For the past several years, the About.com Job Search site has collected reports about internet job scams. I’ve now received more than 2,000 from readers.
I used these reports to create this list of scam warning signs. If you’ve ever wondered “Is this a scam?”, here are some tip-offs to help you identify fake job offers and avoid job scams. Internet fraud is rampant and scammers prey on job seekers’ hopes and desperation. Your best defense is to do your research and report internet job scams.
1. Too Good to be True: Good jobs are hard to find. Like your mom always said, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some tip-offs that the ‘job’ is fake.
- You didn’t contact them, they contacted you: They say that they “found your resume online”. They either offer you a job right away or say they want to interview you. Sometimes the scammers will try to entice you by saying that you made the cut and they are interviewing the finalists for the job.
- The pay is great: Here are two examples:
Piramal Healthcare Admin Assistant: “This is a work from home job ,Work hours is from 9am-4pm Mon-Friday You will earn $45per hr for this position,you are also expected online at yahoo messenger during working hours. We also offer flexible hours....”. Here’s a note from a reader about a Pariole Operations Officer scam: “I have never had anyone offer me a job working 20 hours a week, for $72,800 annually, without an interview or two or three. They don't really say what you will be doing or where....The company address is in Spain..”
- You get the job right away. After a quick phone or Instant Message interview, the ‘interviewer’ immediately contacts you to offer you the job.
Tip: Scammers troll job boards looking for victims. To reduce the chance you’ll get scammed, use job sites that have privacy policies and only allow verified employers to view the listings.
2. Vague Job Requirements and Job Description: Scammers try to make their emails sound believable by listing ‘job requirements’. Usually these requirements are so ridiculously simple that almost everyone qualifies: “Must be 18 years old”, “Must be a citizen”, “Must have access to the internet.’ (You wouldn’t be reading their email if you didn’t have internet access, right?) The ‘job requirements’ don’t mention years of education or experience. As a rule of thumb, if it’s a real job, the requirements will be quite specific.
Job scam emails usually don’t include clear job descriptions, either. Many of my readers say that when they ask for a job description or list of job duties, they get the brush-off. The interviewer either ignores the questions or says something like “Don’t worry, we’ll train you.”
3. Unprofessional Emails: Some emails from scammers are well-written, but many aren’t. Real companies hire professionals who can write well. If the email contains spelling, capitalization, punctuation or grammatical mistakes, be on your guard. Here’s an example submitted by a reader:
“The Human resources have just reviewed your resume due to the one you posted on www.allstarjobs.com.You are now scheduled for an interview with the hiring manager of the company.Her name is Mrs Ann Jernigan,you are required to setup a yahoo mail account(mail.yahoo.com) and a yahoo instant messenger”
In this example, the mistakes include:
- Capitalization errors -- ‘Human resources’ should be ‘Human Resources’, and ‘yahoo’ should be ‘Yahoo’
- Punctuation errors -- Commas, periods and parentheses should be followed by a space
- Grammatical errors -- “Human resources have reviewed” should be “Human Resources has reviewed...”
4. Online interviews via Yahoo Instant Messenger: Yahoo IM is very popular with scammers. I’ve collected over 1,500 scam examples and many of these attempted scams say that the interview will take place online using Yahoo Instant Messenger. The scammers often include instructions for setting up a Yahoo IM account and contacting the ‘hiring manager’.
Tip: If you’re applying for an online job and you’re told that the interview will take place online via instant message, research the company and its representatives before you agree to an interview. And if you agree to be interviewed, ask detailed questions about the job during the interview. Don’t give out confidential information such as your bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers. Don’t be fooled just because the interview questions sound real.
5. Emails don’t include contact info or are sent from a personal email account. If the email doesn’t include the company’s address and phone, it’s a good bet that it’s a scam. And it’s a good bet that it’s a scam if the interviewer makes an excuse for using a personal email address by saying ‘the company’s servers are down”, or “the company is experiencing too many problems with spam” or “the company hasn’t yet set up its email system."
Some scam emails will look like they come from real companies. One reader reported that
“The scammer’s email address was @senergy-world.com. The real company email is @senergyworld.com”
Tip: Look at the email address carefully, then copy/paste it into the search box. You can also type in the word ‘scam’ after the email address to see if someone else has reported the company.
6. Search results don’t add up. Before agreeing to an interview, do your research. If it’s a real company, you should be able to find information about the company by doing an online search. Finding information does not guarantee that the company is legit, but if you can’t find anything, you can bet it’s a scam. One reader got a scam job offer from Fijax.com:
“Firstly their email is very unprofessional, there is no signature at the end. When I checked for the company on GOOGLE I found nothing, not even a website!”
