The quick onboarding process sketched out Miner after the supposed recruiter told her that the company planned to send her a $3,500 certified check to spend with a specific vendor for her work supplies — a process that sounded strange. Instead of immediately ordering her supplies when the check arrived, as she was instructed, Miner waited to see if the check would clear with her bank before spending any of her own money. It didn’t, validating Miner’s fear: She was dealing with a scammer.
Luckily for Miner, who lives in Dallas, Ga., she hadn’t been able to reach her boss to resign — otherwise she could have ended up unemployed.
“How can I really be that dumb?” she remembers asking herself. “I was harder on myself than anything.”
Miner, who applied to openings on job sites such LinkedIn and Indeed and published posts about her job hunt, has company. Experts say scammers are targeting job seekers, a group that is growing as companies across industries continue laying people off, and they are especially going after those pursuing remote positions. Scammers are posting fake job openings on websites and are posing as recruiters in an attempt to steal everything from passwords to money and identities.
“Job scammers are trying to prey on people’s desire to be flexible,” said Sinem Buber, lead economist at job search engine ZipRecruiter. “It’s a peak time because of that.”
Job sites such as ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn and Indeed say they try to weed out fake job listings and employers, though scammers are getting more sophisticated. These websites also offer tools to flag suspicious content in case a scam gets past their screening. Still, many job seekers are airing their horror stories across social media.
But experts say that if you’re looking for a job, even a remote one, don’t fret. There are steps you can take to skip the scams and get the real gig.
“The majority will be legitimate,” said Stacey Perkins, career and leadership coach at recruiting firm Korn Ferry. “You just have to be careful.”
Miner reported the scammer to the FBI, but she hasn’t received a response from the scammer or the FBI since. CVS Health advises job seekers to check the company’s career website to ensure a posting is real. The company also said it will never ask job candidates to join a Google Hangout, purchase their own equipment or pay to apply. And it will never send emails from a third-party email service such as Yahoo or Gmail.
Here are 12 ways you can avoid falling for a job scam, according to job experts.
Avoid opportunities that promote easy money. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is, Perkins and Buber agreed. Job scams often play up little work for big paychecks. And they frequently promote that they are not a scam. “If they have to say that [they are legitimate], it’s a flag,” Perkins said.
Get the details of the job. Legitimate jobs will explain the specific job duties, often in the listing. Be wary of jobs that require you to receive something, repackage it and send it somewhere new, especially if you don’t know the details. During the holidays, scammers may promote gift-wrapping jobs, Buber said. But you could be trafficking illegal materials.
Watch for spelling and grammar. If a post or outreach is riddled with spelling and grammar errors, experts agree that it’s probably a scam. A typo may just be a typo, but if a message is hard to read or full of obvious errors, move on. Also watch for one-letter differences in a company’s name, email or web address, Perkins said.
Research the company. Most companies have a web presence, Buber said. Check the company’s website, and see if it has a LinkedIn account, social media profile or comments on the employee review site Glassdoor, experts advise. Can you connect with others who work there? Can you find an address to its headquarters? Does it actually exist?
Check the trusted sources. The Federal Trade Commission can provide details on cases against companies. And the Better Business Bureau accredits companies it deems trustworthy. Buber said a quick search could save you a headache later.
Look at the sender’s email address and profile. A recruiter or hiring manager should always be communicating with you via their company’s email account, never their personal Gmail or text message, for example. So make sure when responding or writing emails, the address matches the company’s web domain, Perkins said. If they’re reaching out to you on social media, do they have connections or posts? Are they interacting with others? Over how much time?
Pay attention to the process. Companies should be able to spell out their hiring process, Perkins said. If a company is eager to hire quickly and responses come within minutes, those could be red flags, Indeed warned. LinkedIn says employers rarely hire after one remote interview, and Indeed said that is especially true if the interview is over a text-based messaging service. Most employers will connect you to multiple people before you get the job.
Don’t pay for anything. If the employer asks you to pay for materials, training or testing, even if it offers reimbursement, the job is probably a scam, Perkins said. Buber said scammers often send victims a fake check and ask them to pay for something or claim that they need to send some back because an error. Scammers are able to then steal money by cashing in victims’ valid check or payment before the fake check bounces. Scammers could also use you as a money mule, asking you to deposit a valid check and send the same amount somewhere else, Buber said.
Protect your personal information. While applying, don’t give your social security number, pictures of an ID or passport, or any financial details, such as your bank account or credit card number, experts say. “They need your contact information, and that’s it,” Perkins said.
Get all questions answered. Go to every interview with questions, and make sure they get answered. Real employers will view that as interest, and fake ones will panic or avoid answering, Buber said.
Watch for pyramid schemes. Don’t fall for job opportunities in which you get paid only if you lure more people into the operation, Perkins said. Some multilevel marketing companies are legitimate, but many are pyramid schemes.
Trust your instincts. If something feels amiss, it probably is, experts say. So keep moving. “There are 1.7 jobs available for every unemployed person right now,” Buber said. “You will find something.”