Looking for a new job can be an exciting time. But it can also make you vulnerable to fake job scams trying to steal your money and personal information. Many of these employment scams masquerade as real job opportunities, making it tough to tell them apart from legitimate openings.
Fortunately, once you know the common signs of a scam, you can quickly detect and avoid fake job offers. In this article, we’ll explore the top 7 red flags to watch out for so you don't get duped by employment scams. Let’s dive in!
Research the Company Posting the Job Ad
The first step in spotting a dubious job offer is doing a quick background check on the company advertising the position. Take the name of the business or hiring manager and run a few Google searches on it.
Specifically, look up the company name along with terms like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” Oftentimes, you’ll find forum posts and articles exposing shady businesses known for posting fake job ads to bilk money from applicants.
For example, searching “ABC Company scam” may reveal that ABC Company is a fake front created by a notorious employment scam ring. Or you might find complaints on sites like Ripoff Report detailing how ABC Company charges huge fees for “training” but never actually hires anyone.
You can also verify the company’s legitimacy by checking for a professional website, LinkedIn page, or physical office location. Lots of scammers use fake or stolen company names, so a lack of online presence should raise suspicions.
The bottom line? Spend 5-10 minutes researching any unfamiliar companies before applying or providing your personal details. Doing so can quickly expose any glaring red flags.
Be Wary of Vague, Generic Job Descriptions
Many employment scams make the mistake of using vague, nonspecific job descriptions in their fake ads. Why? Because the scammers usually don’t actually have a real position or understand the type of work involved.
So be cautious of job posts that seem overly generic, ambiguous, or light on details. For example, ads stating you’ll be a “virtual assistant” or “account manager” but with no specifics on duties or qualifications.
Legitimate employers will clearly explain the role, required skills, day-to-day responsibilities, seniority level, and other details. The job description will seem tailored to the open position, not just a general overview.
Scam job posts also tend to be very short - sometimes just a few sentences. This contrasts with real employers who want to attract suitable candidates, so will craft detailed, compelling descriptions.
In short, fuzzy, generic job ads should make you pause and consider whether the “opportunity” is a scam. Ask for more specifics from the company before providing personal information.
Never Pay Just for the Promise of a Job
A huge red flag is any employer asking you to pay first before supposedly hiring or contracting you. This could be an upfront fee for training, certifications, materials, or equipment. Or it could be a “registration fee” just to acquire the job.
Either way, legitimate companies will never require you to pay just for the promise of work. Any request for payment is a sure sign of a scam.
For example, a scammer may pretend to hire you as a “personal assistant” but then claim you need to pay 500 for an “official company assistant kit” first. Or they may pose as an employer offering you a remote job, as long as you pay 250 first for “training.”
Don’t give into these demands, no matter how convincing the scammers may sound. Real employers pay you, not the other way around. Refusing to submit payment can quickly expose the “opportunity” as fake.
Guard Your Personal and Banking Information
Another warning sign is any employer asking for sensitive personal or banking details upfront before verifying who they are.
For example, a scammer may pretend to hire you then ask for your SSN or bank account number to “set up direct deposit.” Or they may claim they need to run a background check and demand your SSN first.
Never hand over private data like your SSN, bank account number, scans of your ID, or other info without vetting the company first. That includes running background checks on them, calling their office, or meeting in-person.
Dubious recruiters may also ask for access to your bank account, credit card, or online payment accounts. This is done under the guise of setting up “direct deposit” or providing you an “advance.”
But in reality, they can drain your accounts or rack up charges in your name. Always verify an employer’s legitimacy before sharing any banking or personal details.
Avoid Unusual Payment Methods Like Cashier's Checks
Scammers love using fake checks and money orders to con victims. So be very wary if a potential “employer” wants to pay you via cashier’s check, money order, prepaid card, or other unusual method.
For example, they may send you a cashier’s check for 4,000 but ask you to deposit it then wire back 3,000. Or they pretend to accidentally send you a check for 2,000 when your pay is only 500, asking you to deposit the check but send them back the difference.
