Signs Your Job Offer is a Scam
and 5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraudulent Recruiting Schemes
Do you remember how job hunting, recruiting and hiring used to work? I’m not talking about the “pre-internet” era. I mean just a few years ago. Not that long ago, organizations were only beginning to refine their online application systems. And, for the most part, hiring was still a largely reactive exercise: candidates would search for employers and open jobs, apply and then wait to be rejected, ignored or invited in for an interview. Today’s increasingly robust systems and apps have not only streamlined the process for everyone involved. They’ve made it possible for all stakeholders to search, identify and recruit each other. And they’ve fueled an expectation of speed, urgency, even immediacy of communication.
In other words, it’s easier than ever for employers to find you, vet you and offer you a job.
There’s just one problem with that: the same is true for scammers, fraudsters and all-around terrible characters who are willing to prey on anyone whose resume is “out there,” online.
Don’t get me wrong. Scammers have always been out there, taking advantage on hopeful job seekers. They’re looking for ways to steal your money, your identity or both. But, in recent years, super-powered by the internet, they’ve grown increasingly bold and sneaky.
Does that mean you should take your resume off your LinkedIn profile – or stop applying to job boards? Absolutely not. But it does mean you should be aware of the risks associated with unsolicited communications from anyone who says they’d like to talk to you about a potential job.
Follow these tips to protect yourself from recruitment fraud.
1. Be Aware of Stranger Danger!
The first step in protecting yourself is becoming aware of the sad fact that there are many individuals out there posing as hiring managers, HR recruiters, agency recruiters, or even senior executives of real companies. These are criminals. They’re very good at making their “application forms” and other online requests look legitimate with convincingly copied logos, current senior manager names, etc.
How can you spot them? Pay careful attention to these details:
- What’s their email address? Emails from scammers probably look like they’re affiliated with a legitimate organization at first glance. Maybe you’ve long admired XYZ Corporation and you’re delighted to see that the email is from someone at XYZCorp@yahoo.com. But, of course, upon closer inspection, you notice the @yahoo. Real people from real companies conducting real business will not be reaching out to strangers from their yahoo account.
- Poorly worded emails. If you find grammar problems, poor spelling or other amateurish issues, be on high alert. These are frequently dead giveaways of a sloppy scammer at work.
- Research the company name. Some fraudsters will actually invest in beautiful “company” websites and supply you with the link so you can be assured of their legitimacy. But do your research. Conduct your own, independent search for them online. If it’s a real company, you ought to be able to gather information. If you’re not finding much, check them out on Domain White Pages. If they’ve only been up and running for a few months, be on your guard.
2. Be Leary of Weird Interview Requests.
Fake employers and recruiters seem to prefer Yahoo messenger, Google+ Hangouts, Google+ video, Facebook – even texting – for their interviews with you. Until you have verified the identity of your contact with 100% certainty, you’re wise to steer clear of these kinds of interactions.
3. Never, Ever Comply With These Requests:
- Personal Information: At some point, the scammer will most likely ask you to supply them with your personal information, often by directing you to an official-enough looking form. Maybe your bank routing and account numbers are needed, or an old W-2, passport number or date of birth. This is what they’ve been after all along. And they can be very convincing as they explain that it’s all a normal, necessary step in order to make the offer and process your paychecks. You should never supply personal, private or financial information to anyone until you have 100% proof that you are dealing with a legitimate employer.
- Downloadables: If you’re asked to download something in order to begin the application process, don’t click a thing. Just close the email until you can further investigate and/ or report it. (See more, below.)
- Request for Payment: No employer is going to ask you for money. That’s not how it works. Furthermore, legitimate career coaching services who do charge fees would never dream of working with you until you’ve both had a chance to check each other out, most often in-person.
- Hurry, hurry, hurry! Once they’ve hooked someone, scammers want to get what they came for and disappear, fast. They don’t want you to have enough time to research them, detect them or report them. So they create a false sense of urgency and then they push it, hard.
4. Go Directly to the Real Employer or the Federal Trace Commission.
- Verify open jobs and job offers by initiating your own contact with the employer. If it’s an employer that you know is real, go to their website, find their human resources or job postings contact and ask if the job exists and is currently being filled. If it isn’t, they will ask you for additional information so they can investigate.
- If the employer is either nonexistent or, for some other reason, unable to help you, go directly to the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint.
5. Do not delete any communications until you have reported the issue to the actual employer and/or the Federal Trade Commission.