Whether you’re looking to earn extra income or searching for long-term employment, watch out for scammers who prey on job seekers. They’ve gotten increasingly good at convincing applicants to hand over money and personal information for the promise of jobs that don’t exist.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, employment-related fraud reports jumped 10% from 2021 to 2022, the latest year for which figures are available. It recently issued a warning to consumers to be on the lookout for job scams, which increasingly are cropping up on legitimate job posting sites and LinkedIn.
If you’re looking for employment, here’s how to spot and avoid job scams.
How to spot job scams
Unsolicited emails and text messages about jobs and hand-printed signs on street corners offering work-from-home opportunities are big red flags for scams. However, job scams aren’t always so easy to spot. That’s because scammers often advertise jobs the same way that legitimate employers do. When you see postings on job sites, LinkedIn, online ads or newspaper classifieds, look for these warning signs of scams.
Too-good-to-be-true offers: Scammers often post job openings that offer the opportunity to work from home or do little work for a high salary.
Poorly written communications: Be wary of job postings or emails you receive from prospective employers with spelling errors, grammatical mistakes or few details about the job. Legitimate employers communicate clearly and professionally.
Emails from personal accounts: If someone offering a job is communicating with you from a personal email account such as gmail.com or yahoo.com, it could be a scam. Legitimate employers and recruiters use company email accounts.
Requests for personal information in the application process: If someone asks for your Social Security number, bank account number or other personal information during the application process, it’s likely a scam. Thieves want this information to steal your identity or access your accounts.
Requests for upfront fees: It’s a red flag if a prospective employer asks for any sort of payment to apply for or get a job. Legitimate employers don’t require job candidates to pay fees for job applications, background checks, training or equipment to set up a home office.
How to avoid job scams
Before you apply for any job, take these steps to avoid falling for a scam.
Read the job description carefully. If it is vague, it could be a scam. Legitimate job listings provide detailed information about the responsibilities, qualifications and position requirements. They also provide contact information that typically includes the company’s email address, not a personal email address.
Research companies before applying. Legitimate employers will have an online presence, including a professional website, active social media profiles and positive reviews on reputable platforms. Be wary of companies with vague information about their operations, lack of contact details or no online presence. Also, search companies’ names online along with the word “reviews,” “complaints” or “scam” to see if others have had bad experiences with them.
Be cautious of remote jobs. Many legitimate remote job opportunities exist, but scammers often use the appeal of working from home to exploit job seekers. Remote job offers that require paying for training, starter kits or home office equipment are typically scams.
Be careful with your personal information. Don’t share your Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account number or other personal information with a prospective employer before being hired. If it’s a scam, that information can be used to steal your identity.
Don’t pay for a job. Legitimate employers won’t ask you to pay to apply for a job or to be hired. Also, never agree to deposit a check from an “employer” and send some money back. The check likely will be fake.
Trust your instincts. It’s OK to question why someone is offering to pay a lot for minimal work or is willing to hire you without an interview or any application process. Scammers often prey on desperation, so take the time to investigate, ask questions, and seek advice from trusted friends or family members.
What to do if you become a victim of a job scam
If you paid a scammer, contact the company you used (bank, credit card, mobile payment app) to let it know that the payment you made was the result of a scam and ask whether it can be reversed. Depending on the type of payment you used, you might be able to get your money back.
If you shared your personal information with a scammer, place a freeze on your credit reports at each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—to prevent thieves from opening new accounts and lines of credit in your name. Sign up for a service such as Carefull, which provides account, credit and identity monitoring along with $1 million in identity theft insurance. You can try Carefull for free for 30 days.
Report the crime to local law enforcement and get a copy of the report. And visit IdentityTheft.gov to get a recovery plan.
[ Keep Reading: What to Do When Your Identity Is Stolen ]