These are challenging times for everyone. Most people have had to adjust to new work environments, and our personal and social activities have been largely non-existent for many months. Unfortunately, many people have also found themselves laid off or furloughed as businesses have been forced to cut back staffing or close entirely.
If you’re in the job market, be aware that the increase in job seekers has also driven an increase in fake job postings that are often mixed in with legitimate offers. Just as bad actors prey on unsuspecting victims through email and phone scams, they are also taking advantage of the increased unemployment rate to con people into giving up personal information and money.
That said, there are many good, legitimate job opportunities available, especially as businesses continue to adjust to this new environment and find a need for more personnel, and with many employers looking for seasonal help during the holidays. As you look for a job, just be aware that the real jobs may be intermingled with fake offers. Here are a few things to look for that can help keep you from falling victim to a job scam.
Fees – You may come across job offers claiming to have many customers lined up and all you need to do is pay a certification, training, or placement fee. That’s, at best, suspicious and, most likely a scam. Legitimate employers won’t ask you to pay for placement or training. These offers will collect your fees and never actually turn into work. That’s not say certain certifications aren’t helpful for some jobs, but those are things you should look into on your own, separately from your job search.
Financial information – Be wary of prospective employers who ask for your financial details, like credit card numbers or bank accounts. Certainly, you may need to provide bank routing information if you’re going to take advantage of direct deposits, but make sure you know who you’re giving the information to. You may want to wait a few pay cycles and deal with physical paychecks, just to make sure everything is legitimate. If your bank enables mobile deposits, you can easily get the funds into your account without having to find time to visit a branch.
Government jobs – Remember one simple fact: all Federal government jobs are listed online. If you get a solicitation for a “new” or “previously undisclosed” government job, don’t reply to it. If you’re interested in a government job, check out availability directly and follow the steps to apply.
Interviews – With very few exceptions, be wary of anyone offering to hire you without an interview. Legitimate employers will want to meet prospective employers. If you are offered a job based on an email or messaging exchange, or an extremely short phone call, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
Job requirements – Make sure you know the job requirements and that those requirements make sense for the job. Scammers often try to minimize or simplify requirements to increase their rate of “success” and to limit questions that could expose them. Ask specific questions about the job. Most scammers will either stop engaging or will avoid the question by telling you not to worry about it and that they will train you.
Video interviews – It’s never a bad idea to suggest a video interview. Being able to see your interviewer can provide visual clues as to whether they are authentic or not. If they’re not willing to use video, there’s a good chance they aren’t offering a real job – especially in today’s environment where video has become the norm.
Contact information – As with phishing emails, check your correspondences for warning signs – especially email addresses. Scammers often use email addresses that are similar to legitimate companies, but have slight differences. Also verify phone numbers by looking them up online.
With all that in mind, realize there are plenty of real opportunities out there and your instinct will likely be correct. If it seems questionable or too good to be true, it probably is. All you need to do is be a little smarter than the scammers. They are looking to con people – they aren’t in the hiring business. Use that to your advantage as you look for a job. Of course, if you think you may have been exposed to a scam and possibly given away any personal information, contact your bank to make sure your accounts haven’t been compromised.