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How to Avoid Job Scams

January 11, 2024 3 mins

Employment listings are part of the growing trend of scams. They might target people with enticing opportunities — business and job opportunity scams cost Americans $367 million in 2022 according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)1 — and even worse, the median loss from fake job scams was $2,000.

Below, you’ll learn how to spot fake job scams like phishing scams, work from home scams, and pyramid schemes — and what to do if you’ve been targeted.

Types of job scams

  • Phishing job scams. In this scheme, a “recruiter” makes a job offer, but they need your Social Security number and perhaps your bank information for payroll. Like other phishing scams, though, the so-called recruiter is simply looking to steal your personal information or money — and that job opportunity was never real.
  • Work from home job scams. Flexible hours, a home office, and fantastic pay? It’s the ideal work scenario for many, which is exactly why scammers advertise jobs for customer service representatives, personal assistants, and the like. This scam can play out as a check scam: The employer may issue you a check for supplies, only to ask you to wire back the difference before you realize the check is bogus, or they may ask you to pay for “training” or to buy gift cards or cash checks.
  • Pyramid schemes. This type of scam relies on new recruits to generate income for the people at the top. You’re typically asked to sell goods or services with the incentive to earn more money for every new “employee” you recruit into the program.
  • Fake job listings, including at well-known companies. These could appear on job sites or on social media sites. Fake listings normally ask you to pay a fee to complete your application, or to hand over personal information that could be used to steal money or your identity.
  • Imposters. These scammers pose as government institutions or hiring agencies, and often ask candidates for a “screening fee” via gift card or a wire transfer.

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According to the Federal Trade Commission, business and job opportunity scams cost Americans $367 million in 2022.”

Warning signs of fake job scams

Before you respond to a job posting or provide personal information to a recruiter or company, look for these red flags to keep you, your personal information, and your money safe.

  • Did the recruiter ask for money? Legitimate employers will never ask you to pay upfront for fees or equipment — and they’ll never ask you to pay using gift cards, cash, a peer-to-peer (P2P) digital payment service, cryptocurrency, or a wire transfer. If that’s a requirement, the job is a scam.
  • Who sent the email? If your recruiter contacted you from a personal email address and not a company account, the job is a scam. Also beware of spoofing: a fraudster may use an email address, sender name, phone number or website URL to look legitimate. When in doubt, contact the company via official channels on their website.
  • Do they want personal information? Do some research before giving out your personal information. Contact the company directly by phone — using a number that is posted on the company’s website, not one provided by the recruiter. If you haven’t heard of the company before, do some research to verify that it’s a legitimate company.

How to protect yourself from job scams

  • Never give out your personal or financial information without doing your research. Search for the company along with the terms “scam,” “review,” or “complaint” to see if other people have been exploited. And if you haven’t heard of the company before, research to see if it’s even a real company.
  • Contact the company directly (not via the recruiter) to confirm the offer. If you can’t verify that the offer is real, it’s a scam.
  • Spot the warning signs and walk away if anything seems questionable. Never give your personal information or send money to a stranger.

What to do if you’ve been scammed

  • Report the scam. If you spotted the fake job on a site like LinkedIn, use their tools to flag the ad.
  • File a complaint with the FTC.
  • If you sent money to the scammer, report it to your financial institution immediately. Have you used your Patelco account? Contact us as soon as possible.
  • If you shared personal information with a scammer, refer to our list of trusted resources to learn how to protect your identity.

1 Federal Trade Commission, “You Got the Job – Consumer Advice,” updated April 24, 2023

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