It's tough to find jobs these days, but the internet has given job seekers an easy way to sort through job listings easily, even without spending a cent. However, once you take advantage of hunting jobs online, it can expose you to hundreds of job scams. Whether you're looking for a full-time job or internships, scams can be a very frustrating thing to deal with.
The people behind these online job scams are bad people; they won't care if you have been unemployed for years, how badly you need a job or how much money you'll be losing. The bad news is con artists evolve and create new scams every day. The good news is you can avoid being ripped off by learning how these unscrupulous people take advantage of job seekers, recognizing red flags while sorting through job ads and practicing safety during your job hunt.
Types of Online Job Scams
Job scams aren't a new problem. A scammer works by gaining his victim's confidence to make the job seeker an accomplice to money laundering without their knowledge or extract personal information such of the victim, such as full name, Social Security Number, financial details (bank account, credit card or PayPal information), birth date, driver's license or other personal data.
Online job scams come in various forms, but the most popular ones include resume blasting, bogus job offers and cash handling scams.
- Resume blasting - With this kind of job scam, fake employment agencies offer employment guarantees within a fixed time period for a fee. What the victim (job hunter) doesn't know is that the agency is distributing his/her resume to thousands of employers, websites and other sources (in a process called resume blasting) in hopes of having companies send correspondence, which the fraudsters would use to scam new victims. Although such agencies provide a money-back guarantee as a way to bait victims, only few people ever receive refunds.
- Bogus jobs/internships - This is the most obvious and most popular type of job scam. With this kind of scam, fraudsters pretend to be recruitment agents and advertise jobs with real companies or job boards, usually offering lucrative salaries. Once these so-called employment agencies conduct a bogus telephone interview, they'll pretend that the job is theirs and instruct victims to send money for their travel costs or work visa to an agent, who just happens to work on the scammer's behalf.
This scam has different variations, but they always involve sending money to agents or providing bank account/credit card details. Some fraudsters use personal information and sold to third parties for a fee or even used for identity theft. Be careful of bogus jobs because these fraudsters spend money to list fake jobs on legitimate employment sites or even host their own job board website to lure victims.
- Cash-handling/money laundering - With this kind of scam, fraudsters seek employees to handle their money laundering scheme without the victim's knowledge. Job seekers often answer to work-at-home job listings (usually as a collection agent or customer representative) set up by the fraudsters. Once hired, the victims are sent fraudulent negotiable that are to be distributed to various parties, assuring victims that they get to keep part of the money. Usually, victims don't know they have become part of a money laundering scheme, until they are caught by police.
Red Flags of Job Scams
Although there are virtually thousands of job scams online, you can learn how to avoid these scams completely by spotting certain red flags.
- Personal information requirements - Steer clear from any job listing that asks for your personal bank account, credit card numbers, PayPal account or Social Security Number. Some fraudsters even request you to scan an ID to "verify identity."
- Fishy Payment Methods - If you haven't met an employer personally, but he/she insists of having funds or paychecks direct-deposited, this could be a way to get a hold of your bank account information.
- Job Guarantees - Don't believe it if a company says you're guaranteed a job, especially if they are asking for an upfront fee. Nobody can guarantee that somebody else is going to give you a job.
- Money laundering - If the job requires you to forward, transfer or "wire" money to another person, employer or "customer" and assures that you'll keep a portion of the money as payment, your job is a part of a money laundering scheme.
- Unprofessional job listings - Watch out for strange sentences with a lot of exclamation points, misspellings and grammatical mistakes in the job ad. Some scammers can sometimes become confused and post a job with a title that doesn't match the description.
- Employer Contact Details - Job ads that fail to list specific job locations, company location, or phone numbers, can be a good indicator of scams. You should also take note of the employer's contact e-mail address; scammers often use e-mails that are not primary domains. Watch out for contact e-mails using yahoo, hotmail or other free e-mail accounts, which can be easily replaced. Employers that don't provide contact details have a lack of interest in actually meeting you in person.
- Employer Response to Inquiry - If the ad seems legit, the red flags don't stop there. Once you've expressed interest through e-mail and they respond, look out for the name of a person/company that doesn't exist or a generic auto-response to all your emails. Also be careful of responses with a link that ask you to sign-up for various websites.
Monster.com lists descriptive words in job postings that are tip-offs to fraud. The list includes "wiring funds," "money transfers," "package-forwarding," "PayPal," and "eBay." Terms like "Foreign Agent Agreement" and "No Experience Necessary" are also used often by scammers.
Of course, if a job offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Guarantees of high income in one week or other exaggerated promises of high pay can be tempting, but they're usually a marketing scheme to lure victims. To be sure, a quick Google search of the company name, job ad title or other details can save you a lot of time and frustrations in determining if a job is a scam or not. If you can't find information about a company online, please talk to your career counselor before going for an interview.
No Job is More Important than Your Safety
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Unfortunately, job seekers are often victimized by identity theft through job scams. Here are some ways to keep your identity protected:
- Practice prudent posting - Aside from resume banks, it is important to keep your personal information private. Online social networking sites enable individuals around the world to chat, share photos, recruit employees, date, post resumes, auction property and more. Because the internet makes it possible for all information about you linked with one another in a simple online search, anyone can gather these personal data and use it against you. If you wouldn't tell it to a stranger on the street, don't put it online for the world to see.
- Phishing e-mails - When you inquire for a job and the employer sends a response with a link to a third-party website, which often lands on a spoof Web site, asking you to provide personal/account information or download malicious software. Be very careful on what you click next because phishing emails are used to fraudulently obtain personal identification and account information.
- Never send money - If a company is asking money to fill out an application, don't pay up unless you know the company to be reputable.
- Analyze "work at home" jobs carefully - Although there are legitimate jobs online, most of these work-at-home opportunities sound fishy. Always check for the red flags when dealing with virtual jobs. If it smells fishy or spammy, such as someone offering you a job without a background check, face-to-face interview or verification of your references, then it probably is. All these axioms hold true when it comes to your safety.
Most importantly, check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is in good standing. If you follow these expert tips, it can greatly reduce your potential risk of being victimized by online job scams.
Our search techniques will reveal a lot of opportunities for internship seekers, but not all of these will be legitimate. Please be careful and remember that no internship or job is more important than your safety.