(5 Minute Read) – A job search can be one of the most challenging times in a person’s life. The research and preparation that goes into the job hunt can be a full-time job itself. Unfortunately, scammers know this all too well and work hard to take advantage of job seekers looking for a new opportunity.
The FBI reports more than 16,000 people were victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling upwards of $59 million. Fraudsters either go after a job seeker’s personal information to rip them off later, or they’ll convince a victim to give them money, saying they need to pay for “job-related expenses.”
As technology continues to evolve, so do employment scams. Whether it’s on Facebook, a job board like Indeed, or via direct contact through email, phone, or text, scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to trick people into believing a job offer is legit.
For example, a fraudster might reach out through a text message, telling the victim that they qualify for a remote, flexible job, offering a high pay rate for very little work. Or a scammer might share a job post on Facebook, promising a position without any interviews or job requirements. That is a red flag.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that job scams are all too common and easy to fall for. Some of the most common scams promise you can work at home, be your own boss, start your own business, or set your own schedule.
Common Job Scams
If you’re searching for a job online, you might see positions advertised for quality control managers or virtual personal assistants that have been placed by scammers. But here’s how you can tell it’s a scam: once you’re “hired,” the company says that your “job” is to receive packages at home, discard the original packaging and receipts, repackage the products, and then reship them to an address they give you.
Sometimes the address is overseas. The products are often high-priced goods, like name-brand electronics, bought using stolen credit cards. Reshipping goods is never a real job. That’s simply being part of a scam. Sometimes the company tells you it will send your first paycheck after you work for a month, but the paycheck never arrives. And when you try to contact the company, you’ll find that the phone number is no longer connected, and the website is deactivated. This “job” is a scam, and if you gave your personal information thinking it was for payroll, you may now have an identity theft problem.
Reselling Merchandise Scams
In this scam, you may get a call out of the blue from a stranger offering you a job opportunity. Or you may see an ad online or in your local newspaper. In either case, they say that you can make money buying brand-name luxury products for less than retail prices, then selling those products for a profit. But after you pay for the products, the package never arrives or, if it does, it’s full of junk.
Nanny, Caregiver, and Virtual Personal Assistant Job Scams
Scammers post fake job ads for nannies, caregivers, and virtual assistants on job sites. Or they may send emails that look like they’re from someone in your community, or who is part of an organization you know, like your college or university. If you apply, the person who hires you might send you a check. They’ll tell you to keep part of the money for your services and then send the rest to someone else. That is a scam. A legitimate employer will never ask you to do that. What happens next is that the check is fake. It can take weeks for a bank to discover this, but once they do, the bank will want you to repay that full amount. So: if you get an offer that includes depositing a check and then using some of the money for any reason, that’s a scam.
Mystery Shopper Scams
Getting paid to shop sounds like a dream job — especially if you’re going to school full-time or looking for a side job. But while some mystery shopping jobs are legitimate, many are scams. Legitimate mystery shopping companies won’t ask you to pay for certifications, directories of jobs, or job guarantees. If someone asks you to pay to get a job, that’s a scam. And if they want you to deposit a check and send money back, stop. That’s a sign of a fake check scam.
Job Placement Service Scams
While many staffing agencies, temporary agencies, headhunters, and other placement firms are legitimate, others lie about what they will do for you, promote outdated or fake job openings, and charge fees for so-called services. Legitimate placement firms do not typically charge a fee. Instead, the hiring company pays them a fee to find qualified candidates. If a placement firm asks you for a fee, walk away. You could be dealing with a scam.
Government and Postal Jobs Scams
You respond to an ad that promises jobs with the federal government or postal service. But then you have to pay a fee to get the job or pay for study materials, so you’ll get a high score on the postal exam. Those are scams. Information about job openings with the federal government or U.S. Postal Service is free and available to everyone. And it’s free to apply for a federal or postal job. Find and apply for a job with the federal government at USAJobs.gov, or visit usps.com/employment to find jobs with the U.S. Postal Service.
Source: Federal Trade Commission
As is the case with most scams, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some ways to spot a phony job:
- You’re told you “instantly qualify.”
- The employer moves the conversation off a jobs platform to text or a messaging app.
- The employer asks you to send money for a background check or to buy materials.
- The employer asks you to deposit a check and send back a portion of it.
- Grammar or spelling errors or odd wording.
What can you do to avoid a job scam? The FTC offers this advice:
- Legitimate companies will ask for personal and bank account information for payroll purposes AFTER hiring employees. This information is safer to give in-person. If in-person contact is not possible, a video call with the potential employer can confirm identity, especially if the company has a directory against which to compare employee photos.
- Never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.
- Never provide credit card information to an employer.
- Never provide bank account information to employers without verifying their identity.
- Do not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
- Never share your Social Security number or other personal information that can be used to access your accounts with someone who does not need to know this information.
If you’re the victim of a job scam, report it to the FTC. You should also contact us immediately to put a hold on your account or credit card if your finances have been compromised. It’s always a good idea to check your accounts regularly for any suspicious activity or unauthorized charges. You can even set up notifications within digital banking that will track your credit card transactions and alert you when something may not seem right. Take a moment to review our Fraud Prevention Checklist so you know how to confirm any suspicions you might have about being a fraud victim.