“Dude, I’m dead. This job sounds awesome! No experience needed, I can work from home, pays $25 an hour AND I get a new laptop. All I have to do is send them $375 for the software I’ll need. I’m so in!”
Remember when Mom or Pop said “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”? Jobseekers everywhere should make this their mantra. While most of us would love a job where we get paid major skrill for little to no work, it’s not realistic. If a job promises that, and requires no skills or experience, it’s usually a scam designed to do nothing more than work over your wallet.
Real or fake?
Scammers troll job boards looking for victims. In fact, a recent survey by professional job services company FlexJobs found that there are 60-70 scams for every one legitimate job posting. Here are some red flags to look for when looking for a job online; any or all of these are definite tip-offs that the job’s fake.
You didn’t initiate contact, they did. You may get an unsolicited e-mail that says they found your resume online, and they either want to hire you right away or set up an interview. They may even say you were selected above many other applicants (even though you’ve never actually applied for the position.) If you decide to go ahead with an interview, it’s usually brief and over the phone or IM, and the “interviewer” immediately contacts you after to offer you the job.
Promise of high pay for little work. If a company offers you, say, $40 per hour for work that requires little or no experience, skill or effort, as tempting as it may be, ignore it. It’s likely a scam.
Even a monkey could do it. Scammers try to make a job sound legit by listing job requirements. However, these “requirements” are usually so ridiculously simple that they apply to almost everyone. For example: Must be 18 years old, Must be a U.S. citizen. Must have access to the Internet. (How could you be reading their e-mail if you didn’t?) Must have a pulse. (o.k. not really on that last one, but you get the point). There’s no mention of required education or experience. Real jobs usually list very specific job requirements and skill sets.
Vague job descriptions. Fake jobs usually don’t include clear job descriptions. And if you ask for a job description or list of expected duties, either the e-mail sender or “interviewer” will ignore the question or say something like, “Don’t worry, we’ll train you.” (And you can bet on a fee of course!). Another red flag is companies with names similar to large corporations but that are slightly off; for example, “Under Armor.” (The actual company name is spelled “Under Armour.”)
Grammatically challenged postings. If a job posting or e-mail sounds like a third-grader wrote it, be on your guard. Beware e-mails containing poor grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, or broken English. Also, be wary of e-mails with missing contact information or sent from a personal e-mail account.
Send money right away! You may be instructed to deposit a check that looks like a real cashier’s check, keep some of the money for yourself, and wire the rest of the money to someone else. The check turns out to be fake, and you’re out the money you sent. Some will even use your bank account for money laundering schemes, which is illegal. If you’re told that you need to deposit checks, wire money, purchase software, pay for training or other services, the job is shady. Remember, legitimate companies don’t ask for money or financial information from prospective hires.
Tips to help protect yourself
Now that you’re aware of the scammy signs to look out for, here are some tips to help protect yourself when searching for your next job online.
- Use only job sites that have privacy policies and don’t share or sell information, and that only allow verified employers to post and view job listings. Check out these top-rated job sites.
- Don’t ever give out confidential information like your bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers, either online or during an interview.
- Research the company. Real companies should have a decent amount of information available online. If nothing comes up, it’s a scam. You should also search the company name and/or e-mail address and the word “scam.” It’s also a good idea to cut and paste part of the e-mail text and do a search on that. Scammers are lazy by nature and tend to use the same e-mail over and over, just changing the company name.
- Go one step further and research the person who contacted you. Google his or her name. Contact the company and ask if this person is an actual employee.
- If the e-mail or posting sends you to a website that looks legitimate, go to Domain White Pages and type in the company’s Web address. The site will tell you the date the website was created. If it’s less than a year old, it may be fake.
- Before filling out an online job application, check to make sure the website address starts with https:// (not http://), which means it’s a secure site.
- Ask detailed questions about the job and what’s required.
You are your best defense
Ultimately, your best defense against getting scammed is you. Trust your inner me if something seems off about a job or if you get an uneasy feeling about it. Do your research and ask a lot of questions. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making a commitment or giving out personal information. Ask your parents or someone you trust what they think about the job. In the end, trust your gut.
Looking for a job? Check out Tower’s Careers page to see what positions are currently available at your credit union!
References: The Balance, Better Business Bureau, FastCompany, FlexJobs