Scammers prey on desperate people. And few groups of people are as desperate as job seekers. If you’re out of work and anxious about paying your bills, you’re more likely to fall for a scam that offers easy employment and quick cash.
That’s why it is so important to be able to identify and avoid potential employment scams.
If you’re currently looking for work and want to avoid getting scammed, keep an eye out for the following red flags:
1. Essential details about the job are missing
Most real job descriptions will include the name of the company, the location where the work will be done, a job title, and some basic description of the work involved. If you come across a job post that doesn’t include this information, be very wary. You have to seriously question why a prospective employer wouldn’t share even this most basic information up front. What are they trying to hide?
Of course, there are important exceptions to the rule. Recruiting agencies sometimes do “confidential searches” where they only disclose the employer until late in the process. (For what it’s worth, recruiters almost always keep this information secret to prevent candidates from applying directly to the company, which would deny the staffing agency a contingency finders fee.)
The other notable exception is Craigslist, one of the world’s largest job boards. Many of the jobs on that site do not include the employer’s name and force you to apply through an anonymized Craigslist email address, making it impossible to know who is offering the opportunity. While many of these jobs are real, Craigslist is rife with employment scams. All too often it is near impossible to separate the legitimate offers from the spam
2. The job offer is unsolicited
Many job seekers dream that an employer will call, out of the blue, and surprise them with an amazing work offer. In the real world, however, this almost never happens. And, in the cases where it does happen, it is because there is some pre-existing relationship between the employer and the job seeker. Simply put, legit employers don’t offer jobs to complete strangers; likewise you shouldn’t get excited about an offer from a company you never heard of.
If you get an offer from a company you’ve never heard of, for a job that you never applied to, chances are it’s a scam. Even in the case of a recruiter cold-calling you as part of a confidential search, you’re not going to be offered the job without going through some interview process.
3. The “employer” is asking for money
I’m going to be as blunt as possible: if a company demands that you pay money to start working, it is not a legitimate job. Jobs are supposed to pay you; not vice versa.
“Money mule scams” are an all-too-common ploy that trick many job seekers. In these cons, a the “employer” asks an unsuspecting victim to buy into a business, transfer money to a “client”, or purchase items from a “supplier”, all with the promise of a job later on. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, these are requests are always scams and should never be acted upon.
Multi-level marketing schemes (sometimes called “network marketing”) are another case where job seekers are asked to spend money up-front for an opportunity to make income. Many organizations operate with this model–Avon, Cutco, Lularoe and Scentsy, to name a few. While there is nothing inherently illegal with multi-level marketing, it is dubious whether these organizations provide meaningful work opportunities to the people involved. The truth is 99 percent of people who join these sales networks never make any money.
4. The job offer is too good to be true
Spend any time on social media and you’re likely to see an offer like this:
Make $5000 a week! Work from home! Part-time with full benefits! Set your own schedule! No sales! No calls! No bosses! No responsibilities! Company car and pet otter included!
Let’s get real… these kinds of “jobs” do not exist. If they did, there would be no need to advertise them!
These scams are particularly sinister because they pray on people who don’t have other work options. If you’re a parent who is watching children 9-5 every day, the option to work from home or set your own hours is undoubtedly very alluring. Alas, the promises made in these job posts rarely play out in practice.
You should be skeptical of any job post advertising a wildly above-market salary and/or benefits–especially if it claims to not require a lot of work. Simply put: if the job offer is too good to be true–if it reads like an answer to all your prayers–then it probably isn’t a real work opportunity.