The checks or money orders are counterfeit. But victims don’t realize this until days later when the bank reverses the deposit, leaving them on the hook for thousands.
You should also never accept payment via gift cards, like iTunes or Amazon cards. Scammers often buy these with stolen credit cards, then send victims the claim codes to redeem.
Stick to direct deposit or services like PayPal when dealing with employers you haven’t fully verified. And remember - legitimate companies won't pressure you to return "overpayments" or handle payments in strange ways.
Try to Meet or Speak with the Hiring Manager
While many roles are now remote, see if you can arrange an in-person meeting or at least a phone/video call with the hiring manager. This adds an extra layer of protection versus just interacting by email.
Scammers typically try to avoid phone or video interactions at all costs. They know you’re more likely to detect them as fraudulent if you can have a real conversation.
If the “employer” keeps making excuses why they can't talk or meet up, be very suspicious. Legitimate recruiters will be happy to speak by phone or meet up to sell you on the role.
A quick call or coffee chat gives you a chance to ask questions and observe if anything seems “off.” You can also run a reverse image search using the supposed hiring manager’s profile photo to check if it’s fake.
Meeting in person takes more effort but adds even greater protection against scams. You can verify whether the office really exists and do background checks on any employees you meet.
Watch Out for "Too Good to Be True" Job Offers
Use common sense when assessing any job opportunities you come across. If an offer seems too good to be true or highly suspicious, it probably is.
For example, positions that promise very high salaries for easy remote work that requires no experience should raise eyebrows. Or vague offers to be an “assistant” or “manager” with incredible flexibility and pay.
Scammers often embellish or exaggerate real-sounding job titles, overpromising on compensation, benefits, duties, qualifications, and more. They’re betting job seekers won’t think critically.
But legitimate employers won’t hire someone without verifying work history, getting references, or at least conducting a robust interview. And professional roles require real qualifications that will be checked.
So be wary of any employer who seems eager to hire you without wanting to see a resume, have an interview, or do reference checks. If it seems too easy, it’s likely a scam.
Trust Your Instincts!
This leads to the final tip - listen to your gut! If any job offer just feels “off” or suspicious, don't ignore those instincts. It’s better to miss out on a real opportunity than get scammed.
Your intuition picks up on red flags that your conscious mind may miss or dismiss. So go with your hunches. Don’t talk yourself into ignoring warning signs or odd requests because you really want the job.
Any legitimate employer will understand if you want to take time to verify them before providing personal information or money. The right opportunity won't pressure or rush you.
What To Do If You Spot a Scam
If you determine a job offer is a scam, cease all communication with the “employer.” Do not provide any additional personal or banking details. Report the scam to sites like Craigslist or LinkedIn to get the fake ad removed.
You can also file complaints with the FTC, FBI, and state attorney general to help warn others. Unfortunately, you likely won’t recover any money already paid to the scammers.
Use the experience to learn the common red flags so you can more easily spot fake offers next time. Don’t get discouraged either - for every scam, there are plenty of legitimate job opportunities too!
Recap: Top 7 Ways to Detect Fake Job Scams
To recap, here are the top 7 sneaky red flags to watch out for when evaluating job offers:
Vague, nonspecific job descriptions
Requests for you to pay first for training, fees, etc.
Demands for personal/banking info before vetting employer
Unusual payment methods like cashier’s checks or gift cards
Avoiding phone/video interactions or in-person meetings
Too-good-to-be-true offers that require little verification
General suspicious behavior or communications
Stay vigilant and trust your instincts. By spotting these common scam warning signs, you can avoid fake job offers and protect your hard-earned money.
With awareness and caution, you can filter out the scams and find amazing legitimate opportunities that help advance your career. Don’t let a few bad apples prevent you from putting yourself out there during your job search.
Now you know what to watch for, you can job hunt confidently and avoid falling victim to even the sneakiest employment scams. Here’s to landing a real job that helps you achieve your professional dreams!