Online Job Scams Survival Kit: What You Should Know and How to Avoid Them

job scam

Are you looking for a job? Scammers know you are desperate for a job, and that is why they try their best to convince you that you are the best fit for some job offer and prompt you to hand in money or sensitive personal information.

In fact, job scams cause more losses than you think: the Better Business Bureau (BBB) estimated that 14 million people encounter employment scams and lose more than 2 billion dollars per year. EEK! That said, are you sure you know how to spot a job scam and avoid it?

How Job Scams Work


There are many different job scams with various tactics and tricks, but all scammers want the same: either your money or personal information. Here is how one of the classic job scams unfolds:
1. Scammers reach out to you through social media or text messages, claiming to be offering a too-good-to-be-true job opportunity.

Job scam coming through WhatsApp. Source: Reddit
Job scam coming through WhatsApp. Source: Reddit

2. There is no official interview; everything is done through online messaging services. You are hired immediately with no legitimate contract. Here is an example.

3. They ask you to pay an advance fee to secure the job, to buy office equipment, or for “start-up packages,” just to name a few.

4.They might want you to submit sensitive personal information, including your Social Security Number or even bank account number, through some online form.

Phishy job scam email. Source: Reddit
Phishy job scam email. Source: Reddit

5. Scammers initiate other scams, such as fake check scams. For example, scammers send you a check and ask you to deposit a part of the money and return the rest.

Fake check scam initiated. Source: Reddit
Fake check scam initiated. Source: Reddit

How to Spot a Job Scam: 4 Red Flags to Be Careful Of

  • Requests for money or sensitive information. Legitimate companies will never ask you to pay for their job, and neither will they require you to provide sensitive information such as bank account credentials.
  • Vague job description. Decent job recruitment will include specific requirements, such as education, experience, necessary skills, and clear responsibilities, rather than way-too-simple, ridiculous ones. “Should have a minimum age of 18 years”? That’s everyone.
  • Too-good-to-be-true offer. Work from home, only do data entry, and get $3,200 per month? It’s probably a scam! If the payment for a job is unreasonably higher than the standard, and you barely have to make efforts, please be careful. 
Too-good-to-be-true job offer. Source: Reddit
Too-good-to-be-true job offer. Source: Reddit
  • Suspicious or no contact information. Scammers may contact you via social media instead of official emails. Even if there is an email, it comes from an online email service (for example, Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook) instead of corporate email. In other cases, scammers create email addresses that look similar to the genuine ones from big companies. Plus, they do not provide authentic communication methods like the company’s email address and phone number.

How to Avoid Job Scams

  • Do your homework about the job offer. Google the company’s name and check the legitimacy of it. According to FTC, you can add keywords like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint” to see if there have been job scams related to the company. However, please remember that scammers might also impersonate legitimate, famous companies such as Valve. They might offer the actual website of the company as a reference, but please stay skeptical. Search for the job listing on the site and see if it is fair.
  • Seek jobs from trustworthy sources. FTC suggests a few reliable resources for job seekers to start with, including USAJobs.govCareerOneStop, and USA.gov. As for social media, you can use it to get the latest hiring information, but do not use it as a channel to apply for any jobs.
  • Never pay in advance. No matter what the “company” asks you to pay, for example, job training or office supplies, do not pay.
  • Be smart with your personal information. Please do not send it over email, online form, or any other way. Employees do not have to provide detailed personal data or sensitive information. Neither do you.
  • Check links before clicking. Be cautious of links included in the job offer emails or text messages. The links can be phishing links, or, in a worse situation, malware will start to download once you click them.
    Use Trend Micro Check for immediate scam detection. (It’s FREE!)

Copy-paste a link and send it to Trend Micro Check on Messenger or WhatsApp for results in a second.

Use Trend Micro Check
Use Trend Micro Check for immediate scam detection.

Trend Micro Check is also available as a Chrome extension.
It will block dangerous sites for you automatically:

Trend Micro Check blocks dangerous sites for you automatically.

Last, if you suspect a job scam, please report to the FTC.

Good luck on job searching and stay safe always!

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