With the job search being mostly online, it’s hard to detect whether a job offer or recruiter is in fact genuine. Sadly, scammers are becoming more creative with plenty of phony positions on job boards targeting jobseekers who are vulnerable and desperate for work. Their goal: to separate you from your hard-earned cash, steal your identity or use you for free labor.
To ensure you don’t fall victim to job scams, watch out for these signs to ensure that your exciting new job offer is legitimate!
Here are a few obvious signs to watch out for:
Signs of a fake job offer
Learn some early warning signs to watch for during your job search below:
1. It sounds too good to be true
If you think your job offer is too good to be true, then it probably is. So, if you’ve received an offer (especially out of the blue) to make $2,000–$10,000 a week, delete the email and list it as spam straight away.
2. There are minimal or no formal requirements for the job
Job requirements are an important part of every job. They help communicate what employers expect from jobseekers. They also help jobseekers determine if they’re qualified and if the employer’s expectations are unrealistic. If a job post lacks requirements, it’s a bad sign.
3. The requirements are vague
Scammers may also try to make fake job offers seem legitimate by providing job requirements. These are normally either irrelevant to the role and involve submitting (you guessed it!) personal information. Look out for “Must have a valid passport” or “Need valid driver’s license. Front and back page.”
You’ll often see that job-related skills aren’t included in the list. At this point, alarm bells should be ringing! You can either ignore the email or ask for a full job description to determine the authenticity of the company. If it’s fake, you’ll most likely receive an answer like: “Don’t worry, full training will be provided”.
4. The text of the email is unprofessional
Some emails from scammers are professionally written. But often, you’ll notice they’re poorly written with grammatical mistakes. A job offer letter with improper use of capital letters, missing commas, and consistent grammatical mistakes can indicate that the offer isn’t real.
5. You've been invited to an online chat interview
You’ve received a fantastic job offer and have been asked to attend an interview on Yahoo Messenger. Think: how many companies would interview a candidate by chat?
Scammers often give you instructions on setting up a Yahoo IM account and will take this information to steal your identity. Most authentic companies interview face to face. The exception is when you’re overseas or are applying to a remote position.
6. There's no contact information
Another warning sign is when you’ve received a letter with no contact information, like a telephone number or company address. The company logo will also look distorted or poor quality. Remember that any official job offer will be written on company letterhead, which should include a logo and contact information.
7. The search results don’t add up
Before agreeing to an interview, do your research. If it’s a verified company, you’ll find information on their official website. Make a note of how long the company has been listed for.
Some scammers go to the extent of creating websites. But with a bit more research, you’ll notice things don’t add up. Sites like Scamwarners.com list information on fraudulent activity. You can also check the authenticity of a site on Scamadviser. If a company has been registered for a year or less, proceed with caution!
8. The offer was sent from a personal email
Authentic job offers are usually sent from company-registered email addresses. Some scammers create template emails that are similar to company email addresses but may include a hyphen so some people won’t notice. If you’re unsure, copy/paste the email into a search engine with the word “scam” after it, and look to see if someone else has reported the company.
9. You’re asked to provide confidential information
Many scammers ask for banking information to set up direct debit. They may also ask you to fill out a credit report that will then give them details of your social insurance number and date of birth. Before entering personal information online, check to make sure the website is secure by looking at the web address bar. The address should be a https:// listed site.
10. The offer involves money transfers
Sometimes, scam artists will try to get you to launder money or illegally send packages to you. One common trick is to send you a “cleared” check and ask you to deposit it into your account. They will offer you some of the amount and then ask to send the rest to a random account. The check will bounce, leaving you with the bill.
11. You’re asked to pay for something out of pocket
After receiving an irresistible job offer, you might be asked to pay for software that you’ll supposedly be using for work. If it’s an overseas role, scammers will often ask you to pay for your visa. If you encounter either, it’s a scam. Legitimate companies will cover the necessary costs. If they don’t, won’t or can’t, run away!
