How to Identify and Avoid Job Scams

As a job seeker, Julie Kramer has run into a number of scams during her job search. In this post, she shares her experiences with us and how she has kept herself safe. Thanks for your words of advice, Julie!

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We’ve all seen postings like those above on the job boards.Man being caught by fishing hook

With all of the cheats and rip-offs out there, it shouldn’t be a surprise that even when you are doing something like searching for a job, there are still people out there that will try to take advantage of you. During my job hunt, I, too, have encountered these types of scams.

I have my résumé posted on many of the popular job boards and use them to browse job opportunities, as well. Many times, these companies approach me by calling me on the phone number I have listed or by emailing me.

How to spot the scams

There are some clues in the way they contact me or talk to me that often signal that I should be extra cautious. For example:

  • They might slip up and mention they received my application (which I know then something is fishy because I keep track of which companies I apply to).
  • They will be very vague and say they looked over my résumé, found it very impressive, and would like to speak with me about an opportunity at their company. They finish by asking me to call them to set up an interview to “discuss all of the great benefits we have to offer” or to attend their “upcoming career orientation where you can learn more about this exciting career in a stress free environment.”
  • They neglect to tell me what the position exactly is in the message or they use an acronym for their business name instead of their real business name to disguise themselves.

Often, companies will just post “jobs” online and so you apply to them, thinking they are completely different than what they are really offering. With practice, I can now spot many of the “fake jobs” right away by just the title or description without even having to Google “[company name] scam.”

I find that the fake/dishonest ones try to sell you on the position by using lots of exclamation points, all capital letters, and talking more about how great their company is rather than what the position entails. More often than not, if the posting does not include a tally list of tasks that will be required of the position or at least a medium-sized paragraph about what you would be doing, it comes up with scam results on Google.

In trying  to capture a large audience of job seekers, these types of listings are usually also very, very vague in what type of person would be qualified for the position. As well, they do not include much about the skills the applicant should have. For instance, they may include a long laundry list of target majors or only very general qualities that most applicants identify with (hard-working, great attitude, excellent communication and people skills, etc.)

Another way to spot the scams is if you click on the company name on the job listing board to see what other ads they have. If you notice that there are many postings listed but the position names only differ slightly, you should be wary before applying.

Overall, it seems like the shady listings create a huge urgency to pull the job seeker in and keep it general to appeal to the largest audience possible, whereas real job listings seem to more or less state specifically what they need and what they are looking for matter-of-factly in order to weed out those who do not have the needed qualifications.

Job scams I’ve encountered

One job I applied to — the first scam I ran into this past summer — sounded very appealing and I applied. But immediately after I pressed the “SEND” button on their website to submit my application, it brought me to another screen that said I qualified for the interview! It said they were conducting interviews immediately and that I needed to choose date/time during the next week that would work for me to be interviewed. I thought it was a little odd that an actual person was not reviewing the résumés before inviting candidates for an interview, but was I new to the job hunting process so chose one and submitted.

However, this position was in a different state, so I wanted to talk to an HR representative to see if they were open to conducting a phone interview first to determine I was a strong candidate. When I went to their website to find a phone number to call them, I could not find one. ANYWHERE. After Googling them to try to find the contact information, a bunch of reports came up about scams and rip-offs. I replied to the email promptly to cancel the “interview.”

Even though I think I have become a whiz at spotting these scams (or not necessarily scams, but often businesses that perform in unethical or misleading and devious ways), I still miss one once in a while. A few weeks ago, I applied to a tech business out of Omaha for a “Marketing Support Coordinator.” It has become routine now for me to Google the business before applying so that if they are a scam or unethical business that I do not want anything to do with, I am not wasting my time. So typically, as I type one of these unethical business names into Google, the drop-down menu will come up with “scam.” This company, however, did not yield any such results. Their company website seemed very professional and nothing really seemed suspicious.

However, after applying online, I received a confirmation email saying, “Thank you for your interest… In order to continue with the application process, please click on the link below to answer a short questionnaire.” The link brought me to a page that asked for some contact information and my social security number for “potential tax credit” benefits for the company. I chose the option below to “Decline tax credit screening.” A small pop-up window then came up asking “Are you sure?” I said “OK” to confirm my declination. The next screen I was brought to then said “Please enter your name and social security number to verify that you do not wish to complete this questionnaire.” HA! There was no option from that screen to decline, only to go back to the first screen. Needless to say, I closed the window and did not pursue the “position.”

It is such a shame these businesses and people take advantage of the many job-seeking people out there, as we all know it is hard enough in this economy to find the right match between job candidate and company without scams interfering and taking advantage. Besides taking precious time away from job seekers’ hunting and making us endure the almost excruciating effort that it takes to find and apply to a job, it also puts us at the dangerous risk of identity theft for releasing so much personal information.

Some final advice about avoiding job scams

  • Do your research on the company before you put time and effort into applying – it is as simple as a Google search!
  • Consider keeping addresses and possibly even phone numbers off your résumés, cover letters, and profiles on online websites and job boards.
  • Never give out special information like your social security number until after you have had an in-person interview and know the company is legit and trustworthy.

Safe hunting!

Hook, Line, Sinker (How I fell for a phishing scam) courtesy of ToastyKen

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