Your Job Search Could Expose You to Job Scams: Learn the Signs to Help Better Protect Yourself

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Congratulations—you just landed an incredible job opportunity! Or did you? Employment scams are on the rise, according to the Better Business Bureau, and job seekers continue to be a major target for scammers. If you’re looking for a new job, be alert to fraudulent job postings, work-at-home scams, and fake recruiter emails. Learn signs of some common job scams and how to better safeguard yourself against them.

Warning: Job Search Scam Tactics May Vary

Unfortunately, it can be relatively easy for scammers to gather information from job seekers under the guise of a potential employer. That’s because legitimate employers often ask for the candidate’s personal or financial information, such as a Social Security number or bank account details.

There are different methods in which a scammer may try to steal personal information from a job seeker, including pretending to be an employer and collecting information from a job website, posting fake job opportunities, sending an email encouraging victims to apply for a fake job, or even extending a fraudulent job offer.

With remote jobs becoming more and more common and a growing number of people looking for part-time or contract work, it may be even easier for fraudsters to hide behind electronic communications and fake employment opportunities.

Legitimate Job Opportunity or Job Scam?

Here’s one example of what a job scam could look like:

A scammer posts a fraudulent job listing online, or sends an email posing as a recruiter encouraging the victim to apply for a position. The job opening may even use the name of a real business or government agency.

The scammer, posing as the employer or recruiter, may ask for information from the victim, such as date of birth, address, or Social Security number, which could be used to open fraudulent bank accounts, take out loans, or obtain credit cards in the victim’s name.

The victim may sometimes even receive a fraudulent job offer without having an interview. After the victim believes they have been hired, the so-called employer may attempt to charge the victim for training or supplies, or they may ask for personal or financial information with the excuse that they need to run a credit check or set up a direct deposit.

The scam artist may offer to send money upfront to their victims through a signing bonus, initial paycheck, or funds to buy equipment. The victim is encouraged to cash a counterfeit check and then send a portion of the money to the bank account of a third-party vendor, which may actually be controlled by the scammer. By the time the counterfeit check is discovered, the victim may have already transferred their own money and may also be on the hook for cashing a fake check.

Better Protect Yourself and Your Identity During a Job Search

Job scams have been reported across all levels of incomes and skill sets. Even savvy job hunters may be vulnerable to employment scams, including on legitimate job search websites. Take a few precautions to help ensure that you are better protected during your job search.

  • Verify Employers and Recruiters – When searching for a job online, be very careful about vetting the job source. Even if a job posting seems authentic, you may want to do your own research on the company, the hiring manager, and the position. Remember that fraudulent employers and jobs may even appear on legitimate job websites. You can also search the company’s name in the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker.
  • Protect Your Personal and Financial Information – Be cautious when asked to submit sensitive information during the application process. Many fake job postings use the name of a real company, so think carefully before you share your Social Security number, driver’s license number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or references—or consent to a background check, credit check or direct deposit—until you’ve interviewed and received a written offer.
  • Keep Your Job Search Separate – As much as possible, keep your job search separate from the rest of your personal and professional life. For example, when signing up for a job site, you may want to create a different username and password from those you use on other accounts like your email or online banking. Consider creating an email address that you use only for your job search. Some job seekers even get a post office box and use that number on their resumes instead of a home address.
  • Enable Privacy Settings on Job Search Websites – Some job search websites allow you to limit the information you share with employers. Just keep in mind that enabling some privacy settings may also impact whether interested employers can easily find your resume.
  • Be Wary of Work-from-home or Secret Shopper Jobs – Consider taking extra precautions with work-from-home or secret shopper positions, or any job posting with a generic title such as administrative assistant or customer service rep. Scammers know that positions that don’t require special training or licensing may appeal to a wide range of applicants, which potentially gives them a wider audience of possible victims for their scam.
  • Watch Out For a Fast Hiring Process – You may be a qualified candidate for the job, but be cautious regarding any offer made without first having an interview. An actual company hiring for a real position will most likely want to speak with a candidate before hiring.
  • Beware of Public WiFi – You may want to avoid using open networks at coffee shops or other public places to fill out job applications, and think twice before applying for a job through non-secure websites. Websites that don’t use proper encryption can make you an easy target for thieves.
  • Don’t Send Money—or Accept Money – You may want to avoid sending or accepting money unless you are positive that the opportunity is legitimate. Accepting a check that you must cash before buying an item or returning some of the money is a common scam tactic.
  • Remember that Government Job Posts Are Free and Public – The U.S. federal government and the U.S. Postal Service do not charge for information about jobs or applications for jobs. Be wary of any offer that gives you special access or guarantees you a job in exchange for a fee. If you are asked to pay for the promise of a job, it’s likely a scam.
  • Get the Details in Writing – If you choose to engage with a recruiter, you may want to get a written contract for their services including the total cost, services provided by the recruiter, whether you or the employer are responsible for payment, and what happens if you do not find a job.
  • Check Your Credit – During your job search, consider monitoring your credit report at all three of the major credit reporting agencies to look for activity, like new accounts being opened in your name, which if unexpected could be a sign a potential identity theft.

If You Think You’ve Been the Victim of a Job Scam

If you believe you have been victimized by an online scam, report the suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.

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