In today’s digital age, the job market has expanded to incorporate many virtual options, offering many opportunities for job seekers. However, with the rise of online job postings and remote work, the risk of falling victim to a fraudulent job offer has likewise increased. There are ways to empower your job seeking skills, however. With this knowledge to distinguish legitimate job opportunities from ways to avoid a job scam, you can be ready for whatever comes next.
The First Line of Defense
The first line of defense to avoid a job scam will be noticing which job boards vet their posts. While this is not a foolproof method, it will greatly reduce the risk involved. Popular platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and company websites are generally trustworthy sources. If possible, avoid obscure websites with unverified job postings, as they may be fronts for fraudulent activities.
That being said, no person or company is perfect, so posts designed to scam you can still be seen by the public.
“After spending over an hour documenting my work experience, I realized after submission that the posting was fraudulent,” says Kristen Hall, a Detroit-based worker. “Worse was calling the listed company to learn that this had happened to others and the company didn’t know how they got involved.”
Before applying for a job, it is recommended to research the company you’ll be working for. Ensure there is an active company website, or check reviews on websites like Glassdoor and information about the company’s history and operations. Scammers often create fake companies or impersonate established ones, so be aware of that as you search. The next best way to vet potential job scams is through comparing the job description and requirements with industry standards and your own qualifications. If a job posting promises excessive pay for minimal effort or qualifications, it’s a red flag. Be wary of vague job descriptions that lack specific responsibilities, as these could be attempts to lure unsuspecting candidates.
As a side note, if the description is full of grammatical or spelling errors, this could also be a red flag. In short, you will need to use your best judgement when applying for a job, but these tips can hopefully get you on the right track.
If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
One of the most significant warning signs of job scams is the promise of quick wealth, exorbitant salaries, or rapid career advancement. While there are a few roles where this may be true (some sales roles, for example), many scammers will use this type of unrealistic offer to entice unsuspecting job seekers. When searching for a job, just like most everything else in life, remember the age-old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Be cautious when considering job opportunities that require you to recruit others and invest your own money upfront. MLM schemes often masquerade as legitimate job offers, but they primarily profit those at the top of the pyramid. You may end up losing money, especially in the long term. If you are desperate to make your next set of bills, the last thing you need is an “investment opportunity,” so don’t let these types of organizations prey on your misfortune.
You Need to have Face-to-Face Interaction
This is one of the most common ways job scams occur. If you’ve vetted the post and applied but now are having second thoughts, insist on an interview with the hiring team. Legitimate employers will conduct interviews, full stop. The interviews may be in-person or through video conferencing. It is not uncommon to have a phone interview, but that should be followed with some sort of face-to-face interview. If a company insists on conducting business solely through email or chat, be suspicious. If you proceed with this type of interaction, there’s no telling what you could be in store for in the long term. You may not be paid for your work or you could potentially be asked to conduct illegal business. Scammers often avoid face-to-face interactions to conceal their true identities and motivations.
On that same note, another important aspect of a job search is verifying the company’s physical address. A reputable company will have a legitimate office address that you can confirm through online searches, contacting local authorities, or searching through tools like Google Maps. Many small businesses, especially remote based ones, may not have a building they call home, but will often have P.O. boxes or share co-working spaces. If the address seems dubious or nonexistent, don’t completely write them off, but do exercise caution.
The Danger of Job Scams
A critical aspect of avoiding job scams is safeguarding your personal information. Legitimate employers will not ask for sensitive information like your Social Security number, bank account details, or credit card information during the initial stages of the hiring process. Those questions will come from human resources professionals during the onboarding process and held in confidence. If the hiring team is asking you these questions, be wary.
While employers may inquire about your qualifications, experience, and work history, be cautious if they delve into personal matters unrelated to the job. Likewise, there are a ton of legal protections in place to avoid hiring discrimination. It is illegal for interviewers to ask if you are married, have or are having children, how old you are, and a variety of other questions. Scammers may use personal information to steal your identity or engage in other malicious activities.
There are certainly more methods to sniff out dubious job offers. However, sometimes, your gut feeling can be your most reliable tool. If something about the offer or the employer feels off, trust your instincts. While research and skepticism are essential, intuition can also be a valuable guide. Even then, that is not infallible, but that is why it is best to always have a back up plan. If there are doubts about an offer, consult with trusted friends, family, or career advisors. They can often provide fresh perspectives and may spot red flags you did not.
In a world where online job postings abound, it’s vital for job hunters to remain vigilant and discerning, especially to avoid a job scam. By conducting thorough research, applying critical thinking, and trusting your instincts, you can reduce the risk of falling prey to fraudulent job offers. Remember that if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and always prioritize face-to-face interactions and personal information security. Protect your career and financial future by staying informed and cautious.