Some scammers pretend to represent real companies. One of our readers reported that she received a job offer from ‘Proctor and Gambel’, but the real company is named ‘Procter & Gamble’. Another reader says that he was offered a job by someone who claimed to represent Gloprofessionals, but when he did his research, he found out it was a scam:
“ALWAYS contact the REAL company or business and ask if this employee exist, that is how I found out this employee was a fraud.”
Tip: Sophisticated scammers sometimes set up nice-looking websites -- but looks can be deceiving. Try this: go to the Domain White Pages and type the company’s web address into the “domain or IP address” box and click the “go” button. The results will tell you the date when the website was created. If the website is less than a year old, be on your guard.
Tip: When searching for information about the company, search for both the company’s name and the email address. Also copy/paste paragraphs from the email into the search box. Scammers may change the company name but re-use the other parts of the email, and it’s possible you’ll find an identical email posted online.
7. You’re asked to provide confidential information. Some scammers ask for your bank account information to set up direct deposit or transfer money to your account, or ask you to open a new bank account and provide the information to them:
“The job on offer was a "Date Entry Clerk" However, the very first item asked for by the fraudulent employer is for me to open a bank account with USAA bank, and then forward the full details of that account to Mary with the intention of adding the account the accounting department data base and to "fund the account". By full details, I mean account name, PIN code, security questions, etc. No real employer should ask for such details to send you a pay check!!!”
Other scammers will tell you to go to a website and fill out a credit report form or provide confidential information so they can “put you on the company insurance.” Identity theft scams try to get you to provide your Social Security number and birthdate and other personal information.
Tip: Before entering personal information online, check to make sure the website is secure by looking at the web address bar. The address should be https:// not http://
8. They say they will send you money or valuables, or they want to use your personal bank account to transfer funds. Some of my readers tell me that they’ve received checks that look like real cashiers checks. They are instructed to deposit the check, keep some of the money for themselves and send the rest of the money to someone else via Western Union or MoneyGram. Then, a few days or weeks later, they get a call from the bank saying the check is fake. They have lost money they sent. Here’s an example from a reader:
“Once you receive the check, First of all i want you to head right away to your bank, and get the check cashed. Deduct your first week pay which is $500, and Deduct extra $100 for the Money Gram sending fee and proceed to the nearest Money Gram outlet around you to make payment to my wife travel agent.”
Some scammers ask to use your personal bank account to transfer money from one account to another account. This is called money laundering and it’s against the law. Other scams ask you to receive and forward packages from your home. These packages might contain stolen goods or illegal substances.
9. They want you to pay for something. Legitimate companies don’t ask for money. If you’re told that you need to purchase software or pay for services, beware. Here are three examples.
- Buy this software: “They were offering $15 hr for training and $24.75 to start. I was soo excited to work from home and actually be paid a decent wage. The interview went well and I was told I have the job. YAY! Then I was told that they were going to send me a brand new HP laptop for work but I needed to pay for the software for it. I thought not a problem, I've had to upgrade in the past for jobs. Well here is the RED FLAG! We need you to send $312 Western Union for software costs...”
- Pay for a credit report: “The job will require you to work in a high financial environment so it is our corporate policy that we perform financial verification check on all employees to ensure applicant registration info. Its corporate policy that we have applicants sent through our link so we are compliant with the U.S employment standards act.... Fill out the form and indicate that you want the free report.” Here’s what a reader had to say about this scam: “...These companies are using the internet to first get job seeking people to use their site and then be told they need a credit check to apply for a job thru their site, then that company charges a unauthorized fee on your credit card which you used to pay a $1.00 and one time fee for the credit check. Preying on those who can least afford it! Shame on you!”
- Pay to have your resume fixed up: “"You have a lot of strong, relevant experience and are an excellent candidate although it would be best to improve your resume before doing anything with it. I can refer you to a resume writing expert that can improve your resume to the standard we are looking for and I believe he charges around $150 or so...”
10. Your “spidey sense” says it’s a scam: Researching the company is your best defense, but some scammers are very clever. If you start to feel that things aren’t right, trust your intuition. Ask questions and pay close attention to the answers. Slow the process down and don’t be pressured into making a commitment or giving out personal information. Do more research. If it turns out to be a scam, report it to the authorities and post your story online to warn others about the scam.