boards. They conduct false interviews with unsuspecting applicant victims, then request PII (personal identifying information) and/or money from these individuals. The PII can be used for any number of nefarious purposes, including taking over the victims’ accounts, opening new financial accounts, or using the victims’ identity for another deception scam (such as obtaining fake driver’s licenses or passports).”
Many popular job listing companies including Indeed and ZipRecruiter, have published posts on red flags to look out for when searching for jobs in order to avoid becoming the victim of a scam.
1. You did not apply for the job but were contacted for an interview
If you are contacted by a recruiter and don’t remember applying for the job, BEWARE. It is unlikely that a recruiter would contact someone that didn’t show prior interest.
2. Recruiter does not use company issued email address
Keep your eyes peeled for so-called “recruiters” using Gmail or Yahoo email addresses and not addresses issued by the company. (Example: firstname.lastname@example.org vs email@example.com)
3. The pay is unusually high
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Job posts may tout highly flexible, work-from-home hours and making six figures for little-to-no work. If you see that, RUN.
4. You are offered the job with little or no interviewing
Good jobs require multi-step interviews. Usually there is an application process, a phone interview and often several in person interviews. Most companies will also contact your references or prior employers. If you are offered a job without many of those steps, it is probably a scam.
5. Employment requires start up costs or purchases
Do NOT take a job that requires you to pay them a startup fee or for any equipment you might need upfront. This is, AT BEST, an MLM and, at worst, a total scam where they will take your money and run. If a job does require you to pay for anything (like a uniform), it is usually deducted from your first paycheck.
6. Communication is unprofessional
A recruiter is trained to be the absolute best impression of a company. They will not have poor grammar and punctuation in their communication, and it will read very professionally, often including a signature with a local phone number.
There is a plethora of information out there about how to keep yourself safe during the job hunting experience. Top Resume has a great, comprehensive list of steps to take to report a job scam. In order to protect yourself from a stolen identity or fraud of any kind there are some practical things that you can do. Many of these may seem like common sense, but when you are in the middle of a job hunt it can be exciting to think you may have landed a great job, and it’s easy to throw caution to the wind.
Do thorough research
Make sure you can find a company footprint online. This includes a legitimate company website (if multiple sites come up for one company it could indicate a scam), a social media, a LinkedIn, etc. Jobs will often be posted on job boards and also on the company site. If you feel you are being scammed, try copying the communication you received and Googling it word for word. Often, you are not the first recipient of the scam email and others may have posted about it online.
Never send money or provide personal information prior to hiring
A real company will never ask you to wire them money! They will also not ask you to provide banking info unless you are filling out direct deposit forms. If you are asked to verify your ID, social security number, or any other personal details, prior to hiring, that should set off alarm bells in your head.
Make sure interviews are face-to-face or through a secure video conferencing site
Scammers do not want to be identifiable. If the communication is all done via email, phone or text and avoids any face-to-face interaction, you should terminate communication.
Pay attention to URLs
Scammers have gotten savvy with technology and continue to be able to create more convincing fraudulent websites. But sometimes the beginning of the URL can set them apart from the real thing. The address should begin with https://, not “http://“. Keep in mind, just because it begins correctly does not mean it is NOT a scam. You should still be vigilant for other warning signs.