Job-search Scams: Common Red Flags

The Internet is a great place to find your next job; you have options ranging from college or community job boards to company websites’ postings. In fact, some jobs require you to apply online these days.

However, job-search scams are common. At the very least, it’s discouraging to apply for what appears to be a legitimate position, only to be bombarded by scam e-mails, spam, and other junk. If you know the common red flags, they’ll alert you to these illegitimate postings so that you can make better use of your job-seeking time and resources.

No Company Name Given

If the listing does not tell you which employer you would be working for if hired, be wary. You could be sending your contact information to somebody who wants to coax you into a pyramid scheme, a check-cashing scam, or some other awful thing. Real employers with real job listings tell you who they are and what kind of work the candidate they hire will be doing; it’s a good way for them to head off would-be applicants who aren’t qualified and/or willing to do that kind of work. It’s also a good way for you, the potential candidate, to weed out employers and positions you don’t like.


Most employment fees are scams. If you’re asked to pay for things like access to a database or customer list; materials (envelopes, materials to assemble kits for the employer, and the like); or manuals/ebooks full of information about the job, run the other way. By definition, you the employee are paid by the employer for the work you do–not the other way around.

Similarly, watch out for check scams that sound like, “Oops! We paid you too much, so please wire the balance to this recipient.” The check is likely to bounce, leaving you stuck paying both the face value and insufficient funds fees.

Big Promises

Unless you manage to defy the odds and win the lottery, you probably aren’t going to become wealthy overnight. Even the richest people in the United States had to either inherit from people who worked hard before them or put in years of work themselves. The old saw, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” definitely applies to employment. If you’re suspicious, ask questions. Know how much the employer is offering to pay you; if they can’t come up with firm numbers (“X an hour,” or “sales plus commission of X percent,” or something along those lines), reconsider taking the job.

As a job seeker, your best bet is to look for red flags and ask lots of questions before you submit any personal information. Legitimate employers will happily answer relevant questions before receiving your C.V. or application; they can also, in most cases, direct you to a company website that answers some of those questions. If you avoid as many fake or scam jobs as possible during your job search, you greatly reduce your risks of getting into a frustrating, potentially dangerous situation. You also increase your odds of getting the legitimate job you want.

By Sarah 

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