Common Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

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There are as many scams as real job openings online—sometimes it seems like more. How can you tell the difference between online job scams and legitimate job openings?

It can be really difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what's a scam. Scammers are getting more sophisticated and coming up with new ways to take advantage of job seekers all the time.

Before you apply for a job online, especially work at home jobs, review typical job scams and scam warning signs to help you determine if a job is a scam. If you're not sure, take the time to research the company to make sure the job is legitimate.

Types of Online Job Scams

There are many online job scams that take advantage of job seekers in a variety of ways. Scammers have several purposes, depending on the scam—to collect confidential information to use for identity theft, to get you to cash fraudulent checks or to wire or send money, and to get you to pay for services or supplies.

Job scams are posted on Craigslist and other job boards and forums, as well as on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In other cases, you may receive unsolicited email from scammers. It's important to be vigilant and check out every job you're interested in to make sure it's legitimate.

Online Job Scam Warning Signs

  • You're offered a job without an application, interview, or discussion with the employer.
  • The company asks you to wire money or asks for your credit card information.
  • The company asks for personal information like your social security number or driver's license number.
  • You are promised high pay for not much work.
  • The company asks you to pay for a credit report as part of the application process.
  • You are told you have to pay for training.
  • You're asked to cash a check and forward some of the money to a third party.
  • The salary details aren't clear. If the company doesn't pay an hourly rate or a salary, carefully investigate the details.

Check Out the Company

Googling the company name plus "scam" or "rip-off" will give you some information on the company if it's not legitimate. Visit the company's website and if they don't have one or it doesn't have contact information, consider that a warning sign. Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.

Job Scams List: A - Z

Review a list of the most common job-related scams and tips on how to avoid getting scammed.

Employment and Career Scams

In addition to job-related scams, there are other scams related to employment. Whether it's trying to sell services or paid training or offering to file for unemployment for you, there are many different types of scams to avoid. Here are some of them:

Bait and Switch Scams
With this scam, you apply for a job and are selected for an interview. During the interview, you discover that the job you applied for doesn't exist and the company tries to interest you in a completely different position.​

Scam Details: When a company is hiring for jobs that nobody wants, they believe they may be able to more readily convince someone to take the job if they discuss it with them in person.

Career Consulting Scams
You may be contacted by "career consultants" who are impressed with your resume and would like to represent you. In addition, you may be interested in their marketing, resume writing, resume reviews, or other career-related services.​

Scam Details: In reality, this is a pitch for products or services the company wants to sell you.

Credit Report Scams
This scam occurs when an "employer" asks to see your credit report as part of the hiring process and you end up paying a fee for obtaining a credit report or for other services. In addition, the scammer can collect your personal information and steal your identity.

How does this type of scam work? The employer requests that you use a specific "free" service that ends up costing you money. However, the employer isn't a legitimate employer and you may end up paying for a credit report.

Examples: These examples were sent by email to job applicants who responded to job postings online.

  • We would like to take this moment to thank you for your response to our Craigslist job posting, as well as inform you that, after reading through your resume, we are interested in discussing this job opportunity with you in person. In order to proceed to the next step of the hiring process, you will need to get your credit score checked.
  • We have arranged a FREE service for you to obtain your score. Once you have completed this process, please email me the confirmation # ASAP, so we can move forward.

Direct Deposit Scams
Direct deposit scams involve getting job applicants to give out their bank account information. These scams, which are often posted on Craigslist and other job boards or sent via email, often offer a position that seems too good to be true—high salary, minimal hours, no in-person interview required.

The scammer then says he or she can only deliver your paychecks by direct deposit and, therefore, requires your account information. After giving the scammer your account numbers, they will take money from your account, and you will never hear from the employer again. This scam is especially common among work-at-home and telecommuting jobs.

Scam Details: While direct deposit is convenient, most legitimate employers do not require it. Therefore, never share your bank account information or agree to a direct deposit before checking out the company and the job to make sure they are legitimate, accepting a job offer and completing new hire paperwork.

Money Laundering Job Scams 
Money laundering scams are some of the most common online job scams. Money launderers post jobs online or simply send out emails saying they are hiring employees to help process payments or transfer funds.

Scam Details: Very often, the fake "employer" says he or she is from a foreign country and thus cannot transfer funds himself (and also cannot meet you in person). They will ask you to use your personal bank account to move what are actually stolen or bad checks and have you keep a small percentage of the money for yourself.

When you deposit a bad or stolen check, you are liable to the bank. Not only will you have to pay the bank, but, because the money being transferred is typically stolen, you could be arrested for committing theft.

Related Scams: Other money laundering scams occur when an "employer" hires you for a fake job but says he can only pay you via direct deposit. He will then ask for your account information and personal information. Rather than paying you, he will use this information to access your account.

Recruiting Scams
Recruiters may contact you saying that he or she has clients with positions that you could be qualified for, though they don't have current openings. However, they also offer training sessions you should purchase to enhance your candidacy.​

Scam Details: This is another attempt to sell you services, rather than to recruit you for legitimate job openings.

Phishing Scams
In this type of scam, you get an email saying a company has clients with positions that you could be qualified for, even sending you the description of what could be a legitimate job opening: "Your online resume has recently come to my attention. I am impressed with your qualifications. A client of mine needs to fill an opening and because of your previous experience in the tech industry, I believe you might be a solid match. In order to see the full job description, just click on the link below or paste it into your browser's address bar."

Scam Details: You can't apply directly for the job. Instead, you are directed to a link on a website, where you fill out a form with your contact information and other personal information. This is an attempt to collect your personal information either to sell you services or to sell to a third party.

Shipping Scams
Shipping job scams offer you a work-at-home job, promising that you can earn a lot of money by reshipping—repackaging and forwarding goods. In many cases, this is a scam.

There aren't many legitimate reasons why a company would need someone to ship or reship merchandise for them. It's easy to send merchandise directly without having a third-party repack and resend it for you.

Also considered postal fraud, these scams have become prevalent as more and more Americans looking for employment seek work-at-home jobs. These companies often seem legitimate, claiming to be engaged in "correspondence managing" or "distribution."

Do not be deluded by companies that seem legitimate or by the promise of an impressive salary. Home receiving/shipping is not an actual job.

Scam Details: How do reshipping scams work? The company will ask you to pay for shipping, and then promise to reimburse you later. However, what you are repackaging and forwarding are actually stolen goods - often consumer electronics.

If the company actually pays you back, it will be with a fake check. You will ultimately have to pay for shipping charges and be liable to your bank. Also, if the company asks you to declare the packages as "gifts," you may be found guilty of falsifying government documents.

Unemployment Scams
People or companies offer to complete or file your unemployment insurance claim for you—for a fee. They may say they have a connection to your State Labor Department and can expedite the processing of your claim.

Scam Details: There is no benefit to paying a service to file your claim. In fact, some states probit anyone other than the claimant from accessing the unemployment system. Unemployed workers should file their own claims for unemployment via the state unemployment office website or by phone. Using a paid service to file your claim will not ensure faster handling.

More About Avoiding Scams

  • How to Tell if a Job is a Scam: Sometimes, it seems that there are as many scams as legitimate job openings. Here are warning signs to help you determine if a job is a scam.
  • Report a Scam: Here's how to report a scam, including where and how to report an employment scam.