by Patricia Leiser
Online job scams perpetrated by identity thieves and other criminals are becoming more and more common. Job-seekers need to be alert to avoid being taken in by these slick swindles. Below are just some of the common scenarios, with suggestions for how you can avoid online fraud and prevent your sensitive information from being exposed.
Identify Theft (loss and abuse of your identity, financial records, banking and credit card account information, social security number, and other private data) is the reason criminals go after job seekers. How do they get your information? Unfortunately, the truth is that you give it to them. Job scammers have been known to prowl for victims on legitimate job board websites like Craigslist, Indeed, and CareerBuilder. Some pose as fraudulent companies, while others create phony job announcements for real companies. In some cases, an entire job board has been created as part of the scam.
Know the red flags of a fake job posting:
- Poor spelling and grammar
- The contact email is different from the company name
- Or you are asked to call a 900-number for more information.
- Some guarantee a rather generous salary or benefits package for the position, or state that no education or experience is required (too-good-to-be-true).
- You are asked for money or need to purchase a ‘membership’ before you can browse available positions.
If you see any of these flags, be suspicious and do not give out any of your personal or financial information. Legitimate employment services who post available jobs are paid by the company with the real vacant job, and will not require any money from you.
It is not a good idea to post your resume to a job board with the idea that potential employers will find you there . . . that’s just not how it works. Apply directly for posted, available jobs. If you don’t feel good about it, or if there are too many “red flags” don’t apply. It would be better to miss an opportunity than to become a victim.
Legitimate employers will interview you, the applicant, before you are hired. They will contact you through the US mail, phone, or email, to schedule the interview, and usually they will conduct the interview in person. They will provide you with the company contact information and a person’s name who will be processing the applications or conducting the interviews. Be wary of any potential employer who offers to hire you in any other way, especially if you’re told you’ve been hired for a job you never applied for, or for a job you were never interviewed for. These are additional warning signs of a scam.
Most “work-from-home” jobs are scams, such as stuffing envelopes, craft assembly, repackaging, and shipping and receiving using your address. Also some personal shopper, secret shopper, mystery shopper, rebate processor, medical billing, or online researcher are valid jobs, but some are scams. Be very cautious if you decide to respond to any positions in this group.
Investments, memberships, pyramid sales, or pay-into opportunities are usually scams. Any job that asks you to purchase the study materials before you test for the job is probably a scam.
Any job that requires you to pay for the company background check before you are hired may be a scam. However, in some states the law allows companies to charge you for your own background check—CA for example—though such a requirement would still be grounds for being very careful.
Places offering help (for a fee) to get federal government jobs, such as a job with the U.S. Postal Service, are often scams.
Limit your job search to real job boards and companies.
Search for jobs from known, usually safe sources like the actual employer’s web site, college or university career centers, and US, State, County, or City government job sites.
Before you apply for any job, verify as much information about the company as you can. Do not provide your social security number, driver’s license number, or birth date to a potential employer. They will need this information only after you are hired.
Report any online employment scams to the Better Business Bureau or to the Federal Trade Commission.