With the rise of remote work and online job searching, fake job postings and messages have also increased. Scammers often create convincing fake job ads and messages to try to steal personal information or money from job seekers. Being able to recognize the signs of a fake job message can help you avoid falling victim to employment scams.
What are some common signs of a fake job message?
Here are some of the most common red flags to watch out for:
- The message contains spelling and grammar errors. Legitimate companies take care to present a professional image in job communications.
- The salary or benefits are unusually high for the role or industry. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- The job posting is extremely vague about the duties, qualifications, or company information. Scammers often avoid specifics to cast a wide net.
- You are asked to provide personal information upfront, such as your SSN, bank account details, or a copy of your ID. Reputable employers would not ask for this information early on.
- The message comes from a free webmail account (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) instead of an official company email.
- There are misspellings or inconsistencies in the company name, address, or other details. Scammers often fabricate company information.
- The message has poor grammar or seems translated from another language. Legitimate companies would have fluent, professional communication.
- You are asked to pay an application fee, training fee, or other upfront costs. Real employers do not charge fees to apply or interview.
- The message asks you to click on a suspicious link or open an attachment. This could download malware onto your device.
- You receive a substantially similar message after applying to many different jobs. Scammers use template messages.
What details should you look for to verify a job message is real?
To help confirm that a job lead is legitimate, look for these signs:
- The message comes from an official company email domain that matches the business name and location.
- The job description provides details on duties, responsibilities, requirements, salary, and benefits.
- The company is easy to research online and has an established web presence or LinkedIn profile.
- The message contains the name and contact information of a specific person like a recruiter or hiring manager.
- Your correspondence is personalized with your name and references your previous communications.
- Next steps are clearly outlined, such as interviews, assessments, or document submissions.
- The message has no spelling, grammar, or formatting issues.
- The job aligns logically with your background, skills, and qualifications.
- The hiring timeline is reasonable, not suspiciously rushed or urgent.
What types of personal information should you avoid providing?
When contacted about a new job opportunity, be very cautious about sharing these types of personal information before verifying the employer:
- Social Security Number or SIN
- Bank account and routing numbers
- Copies of personal identification
- Driver’s license details
- Passport details
- Full date of birth
- Home address
- Personal phone numbers
- Information about children or other family
- Usernames and passwords
- Full credit/debit card numbers
Legitimate employers typically would not ask for this level of sensitive information upfront. Be especially wary if pressured or rushed to provide these details quickly.
What are some examples of fake job messages?
Here are a few examples of suspicious job messages that indicate a scam:
This is Michael Jones from ACME Company. I saw your resume on CareerBuilder and think you would be a great fit for our open Administrative Assistant position. The role offers a salary of $60,000-$80,000 plus full benefits. If interested, please complete the attached application form and email it back along with a copy of your driver’s license and Social Security card for background screening purposes. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Red flags: Vague role description, unusually high salary for admin role, request for sensitive docs, generic recruiter name, free webmail address
I am happy to inform you that you have been shortlisted for the Social Media Manager position at our company. Please open the attached document and complete the mobile payment of $250 for background verification fees. This is standard protocol for final candidates. Once payment is received, we will schedule your final interview. Let me know if you need any clarification. Looking forward to you joining the team!
Red flags: Upfront fee request, generic hiring manager name, unusual email domain
I saw your LinkedIn profile and think your social media experience would be a great match for a Social Media Specialist opening we have. This is an urgent position so we need to move quickly. Please complete the attached background check waiver form and return it along with photocopies of your driver’s license, passport, and banking information at your earliest convenience. We will then move forward with the hiring process. Please let me know if you have any questions!
Red flags: Urgent timeline, request for banking details and IDs, mismatched company details
What steps should you take if you receive a suspicious job message?
If you get a job message that you think could be fake, here are some important steps to take:
- Do not reply to the message. Any response could confirm your email as active.
- Do not open attachments or click links, which could contain malware.
- Forward the email to the FTC at [email protected] and to the company’s official email (if known).
