With the rise of online job boards and recruitment websites, fake job postings have become an unfortunate reality in the modern job market. Job seekers looking for new opportunities can unknowingly apply for positions that don’t actually exist, wasting time and effort in their job search. This raises an important question – are fake job postings legal? Let’s take a closer look at this issue.
What are fake job postings?
Fake job postings refer to job advertisements for positions or openings that don’t actually exist. They are posted online, often on large job search platforms or niche industry sites, in order to generate applicant information, resumes, and traffic. Here are some common types of fake job postings:
- Bait-and-switch jobs – The posting advertises an appealing role to attract applicants, but is actually for a less desirable position.
- Information harvesting – The goal is to collect applicant personal details and resumes for malicious purposes.
- Third-party recruiting – The job is used to source and evaluate potential candidates on behalf of another company.
- Company brand building – To give the impression of growth and job opportunities at an organization.
- Market research – Used to gauge interest and talent availability in a certain field or location.
Fake postings often seem too good to be true, promise very high salaries, or contain vague descriptions. Applicants may go through an initial screening process before being told the original job doesn’t exist or has changed.
Are fake job postings illegal?
Whether fake job postings are illegal or not depends on the specific circumstances and motivations behind the posting. Here are some factors that determine the legality of fake job ads:
- Fraudulent intent – It is illegal to knowingly post fake job ads in order to obtain personal information for identity theft or other types of fraud. This violates laws against fraud and unauthorized use of personal data.
- Discriminatory hiring practices – Job posts cannot be fakes designed to filter out applicants based on protected characteristics like race, gender, religion etc. Doing so violates anti-discrimination laws.
- Company reputation – Posting fake ads that damage a company’s reputation unfairly or spread misinformation may be unlawful.
- Third-party recruiting – In certain regions, third parties must have explicit consent to recruit on behalf of another company. Fake postings without consent are not allowed.
- Advertising standards – Fake ads on websites or platforms that prohibit misleading or deceptive job postings violate the terms of service.
However, some types of fake postings do fall into legal gray areas. For example, company branding campaigns with exaggerated openings, market research, and bait-and-switch tactics may not clearly cross legal boundaries. Much depends on the resulting harm or damage from fake postings.
Are there any regulations around fake job ads?
Currently, there are no federal laws in the United States directly addressing fake job listings, unless they intersect with fraud, discrimination, slander/defamation etc. However, a few states have regulations against knowingly misleading job postings:
- California – Under California’s Talent Agencies Act, it is illegal to knowingly advertise a job listing without written authority to hire for that position. Damages of $10,000 per violation may apply.
- Florida -Florida law prohibits advertising any job without the intent to actually hire for that role. Violators can face fines of up to $10,000.
- Illinois – A 2021 Illinois law makes it illegal to post fake job openings knowingly. Violations are punishable under false advertising laws.
- Maryland – Under a new 2022 law, job posts in Maryland must include required qualifications, responsibilities and bona fide job titles. Non-compliant listings can face penalties.
Apart from these state laws, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can prosecute fake job scams under their authority over unfair and deceptive business practices.
Are large job sites like Indeed.com or Monster liable?
Major job search platforms and aggregators like Indeed, Monster or ZipRecruiter are generally not legally liable for fake or misleading job posts as long as they:
- Have clear policies prohibiting fake, misleading or illegal job ads
- Make reasonable efforts to screen, vet and monitor employers and listings
- Promptly remove reported fake or suspicious postings
- Cooperate with law enforcement investigations against job scams
These sites are normally protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability for third-party content. However, if a job site knowingly allows or assists in fake job ads, they may be subject to accomplice liability. Class action lawsuits have also alleged that some job sites don’t do enough to stop fake listings.
How can you spot a fake job posting?
Here are some red flags that can help identify fake or dubious job postings:
- Very general, vague descriptions of the role and qualifications
- Too-good-to-be-true salary or benefit claims
- Spelling and grammar errors
- Requests personal details upfront before an interview
- Uses generic titles like “Customer Service Representative” or “Admin Assistant”
- Asks for payment, recruiting fees or special software
- Uses a personal email instead of company email address
- Only reachable through messaging apps, not by phone/email
- Company name is unknown or can’t be validated online
Conducting thorough research on the company posting the ad, and asking for details like a full job description, responsibilities and hiring manager contacts can also help identify fakes.
How can job seekers protect themselves?
Here are some tips for job seekers to avoid fake job scams:
- Verify company details like website and address independently.
- Look up hiring managers on LinkedIn.
- Search online to see if others reported the job as fake.
- Never pay any fees for training, software or certification.
- Be wary of remote interview requests, especially through messaging apps.
- Ask for detailed job responsibilities and qualifications.
- Don’t submit personal info like SSN until after in-person interviews.
- Use trusted job sites and be cautious on niche boards.
- Flag suspicious posts. Report to job site and organizations like the FTC.
What recourse do job seekers have against fake listings?
If you are the victim of a fake job scam, here are some actions you can take:
- Report the job listing to the site or platform it was posted on.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- If you suffered financial loss, report it to your local police department.
- Consult with a lawyer if you have been defrauded or identity theft occurred.
- Leave online reviews to warn others about fake listings from a specific company.
- Report suspicious interview requests, especially through apps, to app stores.
Job platforms may voluntarily refund any fees you paid to apply for fake roles posted there. Class action lawsuits seeking damages from sites allowing systematic fake job ads are also an option.
Are there any penalties for posting fake job listings?
Here are some potential legal consequences and liabilities for posting fake or fraudulent job listings:
- Fines and penalties under state labor laws like those in California, Florida, Illinois etc.
- FTC fines and injunctions under Section 5 authority over unfair and deceptive practices.
- Class action lawsuits around fraud or Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) violations.
- Investigations by state labor departments or attorneys general.
- Lawsuits by applicants or employee advocacy groups under state laws.
- Government contractor status or other licenses revoked.
- Removal from job sites or online platform banning.
- Civil penalties under employment discrimination laws.
At the federal level, fines and penalties imposed by the FTC for fake job scams can reach millions of dollars in egregious or repeat offense cases. State regulators and law enforcement can also impose fines and other sanctions. Lawsuits by applicants or regulators may result in damages as well.
Are there any efforts to stop fake job postings?
Fake job postings seem ubiquitous, but there are some efforts underway to combat them:
- State laws, like those passed in Illinois and Maryland, to prohibit deceptive listings.
- Job sites utilizing automated filters to detect fraudulent postings.
- Increased screening of employers by sites like Monster and Indeed.
- FTC crackdown through lawsuits against major players like Staffing Group USA.
- Reporting channels through advocacy groups like the National Employment Law Project.
- Partnerships between job sites and groups like the Better Business Bureau.
However, enforcement remains challenging given the scale and speed of the online job market. Critics argue stronger laws and oversight of job sites and employers are needed.
Fake job postings remain a frustrating reality for most job seekers. While not all deceptive listings are outright illegal, some certainly cross legal and ethical lines. Job seekers should be vigilant in identifying scam openings, and report fake ads whenever possible. With growing awareness and some initial regulations, the hope is fake job postings will decline in coming years – though the problem is unlikely to disappear completely.