3 Ways to Avoid Job Search Scams

Sometimes the promise of easy money can make us do crazy things.

Liz is a (hypothetical) long-term job seeker. One day, she comes across an email from a man claiming to be a recruiter for one of the biggest companies in her industry. He explains he saw her LinkedIn profile and thinks her qualifications would make her a shoo-in for their latest opening.

The man provides a link to a convincing landing page with an application, and tells her to fill it out quickly since the deadline is fast approaching. Liz, overjoyed about the opportunity she just received, fills it out with haste.

The application seems pretty standard, and Liz didn’t even hesitate to fill out the section that required her social security number, thinking it was just standard protocol. She submits the application but never hears back from the recruiter. A few days later, she finds out her bank account has been wiped out thanks to the plethora of information she provided the scammer in her faux application.

While this job search scam was made up, scenarios exactly like this happen incredibly often. Many scammers set up elaborate ploys designed to take advantage of job seekers’ vulnerable state, and some even use psychological tactics to reel you in.

To help you become a more savvy job seeker, here are four tips to help you be aware of/avoid job search scams:

1. Watch where you’re searching

Did you know many of the big online job boards don’t screen job listings before they publish? This means they rely on other people to flag the posts they think are scams before they take anything down.

In the above example, Liz filled out an application she received over email. Obviously, this poses a problem. Many job seekers believe, if a job is posted on a well-known job board or comes from a seemingly-legitimate company, it’s automatically credible. This just isn’t the case — and it might take someone falling for the scam before it’s taken off the site or reported.

If you think a listing is a clear scam or too good to be true, do a little research on the company in order to confirm its legitimacy. If their website is amateur-looking and includes vague information as to how they operate, it probably doesn’t have the best reputation. If you Google their name, you may even find other peoples’ stories of how they got conned by the same company. Doing this critical step can save you an enormous amount of time, money, and mental problems in the future.

2. ABS (Always Be Skeptical)

If a job posting or email opportunity looks too good to be true, it probably is! “Opportunities” that extend what seems to be large sums of money for little work — such as data entry, forms processing, envelope stuffing, pyramid sales, etc.. — are likely scams that seek to gather personal information or money from you.

In the example above, Liz was so hell-bent on finding a job that, when a chance presented itself, she didn’t even stop to consider if it was a scam or not. Many scammers aren’t dumb and know how to make you believe they represent well-known, credible companies.

Chances are, your dream company won’t be contacting you first — they don’t need to! So any email or LinkedIn message you get from someone claiming to be a part of them needs to be reported or carefully researched.

3. Trust your instincts

Scammers go after job seekers because they feel they can manipulate them the easiest. Don’t be one of those victims! Even if you’re itching to get hired, it’s important to always be on your guard so you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to job search scams.

If you get an offer that includes obvious signs of a scam — misspelled words, bad punctuation, unnecessary capitalization, $$$ and !!!!, etc. — listen to your gut feeling and delete/ignore it, no matter how convincing they make it sound.

If you come at a scam with a knowledgeable and skeptical attitude, you’re letting the scammer know you’re not going to let them toy with your emotions. Research companies, call them if they have a number, and trust your instincts so you can determine if the company is legitimate or not. And if you do find yourself caught up in a scam, report it immediately so others don’t fall victim.