If you’re in the market for a new job, or you’re looking for extra part-time work, be careful. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a surge in employment scams of every kind. Victims might have their accounts emptied, their identities stolen, or they may even find themselves facing jail time for money laundering charges.
Protect yourself from employment scams by holding up any job you’re considering against this list of red flags:
- The job pays very well for easy work – If a job description offers a high hourly rate for non-skilled work with no education or experience necessary, it may be a scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay for work that anyone can do. Carefully read the wording of the job pitch. If the job sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- The job description is poorly written – Scrutinize every word of the job description. If it’s riddled with typos and spelling mistakes, you’re probably looking at a scam.
- They need to hire you NOW! – If a “business” claims the position needs to be immediately filled and they’re ready for you to start working today, it may be a scam. Most legitimate businesses will need time to process your application, properly interview you and determine if you are indeed a good fit.
- The business has no traceable street address or real online presence – If you’ve spotted a position on an online job board, your first step should be researching the company. Google the company name to see what the internet has to say about them. If you suspect a scam, search the company name with words like “scam” and “fraud” in the search string. Look for a brick-and-mortar address, a phone number and a real online presence. If all you find are help-wanted ads and a P.O. Box, move on to better job leads.
- You need to share sensitive information just to apply – Does the “job application” you’re looking at seek sensitive details, like your Social Security number and/or a checking account number? Such information should not be necessary just to submit an application. You might even be innocently asked to share details you think are minor, like your date of birth, name of your hometown, first pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. Of course, these are all keys to open up access to your passwords and/or PINs.
- You need to pay a steep fee to apply – Some legitimate companies charge a nominal application fee from applicants. However, if the fee is absurdly high, or the company asks you to cash a check for them and then refund it, you’re probably being scammed.
- There’s no business email – Some job scammers will impersonate well-known companies to look authentic. For example, you might think you’re applying to an off-site job at Microsoft. You’ll be told to email your resume to [email protected]. Your red flag here is the email address—the domain is generic. If the “recruiter” genuinely represented Microsoft, the email address would be something like [email protected].
- The “recruiter” found your resume on a job board you never use – If the “recruiter” claims they’ve picked up your resume on a job board you don’t remember visiting, it’s not your memory failing you. Job-scammers often scrape victims’ personal details off the internet and then pretend to have received your resume. They know you’re looking for a job, and they’ll know enough about you to convince you they’ve got your resume, but it’s all a scam. If someone contacts you about a position you’ve never applied for, or claims to have found your resume on a job board you’ve never visited, run the other way!
As always, practice caution when online. Keep your browser updated and strengthen the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When engaged in a public forum, don’t share information that can make you vulnerable, like your exact birthday or employment history. Never wire money to people you don’t know well or agree to cash a stranger’s check in exchange for a commission. Above all, keep your guard up when online and use common sense—when in doubt, opt out!