Hunting for a new job? Beware of job-posting scams. Here’s how to identify fake job postings and what to do if you fall victim to one.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pummeled the U.S. economy, driving up unemployment rates across the country. Plenty of people, then, are searching for a new job today. And all those job seekers? They’re targets for scam artists.
If you’re hunting for a new position, be aware of job-posting cons. In these scams, criminals post fake job listings, usually online, with no intention of offering applicants a real position. Instead, they’re out to scam them.
Often, the criminals behind these fake listings want to steal your personal information so they can access your online credit card or bank accounts. Or they might use this information to apply for loans or open new credit card accounts in your name. Other scammers post fake help-wanted ads to trick you into sending them money directly.
Fortunately, there are several clues you can look for when studying a job listing. Run into any of the red flags below? Proceed with caution. You might be answering a help-wanted ad created by a criminal.
How do job-posting scams work?
Scammers usually post fake job ads for one reason: They want to trick you into surrendering your personal or financial information.
These con artists might post a help-wanted ad online. When you respond — most often using an email address provided in the job listing — the scammer on the other end requests information such as your birth date or Social Security number.
When you provide this information? The criminal could use it to break into your online credit card accounts and run up thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases. Or maybe the scammer relies on your Social Security number to sneak into your online bank account, stealing the dollars inside.
Some criminals might even use your personal information to open up credit card accounts or loans in your name.
Other scammers might say they need your bank account information to set up a direct deposit account for your future payments. Once you give them this information, they clean out this account.
Then there are the con artists who want you to send them money directly. They might say that you need to pay a fee to apply for the job or that you need to take a test that costs a certain amount of dollars. When you send the money? These scammers disappear, along with your dollars.
How to protect yourself from job scams
The key here? Never provide any employer personal information such as your Social Security, birthdate, or bank account information unless you are actually given a job.
And never send these “employers” your money, either. You should never have to pay a company to get hired.
Another mistake to avoid? Don’t respond to a help-wanted ad before researching the employer behind it. You can do this through Google. If you Google the name of a company and you don’t find a website for the firm? Be careful. You might be dealing with an imaginary company conjured by a con artist.
And if the company doesn’t reveal its name in a job posting? Be careful. It might be a legitimate ad, but it might also be a scam. If you respond to a help-wanted ad from a company that is staying anonymous? Never provide personal information before you are actually offered a job and given the name of the company.
How to identify signs of a scam
Avoiding a job-posting scam isn’t complicated. It’s about identifying the most common signs of a bogus job offering.
Sign 1: Getting too personal, too early: You respond to a job posting and the person behind the ad immediately asks you for your Social Security number or birth date. Or maybe the person asks for your bank account information, so that he or she can set up direct deposit. Never provide this information. Legitimate companies won’t ask for personal information, especially such valuable information, before offering you a job or interviewing you in person. Scammers, though, will. And they’ll use this information to steal your identity and break into your online bank and credit card accounts.
Sign 2: Asking you to pay: Another common red flag? If a job poster asks you to send money to pay for training materials, that’s a scam. If a poster asks for money to evaluate your resume or requests that you pay to complete an application? Those are also sure signs of a scam. Legitimate companies never make prospective employees pay to apply for a job.
Sign 3: They hire you immediately: It’s always flattering to receive a job offer. But if that offer comes too soon? Be careful. Legitimate companies will want to interview you in person, or at least over the phone, before making you a job offer. If a company gives you an offer after a brief email conversation? That’s a serious red flag that they’re only making you a “job offer” to eventually steal your personal information.
Sign 4: They contacted you: Be suspicious if an email suddenly appears in your inbox with a job opportunity. Most legitimate companies will post job offerings and then sift through the applicants who respond. They don’t have to reach out to strangers on the internet. If you receive a job offer from someone you don’t know at a company you’ve never heard of? You can bet it’s a scam.
Sign 5: The job offer is too good to be true: What if a company offers you a position with a salary that seems far too high for the job? Again, be careful. Scammers will sometimes promise their victims a large salary to trick them into giving up personal information or sending money for “testing” materials. If a job offer seems too good to be true? It probably is.
Sign 6: The contact information is a free email address: Be careful, too, if the contact information in an online job posting comes in the form of a Gmail or Yahoo address. Legitimate companies don’t use free email services when posting job listings. Instead, they’ll use email addresses that typically have their company names in them.
What to do if you fall victim to a job-posting scam?
But what happens if you do fall victim to a job-listing scam? You’ll need to act quickly to protect your financial accounts.
First, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, better known as IC3. This entity is a partnership between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. If you've been victimized by an online job-posting scam, you can file a complaint at the IC3 online.
To file a report, log onto the site and provide your name, mailing address and telephone number. Then provide as much information as you have about the scam artist posting the fake job listing. You might not have much information available, but the more details you can provide, the better.
You should also report the scam listing to whatever site it was posted on. If you found the listing on Monster.com, report it to that company. If you found it on Indeed.com, report it there.
Next, monitor your online bank and credit card accounts carefully. Look for suspicious transactions or withdrawals. If you sent your personal information to con artists, they might use it to break into these accounts. If you find suspicious activity, contact your bank and credit card companies immediately. They can freeze your accounts or provide you with new credit cards.
Also order your three free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports list any open credit card accounts and loans in your name. Check for loans or accounts that you don't remember taking out. These could be fraudulent loans or accounts that scammers have taken out in your name. If you find fraudulent cards or accounts, notify the companies behind them immediately so that they can cancel them.
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Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.
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