Avoid Scams While Job Hunting Online

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While the job market appears to be improving, there are still plenty of people out there either unemployed or underemployed looking for work.  An urgent need to find work can lead some to the point where they’ll “take anything.”  Here’s where the scammer strikes: preying on individuals who need to be solicitous, polite and willing to jump through hoops to prove themselves accommodating to potential employers.  Don’t be swindled!  Here are some ways to identify potential scams and prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

The first step of a job-hunting scam typically employs posting a fake job listing.  Scammers advertise right alongside real employers and job placement firms to make themselves appear legitimate.  Craigslist is a site frequently targeted by fake ads since they have fewer safeguards in place to monitor the legitimacy of postings.
Be wary of listings that are vague or offer a high wage for little or no experience.  Scam listings are often for mystery shopper, postal or government jobs, or work-from-home positions.

think you have an offer that’s too good to be true? our nerds can give you sage advice!

Do your research before you respond to an ad so that you can make sure a potential employer is legit.  Visit their website to see if job and career information is posted on the site.  Google the company name to see what information is available.  Search for links that tie the company name to reports of scams.  Finally, check with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to see if they’ve been reported to be associated with employment scams.

When was the last time a real company emailed you out of the blue and offered you a job?  Be wary of cold-calls, especially if you don’t remember having applied there in the first place.  Another red flag: a potential employer forcing a sense of urgency on you to accept a position.

There are a number of potential scams you should be aware of.  The most subtle is that you get a response from the job poster requesting you complete an online application or submit to a credit or background check prior to going into the interview.  The form you complete requires your full name, address, social security number and date of birth.  That’s a treasure trove of information for an identity thief.  You should never have to provide a bunch of personal information before the actual job interview.  If a potential employer requests this information, respectfully decline, offering to provide these personal details when you go in for the interview.  Your merits should be detailed in your resume, which should include a detailed job history and listing of your skills but no personal identification numbers.

Another popular scam is to offer a job but require that the new hire purchase “training materials” or pay in advance to guarantee a job.  No legitimate company will ever ask for money from an applicant.  Never, under any circumstances, should you pay an employer for them to hire you, even if the company offers to “reimburse you later” or “refund your money if you’re not satisfied.”  Some scammers will even create an elaborate ruse where they send you a money order or a fake check that you then deposit at your bank and wire them back the funds, giving you the impression that they’re “reimbursing you.” Be very suspicious.  Contact the bank on which the check is drawn.  They can assess for you whether or not it’s a fake.

You may be tempted to use a hiring company to help you find a job and some of these companies are legitimate, but some are not.  Review the firm’s status with the FTC and the BBB, and investigate their website.  Ask them to provide you a list of their services, in writing, and have them clarify what your expectations are for a job after you spend your money.  Who pays their fees? You, or the company that is going to hire you?  If you’re looking for a career counselor, the National Career Development Association can help you find one.  Visit their page on finding a counselor for more information.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you come in contact with a scammer or you’ve actually been victimized, report suspicious activity to the authorities.  The Federal Trade Commission handles such issues through their “complaint assistant” found here.  If you have issues with an employment-service firm, contact the State Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau to report your concerns.  By alerting the authorities, you’re not only adding your experience to the pile of complaints they inevitably have on the scammer but you’re hopefully helping prevent other job hunters like you from becoming unwitting victims.


About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.