Heath Alva
Community Specialist
Posted July 14, 2020

How to avoid job scams

Discover how to identify and avoid job scams that prey on job seekers online.
Heath Alva
Community Specialist
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How to avoid job scams
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It’s no secret that unemployment is at an all time high. Unfortunately, there’s also an uptick in fake job and hiring scams. These “too good to be true” opportunities trick job seekers into paying money or giving out their personal information by offering ways to land an assortment of jobs that are being advertised as: well-paying, work from home and other benefits with little to no effort for the worker. Since COVID-19 hit in December 2019, the Better Business Bureau has reported more than 24,000 job listing scams in the US alone.

It’s difficult to find a job in this climate — and the last thing you want to do is get caught up in a job scam. It’s important to protect yourself by learning how to spot fake job offers. Below are a few of the more popular scams you should be wary of when job searching:

The Mystery Shopper Scam

What better way to earn money? And it sounds legitimate — you make a purchase at a store or eat at a restaurant and then leave a review. The store or restaurant gets feedback from you and then you get a small payment for your time. Not so fast! Scammers will ask you to pay a fee to join the shopping program, a director of the companies to review, or to get the job in the first place. But there’s never a need to pay any amount of money to get into the mystery shopper business — legitimate mystery shopping companies do not charge application fees.

The Job Posting and Check Cashing Scam

This scam involves what looks like legitimate postings appearing on reputable job search websites. However, after you submit an application/resume, you’re then asked to send a check or a money order to continue the application process. This is probably the biggest red flag when it comes to job search scams: when a company asks you for money. Don’t send money — ever. You should never have to pay to get a job. A true, legitimate employer won’t request your bank account, credit card, or even your Paypal account. Always be safe and only provide your personal banking information after you’re hired by a legitimate company (e.g., if you choose to have your paycheck direct deposited.)

The Envelope Stuffing Scam

Before any work begins with this scam, you’re asked to pay a “registration fee.” Once the fee is paid, you’re asked to post an ad — often the same ad that you answered — using your own contact information. Once a response comes in, you stuff an envelope with information on how to get started in the new “job” and mail it to the applicant. How do you get paid? By how many responses you receive to the ad (if you get any at all).

The Pyramid Scheme Scam / Multi-Level Marketing Companies

A pyramid scheme is a job scam that’s usually framed as a “business opportunity” that requires you to pay money up front and then it’s up to you to recruit others to join along with you. The idea is that the more people you recruit to join, the more money you can earn. (Though the payout is rarely ever seen or achieved).

Along the lines of the pyramid scheme is the multi-level marketing company. Multi-level marketing companies — also referred to as MLMs or direct-selling companies — sell products through person-to-person sales without a physical storefront. People who join MLMs make money from selling the products, which makes most MLMs legal (unlike pyramid schemes, where distributors are only compensated for recruiting people to join). However, there are times when a multi-level marketing company is legitimate. Popular MLMs include Tupperware, Mary Kay, Herbalife, Avon, and Amway. (Interesting fact: Amway is often considered a pyramid scheme, but the FTC decided in 1979 that the company was legit since it sold actual home, health, and beauty products.)

Phishing Schemes

These aren’t technically job scams, but they’re tactics that scammers sometimes use when promoting fraudulent job offers, usually through emails. These scans are cleverly hidden attempts to get your personal account information. The emails you receive appear legitimate, complete with professional-looking company logos and details. If you receive one of these emails do not click on any links. Instead, check the destination URLs to try and verify that the links are legitimate or may lead you to a false website. (Hover your mouse over the link — the destination URL should appear at the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.)

OK, so how do you avoid job scams like these? We’ve compiled some tips to help you keep a watchful eye out when you’re job searching:

  • Always evaluate contact information in job ads or emails — watch out for spelling errors and make sure the email address attached to the ad features the company’s name (if not, it’s probably a scam)

  • As we described in the phishing scheme section above, don’t ever click on links in an email if you’re suspicious they may be fraudulent. Instead, copy and paste website addresses (URLs) into your browser. By doing this you can immediately tell if the website destination is legitimate.

  • Avoid job listings that use these descriptions: “package forwarding,” “reshipping,” “money transfers,” and “wiring funds.” These and similar phrases should raise a red flag.

  • Do not be fooled by official-sounding company names. Scam artists can easily create and operate under names that sound like reputable organizations.

  • Never forward or transfer money from your personal accounts on behalf of an employer. Also, you should not trust a company that asks you to “wire” money to them. (If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer’s business account and not yours.)

And remember: If you ever have questions about the legitimacy of a job listing, contact the Better Business Bureau, your state or local consumer agency, or the Federal Trade Commission.

The bottom line? If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is — and always trust your gut. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to getting a job (or wealth, for that matter). The reality is that no one is going to pay you a six-figure salary to stuff envelopes, post ads, or shop at your favorite store. So, first and foremost, always follow your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, take the time to investigate the situation — or just simply avoid it and move on to the legitimate job offers.

Have you come across a job scam? How did you handle it?

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Heath Alva
Community Specialist
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Comments

Elyssa Duncan

Hi @Heath Alva - these are great tips! It's sad to see that there are some bad people out there trying to scam innocent people who are just looking for work... but this information is really helpful. Thanks!

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Ed Castro

Great tips! I applied to a few jobs online and can't remember the positions on top of my head. I have been getting calls lately from supposedly recruiting or placement Cos. who says that I applied on their site but can't give me the specific information... they seem to be trying to get my personal information through inference (i.e. HS graduation year, address, etc.). Have you heard of this type of scam?

50w
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Laura Michener

Scammers send you a text about a job opportunity with a company that is legit. They text you through Google Hangouts or Skype. Never face-to-face interview. Do not fall for one of these scammers.

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Jessie Thompson

I contacted the FTC and called the business that the job was based on to notify them of an imposter using an employee information as well

15w
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Jessica houser

i always contact the company hunan recorces drpt and make sure that person actually works for th3 company snd ask that the have them contact me t lo be sure they are actually looking for an assistant. before i ever gove them any i formatiob i want to kniw who teferred them to me and why they believe i wpyld be a good fir flr their position if they ask me to open an accoubt to recieve money to ship and recieve money ir pa kages to or for them i make sure they ubderstand they should provide thos accou t snd i will not make myself liable for as ny accout they might need to ship or make purcjases from. if you ever do that you get left responsible for their withdraws of they can wire i to your account they can also withdraw from the same account. if you open an account and they transfer money into your account they can also cancle any transfer they make. you ne er want to be responsible for anuone elses account, payroll or any situatiob where they can remove money from that account. if they deposit a check fro m outside the country the federal government requires that check fubds to be released within and specific # of days wheather if is cleated or not. you could easlily send cash out on funds that ave not actually been cleared and end up responsle for a very large amount of money this happened to a friends sin he cashed a large check and wire the rest of the money to the person. his mother had to refinance her home and pull the cash out to pay the bank back.

4w
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Byron Gildon

Like to learn more?

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