12. The job involves working from home
Working from home became a reality for many post-pandemic. Nevertheless, though online jobs have become common, beware of job offers that involve limited work for high pay. Most scammers will send something like this: “This is a work-from-home job. You’ll earn $45 per hour for this position. You are expected to be online at Yahoo Messenger during working hours. We also offer flexible hours…”
13. You didn't apply for the job
The most obvious sign of a fake offer is an offer for a job you haven’t even applied for. Why would a company randomly select you and send you a job offer without any other form of communication with you?
If you’re applying for multiple jobs, keep a record of the ones you’ve applied for to filter through this kind of spam.
14. You receive an offer immediately
If you receive an offer immediately after applying, something’s not right. Even if your résumé is in tip-top shape, legitimate employers will want to get to know you more. An immediate response (and a request for one) is a sign you’re being pressured into making a quick decision.
15. There’s no interview process
If a company has no interview process, walk in the other direction. Legitimate companies have hiring staff who find top talent, normally through an interview process. If they don’t, this means they’re trying to limit personal interaction with applicants. What legitimate employer would do that?
16. Lack of social media presence
Not all companies are active on social media, but since it’s a big part of modern business operations, you can expect that renowned companies are. If you can’t find the company on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other social media site, it’s possible it doesn’t exist.
17. You’re prompted to download an attachment
If you’ve received a job offer from a personal email that prompts you to download an attachment, don’t open it! It likely contains malware that will collect your personal data and monitor keystrokes, and give hackers remote access to your device.
18. Your interviewer avoids answering questions
Preparing yourself for an interview with relevant questions about the job and company shows genuine interest. If the interviewer refuses to answer your questions (or provides you with non-answers), then they’re withholding information. In other words, they’re hiding something!
19. Additional company contacts can’t answer questions
Posing as recruitment staff of an existing company has become a popular scam. If you know the company is real, then email another person to get a second voice. If relevant contacts from the company’s website can’t verify the legitimacy of the position, look elsewhere.
20. You’ve got a gut feeling
Intuition is a powerful tool for sifting truth from lies. But it can be tempting to silence our instinct to follow the money trail. Don’t! If the warning signs point to something being off, then go with your intuition and proceed with caution!
Taking action against fake job offers
If you suspect you’ve received a fake job offer, there are steps you can take to limit the amount of personal damage it can do. We’ll cover a few of these below.
1. Report it
When you know you’ve received a fake job offer, report it. There are multiple agencies you can report to for internet-related crimes. In North America, these are:
2. Notify the job site
If the job post was listed on a verified job site, then let the administrator know there are fraudulent listings on the site. Some fake listings avoid detection. Reporting them to the site can help to weed out repeat offenders and prevent fellow jobseekers from being harmed.
3. Talk to someone you know and trust
It’s helpful to get a second opinion if you’re unsure about something. If a job offer doesn’t look right, then talk it over with a reliable friend or family member. Try and get the opinion of someone in the same field as the job you’re applying for. This will give you time to think about the offer and help you to be objective.
4. Don’t click any links
If you feel like something’s off, it probably is. Don’t go further down the rabbit hole by clicking on links and downloading unsolicited attachments. This might prove the offer was fake, but it will also land you in harm’s way.
5. Search online
There’s a wealth of online resources that cover current scams. Sites like Scamadviser and Trustpilot can be used to confirm the legitimacy of a company or website, while others contain a scammer list. If you’re unsure at first, do an internet search of the hiring company to see their consumer ratings.
When you’re hunting for jobs, it can be easy to fall prey to a job scam, especially when you’re pressed for time and money. But it’s possible to identify a real job offer from a fake one. If you’re unsure how to tell the difference, remember:
- If your gut tells you something is off, then it probably is. If you’re not sure, then get a second opinion for verification.
- Always conduct research on the hiring company. If things aren’t adding up, then something fishy is going on.
- Never download attachments from unknown personal email addresses or provide personal details.
- If you think you’ve been the victim of a fake job offer, report it to the relevant authorities immediately.
Job scams are common enough to pose serious risks to jobseekers. But with the tips above, you’ll be able to minimize these risks and keep scam artists at bay.
Have you ever received a fake job offer? If so, what did you do? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Originally published on September 22, 2017. Updated by Aaron Niles.