- Search online for the job title, company name, and contact details. Look for matches on the company’s official career site.
- Search for the job posting on reputable sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. Scammers often imitate real job ads.
- Look up the email headers to identify the true source. Scam emails often have odd domains.
- Search the web for any mentions of the job being a scam alert. You may find warnings from other targets.
- Report fraudulent job messages to job sites where they appear. They can remove the posts.
- Change your passwords if you applied on a job site that was impersonated.
Taking these steps can help protect yourself from potential scams and alert others to fraudulent job postings. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution.
What precautions should you take when searching online job boards?
Here are some best practices when using job search sites to avoid fake job scams:
- Thoroughly vet unfamiliar companies by researching their websites, leadership, locations, reviews, and social media.
- Be wary of “easy” remote jobs that offer high pay for minimal effort. This is a major red flag.
- Avoid applying to jobs that only provide a P.O. Box or email address. Look for verifiable street addresses and phone numbers.
- Be cautious when contacted by recruiters directly, especially if unsolicited. Verify they are real employees of the hiring company.
- Scrutinize job titles like “Program Director” or “Account Representative” which are commonly used in scams.
- Search for the job title on scam warning sites to see if it has been flagged as fraudulent.
- Never pay any fees upfront for training, orientation, or hiring-related costs.
- Use trusted sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and reputable niche job boards instead of unfamiliar platforms.
Taking your time to thoroughly research postings and companies can help you spot the red flags of a fake job scam before becoming a victim.
What are the potential risks of providing personal details to a fake employer?
Sharing your sensitive personal information with a fake employer carries many serious risks, such as:
- Identity theft – Fraudsters can use your details to open fake accounts, take out loans, file false tax returns, and commit other identity crimes.
- Bank and financial fraud – Scammers can withdraw funds from your bank account or make unauthorized charges on your credit/debit cards.
- Government benefit theft – Your SSN and other details allow scammers to file for unemployment or other benefits in your name.
- Medical identity theft– Your information can be used to obtain medical services, prescription drugs, and insurance fraudulently under your name.
- romance scams – Sophisticated fraud rings share victims’ info to scam them into fake online romances, stealing money.
- Spam, phishing and hacking – Once scammers have your email and passwords, you are vulnerable to many types of cybercrime.
- Blackmail and extortion – Criminals threaten to expose your sensitive details or actions online unless blackmail payments are made.
The potential effects of identity theft and fraud can be devastating and long-lasting. Always protect your private data from potential fake employers and scammers.
What are some common fake job scams to watch out for?
Some of the most prevalent fake job scams include:
- Mystery shopping – You receive a check to evaluate customer service at a store, but it is a fake check and any spent funds will be drained from your account.
- Car wrapping – Scammers claim to hire you to wrap your car with ads, sending fake checks to wrap your vehicle which later bounce.
- Secret shopper – You are hired to secretly evaluate businesses. Scammers send a fake check to cover training and expenses, pocketing any funds you spend before the check bounces.
- Personal assistant – Advertised as a virtual administrative role, the “employer” sends fraudulent checks for you to deposit and wire transfer the funds back to them.
- Package reshipping – You are hired to repackage and reship products, which are typically illegally purchased goods involving your name and address in criminal activity.
- Data entry clerk – These postings ask for your bank account to deposit checks to enter and process data, with the checks bouncing after funds are withdrawn and stolen.
- Assembly or craft worker – You assemble crafts or products from home, getting paid upfront with a bad check. Any money you send back is pocketed before the check bounces.
A legitimate remote job will never involve a check cashing or money transfer scheme. Use extreme caution when considering positions involving financial transactions.
With scam tactics becoming increasingly sophisticated, job seekers need to stay vigilant to avoid falling victim to fake job postings and messages. Be wary of unsolicited contacts, high-paying easy roles, and employers asking for sensitive details upfront. Take steps to verify all job leads, research companies thoroughly, and never send money or banking information to unfamiliar parties. Using caution during your job search can help you steer clear of employment scams and find a legitimate new role.