The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the American economy, raising unemployment rates around the board. As a result, more people are looking for new jobs. And what about all the job seekers? They're easy prey for con artists.
If you're looking for a new job, be mindful of job-posting scams. In these scams, criminals create false job listings and publish them online, with no hope of ever hiring the people who apply. Instead, they're attempting to defraud them.
The suspects behind these phony listings are out to steal your personal information so they can gain access to your online credit card or bank accounts. They may also use this information to apply for loans or new credit cards in your name. Other scam artists use phony help-wanted advertising to dupe you into giving them money.
When researching a work description, there are some hints you can search for. Have you come across any of the red flags mentioned below? Proceed cautiously. You may be responding to a criminal's help-wanted ad.
How do job-posting scams work?
Scammers normally create false work advertisements with one goal in mind: to trick you into divulging personal or financial details. These scam artists place an online help-wanted ad. When you answer, usually with an email address included in the job listing, the scammer on the other end asks for personal details like your birth date or Social Security number.
What happens when you provide this information? The scammer uses it to gain access to your online credit card accounts and make thousands of dollars in illegal payments. Or, in some cases the scammer uses your Social Security number to gain access to your online bank account to steal your hard-earned money. Your identifying details could also be used by offenders to open credit card accounts or loans in your name.
Some scam artists claim that they need your bank account details to set up a direct deposit account for future payments. Once you provide them with that information, they wipe the account.
Then there are the scam artists who want you to give money directly to them. They might state that you must pay a fee to qualify for the position or that you must take an exam that costs a certain sum of money. What happens when you send the money ? These scam artists vanish, taking the money with them before you even realize the job you hoped to attain never even existed.
How to protect yourself from job-posting scams
The most important thing to remember when job seeking is that you should never provide any employer with personal information like your Social Security number, birth date, or direct deposit information until you’re actually presented with a job offer in writing and accept that job offer. Never send these “employers” your money either. You should never have to pay a company to be hired. If they can’t foot the new hire costs, they certainly can’t afford to pay you for your time.
Another huge mistake to avoid is responding to job postings without researching the company behind it. You can do this with a simple Google search. If you don’t find a web page for the company, this is a huge red flag that you might be dealing with a fictitious business created by a scam artist.
Be wary if a company's name isn't included in a job posting. It could be a genuine advertisement, but it could also be a scam. If you choose to answer an ad from a company choosing to stay anonymous, never, ever give personal details until you've been offered a position and been given the company's full name.
If you don’t already have browser protection installed, activate it right away. Many scam artists provide links to fake company websites to make their scams seem legitimate and browser protection programs will not only alert you when a website is too new to be trusted, but also block any scams and malicious websites to keep you safe.
How to identify signs of a job posting scam
It’s not difficult to avoid falling victim to fake job-posting scams. It’s all about recognizing the telltale signs.
Emails with the company don’t come from a company email address.
If the contact information in the job posting is a free email address like Gmail or Yahoo, this is a red flag. When posting work openings, legitimate businesses should not use free email providers. Instead, they'll send emails with their company email addresses which include the company name.
Notice the email is sent from gmail.com and not the company name. Credit: flexjobs.com
Getting too personal, too early.
When you answer to a work posting, you're immediately asked for your Social Security number or birth date. Or, you're asked for your bank account details to set up direct deposit. Definitely don't provide this information right away. Legitimate businesses will not ask for personal details, especially such sensitive information before offering you the job or conducting an in-person interview, Scammers, on the other hand, do this all the time. They'll use this information to steal your identity to gain access to your bank and credit card account.
Asking you to pay
Another red flag to look out for is when a job posting asks you to pay for training materials, to review your resume, or submit your application. Legitimate employers never charge applicants to apply for or accept a job.
They hire you immediately.
Although receiving a job offer is flattering, be cautious if it comes too soon. Before making you a job offer, legitimate employers will want to meet you in person, through video chat, or at the very least conduct a phone interview. If a company makes you an offer after a short email exchange, it's a big red flag because they're just giving you a "job offer" in order to steal your personal information.
They made the first contact.
If an email with a job opening arrives unexpectedly in your inbox, be cautious. Most legitimate companies advertise work openings and then sift through the candidates who apply. They typically don't reach out to random people on the Internet. If you get a job offer from someone you've never met at a company you've never heard of, it's almost certain to be a scam.
The job offer is too good to be true.
Be cautious if an organization gives you a job offer with a salary that seems to be too high for the position. Scammers often promise their victims a large sum of money in exchange for personal information or request money to send for "testing" materials. If an employment opportunity seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
What to do if you’ve already fallen victim to a job posting scam.
If you’ve already fallen victim to a job posting scam, there are some steps that you’ll need to take to protect your identity and your online accounts. These steps depend on what information you provided to the scammer. If you provided banking information or card numbers, contact the affected financial institution and let them know in detail what happened. They’ll walk you through any steps that you need to take to secure your account. They may recommend that you close the account and reopen a new one or issue a new card. They’ll also help you review transactions on your account and dispute any fraudulent charges.
If you provided any passwords or account information, change your passwords for those accounts and any other accounts where you’ve used the same or similar passwords. For help, check out Guardio’s guide to creating a strong password that you can remember.
If the scam originated from a job posting website as opposed to a cold contact, you should also report the scam to the website it was posted on. For example, if you found the listing on Monster.com, report it to Monster. Likewise, if it was posted on Indeed.com, report it to Indeed. If you aren’t sure how to report a post, search for the name of the website you found the listing on, along with the words “report scam” and the appropriate page should be found within the first few Google search results.