Caveat job seeker: That job listing you’ve gotten a reply from may not be for the position you’ve been dreaming about. Job boards can be host to scammers who are looking to defraud victims who are at their most suggestible and vulnerable—that is, job seekers who are so eager to land a position that they ignore the warning signs that all is not as it seems.
Some of the features below could pop up in a totally legitimate ad. But they’re also common signs that could indicate that a job is a scam meant to separate you from your money. If you see them, proceed with caution.
The Job Description Is Vague
You read the listing to get a feel for what the job involves, but the job description is so general that you can’t tell what you’d be doing. Or maybe it uses a common job title—possibly the popular “production assistant”—but there’s no real sense of what’s involved in the day to day. Or there are no requirements or qualifications listed.
The ad scammer’s job is not to formulate a believable job description, but to persuade as many suckers as possible to take the bait. If you can’t tell what you’d be doing, or what you need to be considered qualified, that’s a telltale sign that the ad is a fake.
The Pay Is Too High
Chalk this one up to “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”: Scammers often entice more people to apply to a job by listing with a salary that is a great deal more than similar positions offer. Do your research to learn what other jobs in the field, and at that level, pay. If the job pays several thousand more than the usual going rate, your B.S. detector should be sounding.
There’s a Non-Business Email Address
Most job boards (including ours) want candidates to apply through the site’s submission form. A scam poster may ask you to go around that, directing you not to a company email address (think “@mediabistro.com”) but to an easy-to-set-up, personal email address—@gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc.
The same warning applies to all correspondence from a potential hiring manager. If they’re reaching out to you not from a business email address but a personal one, it could be legit. But it could be an indicator that a scam is afoot, especially if any of these other warning signs pop up too.
Things Don’t Add Up As You Do Your Research
You know you need to do your research on an employer to wow them in the interview. But if you can’t find any online information about the company or your point of contact—if the company doesn’t have a website or mentions on Glassdoor, or your contact isn’t on LinkedIn—that’s an indicator things might not be on the up and up.
They Ask You to Cash a Check
Job posting scammers often ask a victim to cash a check for something, sometimes an amount in excess of a payment, then send a check to cover the difference. The victim attempts to deposit the scammer’s phony check, and it bounces, usually after the scammer has already cashed the victim’s valid check.
They Ask You to Wire Money
Your new employers say the job is yours—they swear—but first they need you to help out with a wire transfer of funds. You’ll be asked to receive some wired funds to your account, then wire a lesser sum to another account, keeping the difference as your fee. These schemes usually involve stolen funds and use the unwitting job seeker as a money launderer.
They Ask for Personal Information
If you’re in the final stages of the interview process for a legit job and about to get an offer but need a background check—or if you’ve just been hired and you need to fill out tax paperwork—you may be asked to furnish your Social Security number, or a scan of your driver’s license or passport.
With job ad scams, requests for this information may come earlier—even before an interview—and involve you filling out an online form or an email, not on a piece of paper. And be accompanied by any of the above warning signs.