If something looks too good to be true, it often is.
So, if you get an unexpected job offer, pause for thought and check our essential tips to avoid a job scam. These nine telltale warning signs could save you from fraud and identity theft - among other common security risks.
Always remember: if it looks suspicious, do your research and if it turns out to be a scam, report it.
9 Job Scam Warning Signs
Too Good to be True
Let’s start at the beginning. A good job, these days, can be as hard to find as a good heart. So if the perfect offer falls into your lap - question if it’s for real by asking yourself three crucial questions:
- Did the recruiter contact you out-the-blue?
If someone gets in touch claiming they found your resume online, question it (unless it’s a well-known recruiter on LinkedIn). They may offer you an interview in exchange for a few more details; they may even promise you a job. Share nothing until you know who you’re talking to.
- Does the pay fit the title?
I once received a job offer for a “work-from-home data admin paying $60/hour!” I Googled the average Data Admin salary and let’s just say, it’s not $60/hour...
An immediate red flag.
- Does the interview process seem strange?
The recruiter may invite you for a Skype chat, or a simple instant messenger ‘interview’ - just a few questions and suddenly, the job is yours. A quick job offer should sound the alarm.
BEWARE: Scammers use job boards to find victims. To protect your personal information, only use job sites with strict privacy policies - and restrict your profile to verified employers only.
Lack of Job Details
Scammy job emails often list job requirements to add credibility to their offer. However, if you look closely, you might notice that anyone could fit the role.
Consider the below:
- Must be over 18
- Must be a local citizen
- Must have internet access
If you’ve got your own computer, you’re likely 18+ with the internet. If you can’t see industry-specific requirements or at least one question about your education level and experience - delete the email. Real jobs have particular specifications.
If you’re unsure, you can always ask your recruiter to share a job description. If they avoid the question or merely promise ‘on-the-job training’ - steer clear.
Lack of Professionalism
If a company is looking to recruit, they will present themselves in a professional way. Some scam emails can look like the real deal, but many will have “weird grammar; strange CapitalizAtion, or puntuaction’s and speling that doesn’t look right…Step back and re-read.
If you spot any of the below, play it safe and discard the offer.
- Incorrect capitalization - Human Resources, Google, and Mr. Surname should have capitals.
- Incorrect grammar - Check spacing, periods, and commas to flag obvious errors an employer should not make.
- Incorrect spelling - Run a spell-check: a quick way to see how many mistakes flag a lack of professionalism.
No Phone Interview Required
It’s rare for a company to offer a job without first conducting a phone interview. If a recruiter asks to chat via instant messenger only - or uses these services to ask for personal details - say you will only share details after a phone call.
Tip: Every reputable company will have an online presence. If a phone interview isn’t possible, check LinkedIn profiles and company websites to see who you’re chatting to online - and never share sensitive information until you have verified the authenticity of your contact.
Where’s the Contact Information?
How often have you received a fake email claiming to be from Apple, Google, or PayPal that didn’t include the company details at the end?
Job or interview emails that forget to add a company address and contact number are likely fake. Equally, an email from a personal email address is one to be wary of, no matter the excuse. That also goes for an email address that doesn’t reflect the real company name (I once received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org!) Search suspicious looking email addresses as, chances are, someone has already reported the scam.
Head Scratching After a Search
Anything untoward should lead to you to run a search. Google will serve up lots of information if a company is legitimate. Any other result is almost definitely a scam. However, just because you get search results does not mean the offer is valid. Some scammers impersonate real companies to sidestep the search issue. They may even set up fake websites in high-profile cases.
Tip: Resources like Domain White Pages can tell you how long a website has existed (a website less than 12-months old should raise an eyebrow). Equally, if you copy/paste an email address into the search bar, you’ll often find reports of another scam using that same email.
If you’re ever unsure, contact the company and ask to speak with the email sender.
“Please Share Your Bank Details”
If an email asks for your bank details, your social security number, your credit card information, or for you to transfer money - stop right there. Any request for sensitive information is suspicious.
Worse, any email redirecting you to another website that asks you to fill out a form with personal data is an absolute no-go. These websites can harvest your details for fraud and identity theft, often before you even realize what you’ve done.
If you’re unsure if you can trust a website:
- First check for the padlock symbol to the left of the URL
- Then make sure the web address reads https:// - not just http://
There are even scammers who ask for you to pay for something upfront. No company should need you to buy software or services to work for them. If you see something like the below, ignore the email and report the scam.
Buy new software: An interviewer may request you to take training before a conversation or after they hire you “…to familiarize yourself with the product. Please pay $29.95 for the software package.”
Careful. Check where you’re sending money to, as a Western Union address could be a red flag.
Pay for credit checks: It’s not uncommon for employers to ask for financial checks to verify an employee’s background. That’s okay in principle, but beware the scam artist who asks for financial details as part of the audit...
...then uses your credit card details to levy an unauthorized fee.
Pay for a resume review: Some recruiters will claim they want to help you find a job. They may even have the perfect position for you, “if only you can tighten up your CV, which they can do for a fee of $199.”
Trust Your Gut
At the end of the day, you’ll sense when something is off. Believe your intuition and be wary when something doesn’t feel quite right.
Allay your suspicions by:
- Using a search engine
- Asking the employer questions
- Contacting the company
...and always take as long as you need to feel comfortable.
Never allow the employer to pressure you into moving forward and, if they do, question their intentions. Most importantly, if research turns up a scam, notify the relevant authority immediately.