Job Hunters Beware! How To Avoid Job Search Scams Blog Header

It’s no secret! Jobs scams are on the rise. And admittedly, they’ve been for years. While job scams have always existed, the evolution of the internet as the ultimate job search tool has made these scams more lucrative and relatively easier to carry out.

On average, victims of job-related job scams reported a loss of $3,000. Falling for an employment scam means you risk losing money, ruining your credit score, and damaging your peace of mind.

It’s almost impossible to search for employment or change jobs without spending much of your time online social networking, researching opportunities, and applying for opportunities.  In fact, it’s now pretty much a given that you can’t find work in today’s labor market if you don’t use the tools the internet provides.

Since online job searching is unavoidable, differentiating legitimate job opportunities from fraudulent ones is the best way to protect yourself from job search scams.

“Wait’, you say, “what could someone possibly do that I wouldn’t know right away was a job search scam?  I’m careful, I lock down my passwords, I use private browsing whenever possible (well, when I remember to, anyway), and always use a VPN and clear my browser history when I use a computer at a hotel or outside the office.”  Great!  As well you should.  But online job search scams are pretty sophisticated.

To help you stay safe, here’s what you need to know when hunting for a job.

How Do Job Search Scams Work?

Fraudulent job postings are a way for scammers to access your personal information and steal your money. Like any con, job search scams rely on trust, hope, and optimism. Yes! Your desire to get a new job is what scammers count on.

So, what does a job scam look like? It helps to be skeptical. Keep a lookout for the following red flags.

1. Advance-fee scams

Depending on the scam, you might be asked for money to carry out security checks or pay for expensive non-existent training programs. For overseas jobs, you could be asked to pay travel-agent or immigration lawyer fees.

Some may tell you that the job requires you to make a deposit (for uniforms, supplies, tools of the trade, for example).

Also, you might be required to pay a fee so as to receive a job. Once you pay, you’ll probably not hear from them again.

Remember, you don’t pay employers to work, they pay you.

2. It’s too good to be true

This saying exists for a reason. These job postings often offer high salaries for part-time work or work that doesn’t require much skill.

With this scam, fraudsters will ask for your bank details to set up salary payments. Beware of any job posting that asks for this information early in the hiring process. It could be a scam.

Besides, it’s crucial to be mindful of vague job descriptions and an eagerness to hire. These could be indications that the job posting is fraudulent.

For instance, data entry jobs are some of the most common job search scams. Mostly because these jobs are entry-level and don’t require much experience. On average, data entry jobs don’t pay very well. This isn’t to say there aren’t any legitimate data entry jobs out there, but they do not have extravagant pay. Always keep in mind that jobs offering great perks are hard to find.

We’ve all seen the postings: No experience needed, make $3,000-5,000 per week.  It sounds too good to be true because, of course, it is.

3. Unsolicited job offers

It should raise red flags if you get contacted for a job you didn’t apply for. Usually, you’ll get a call or an email offering an opportunity to interview for a job or immediate employment. While it’s enticing to hear you’ve made the cut, don’t fall for this hoax. No candidate is so good that they get hired on the spot.

While it’s possible that a legitimate recruiter scouted you as an excellent fit for a job, trust your instincts and do your due diligence. Always verify a job offer before giving out any personal information. Also, just because a job offer comes through a LinkedIn message, this mode doesn’t make it real. Even LinkedIn is becoming a favorite for scammers. It helps to treat every unsolicited job offer as a possible scam.

4. Money laundering scams

Have you seen job descriptions that include handling fund transfers for a potential employer? Most likely, it’s a scam. So think twice before applying for one. Falling for such a scam is incredibly dangerous, and you could unintentionally become a criminal.

Legitimate companies do not need a third party to process payments or handle money transfers, as this can be done directly. Never use your bank account to conduct payments or any financial transactions for an employer. You could be implicated in a crime.

Usually, the scammers pose as a foreign company, and jobs offer a percentage of the transfers as payment. While tempting, ask yourself why a legitimate employer would need you to help process their customer’s payments.

5. Identity theft scams

Sometimes online job search scammers are able to make it through the screening process of job sites.  Their job posting looks legit.  A common scam “job” involves driving for the “employer”.

Not surprisingly, a copy of your driver’s license is requested. When combined with your resume, your drivers’ license, especially if it includes your SSN, provides the faux employer all the tools necessary to steal your identity.

Not only is there no job at the end of the process, but you’re also looking at weeks, months, and, in extreme cases, even years before you can fix the wreckage that the identity thief caused.

6. Job listing scams

This particular online job search scam is very effective and, as a result, very popular with crooks.  They charge you an application or admin fee for a list of “unadvertised” job openings that are usually “only posted in-house”, for example.

Or the posting claims that the list contains government jobs not available to the public (untrue-listings of government jobs are publicly available).

What you end up buying is a list of job openings that the “agency” has compiled by, ironically enough, conducting its own online job search.  This means, of course, that you could have found these jobs on your own.

7. Re-shipping scams

Beware of package processing or re-shipping job offers. Have you seen a posting asking you to receive packages at your home and ship them elsewhere? Well, don’t apply for it. Re-shipping is a crime. And you could face criminal charges.

Re-shipping scams, or postal forwarding scams, are elaborate criminal schemes that rope unsuspecting job applicants into thinking they’ve landed lucrative job opportunities. Really you’ve just become part of a criminal enterprise.

Typically, these jobs involve repacking and forwarding goods usually to customers outside the United States. You may be inadvertently dispatching stolen goods or illicit materials.

Here’s a tip! If you suspect you’re the victim of a scam, report it. It’s better to err on the side of safety.

Protect Yourself

The bottom line: Research the company before sending any personal information to an employer. Be sure to independently verify any job posting before applying. You should be able to find information on the company or recruiter on LinkedIn or Google. In short, trust your gut and do your homework.


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Originally published on this blog on June 13, 2013, this post has been updated for 2021 and beyond.

Job Hunters Beware! How To Avoid Job Search Scams Infographic