The Better Business Bureau reported recently that it’s seen employment scams “skyrocket,” with a growing number of victims losing money and sometimes facing legal issues as a result of the increasingly common fraud scheme.
Job scams often promise high pay, easy work or flexible schedules to take advantage of you. Knowing the types of job scams and common red flags can be the difference between getting caught in a hoax and finding legitimate employment.
What is a job scam?
A job scam is a fake job opportunity that a scammer uses to take money or sensitive information from you. While many fraudsters target job seekers online, others may even post ads in local newspapers or hang up flyers to attract applicants. Work-at-home job scams are particularly common, but scammers may also mislead people with fake on-site jobs.
The 10 most common job scams seen today and how to avoid them
Job scams can unfold through job site posts, offer emails, recruiting agencies and career development grant offers. Other common tactics include requesting money, conducting interviews over instant messaging services or asking you to reship packages.
1. Fake job offers via email
It may feel exciting to get a job offer in your inbox, but be careful: One way scammers ensnare victims is by sending job scam emails about positions you never applied for. Common roles include mystery shopper, nanny or personal assistant, all of which promise work in your community. An imposter might also fake an authentic email from a major company and offer a job that doesn't exist.
Email job scams are especially dangerous because they may involve a fraudster sending you a check and asking you to forward money to someone else (or make a purchase for supposedly job-related costs). Unfortunately, this check will usually bounce, meaning you lose the money spent and your bank may hold you liable.
Don't respond without further research to avoid potential legal and financial problems. Check the sender's email address, verify the opportunity with the company directly and search for reports of potential scams online.
2. Fake job postings
Scammers can target job seekers even on the best job search sites by posting ads for fake jobs. For example, Indeed job scams might feature vague job titles such as "assistant," emphasize high pay for entry-level work or say you can work remotely. LinkedIn job scam postings may lack specific company or job details, could have language and grammar issues, and may even ask you for money.
Only provide personal information if you can verify both the company and job exist — and the poster is who they say they are. Check for the job on the company's official website. If the company is unfamiliar, research it thoroughly. Avoid using unknown job search sites, as scammers could set them up to take your information.
3. Paying for training
Some popular online job scams target people interested in starting home businesses. The scammer will say you can achieve high earnings after completing a paid training or certification process. In reality, you'll pay for those onboarding costs only to find the promised job doesn't exist. This scheme differs from legitimate online training services that require payment in exchange for education but don't promise employment opportunities at the end.
Rather than taking the scammer at their word, look up the course online to see what customers and experts say about its authenticity. Most likely, you're dealing with a scam, as paying upfront for a job isn't typical.
4. High-paying work-from-home jobs
If you see a work-from-home job offering unusually high pay, this could be a remote job scam. The scammer may say you only have to test products, read messages, fill out surveys or answer phone calls for a guaranteed salary. Sounds easy, right?
While high-paying remote jobs do exist, fraudsters are likely to claim you can earn a lot with little effort, skill or experience. Research these alleged companies and job titles to ensure you're applying for an actual remote job. And always avoid any offers requiring payment.
5. Fake recruiting agencies
Scammers may pose as recruiting agencies that boast they can find you the highest-paying jobs in technology or another field. They might contact you via email or LinkedIn and ask for your information. Look out for job recruiter scam red flags such as poor communication, requests for payment, and eventual job offers that sound unreasonable or unclear.
To avoid falling for job recruiting scams, always research both the recruiting agency and recruiter's name before you reply. The firm might not exist or could appear on a list of fake agencies online. As with other scams, refrain from paying them. Legitimate firms won't ask for your money.
6. Interviews using an instant messaging service
Many legitimate companies conduct video job interviews virtually with tools such as HireVue. However, some job interview scams involve exclusively using instant messaging apps such as Telegram to conduct an "interview" over text, meaning you can't see the other party to verify who they are. They usually ask for personal or financial information and disappear without giving you a job.
To avoid falling for a Telegram job scam, avoid participating in instant messaging job interviews — only agree to do video interviews on traditional platforms that major companies use. Additionally, verify both the company and the identity of the potential interviewer. Tools like LinkedIn can help you detect a job interview scam.
7. Online reshipping (postal fraud)
A common remote job scam claims it’ll pay you to receive and ship packages or envelopes across the U.S. or overseas. They usually promise money for the postage plus your commission. But while the scammer might call it a warehouse or shipping coordinator job, you're likely really shipping items the scammer obtained illegally.
Avoid these jobs; they're illegal and illegitimate. If you ship such packages, you could face charges for postal fraud. You can also put yourself at risk of theft because the scammer will have your personal information and address.
8. Government job offers
Some job application scams guarantee a highly paid role with the United States Postal Service or other government agency. The fraudster will typically ask you to pay to apply for the position or take a qualifying government exam.
Since a legitimate government job won't require fees, go directly to the government agency's website and look for the position in the careers section. Remember, the government doesn't guarantee any job upfront — you must meet a set of requirements and undergo an interview process.
9. Data entry scams
Data entry job scams will offer to pay you to type documents or enter information into an online database from home. They are prevalent and often claim you won't need any experience. However, the scammer may ask you to pay ahead of time for training.
Such scammers often just take your personal information or money and never contact you again. Instead of responding to these job ads, research legitimate data entry jobs online and keep your data safe.
10. Career development grants
Authentic career development grants can help cover training and other costs for reaching your goals. But a scammer might pose as an organization and ask you to pay to apply for a grant. In other cases, you could receive a scam email saying you're being awarded a grant and you only need to provide your bank account information and other private details for them to deposit the supposed grant funds.
Career development grants generally require an application, so don't believe any claim that someone has awarded you one randomly or automatically. Legitimate organizations won't ask for a lofty application fee or make you send sensitive information via email. Always apply through an organization's official website.
How to know if a job is a scam
Although imposters use several techniques to trick you into providing payments or personal details, you can protect yourself if you look for common red flags. Signs include a lack of professionalism, attempts to get something from you, unrealistic promises and vague job details.
Unrealistic promises of high salaries or quick and easy money
Scammers like to entice job seekers with positions offering a lot of money for minimal effort. Whether someone wants to pay you to ship packages, work online or provide customer service, you're probably looking at scam job offers if the pay and effort required sound unrealistic.
You can check what's typical for the position and look for scam reports online. You might find warnings from other victims or discover the company or job doesn't exist, indicating a likely scam.
Requesting payment or financial information
A legitimate employer will pay you for your work and won't expect money from you upfront. Any request to send money or provide your bank account or credit card details indicates a likely employment scam.
Proceed with caution if someone asks you to pay for an application process, testing, training or equipment. You should also beware if someone says they'll send you money to cover job-related costs; this could be a fake check scam, where the scammer sends you a fraudulent check to cover a purchase or bank transfer they ask you to make. (These checks tend to bounce after you deposit them, costing you money out of pocket.)
Poor grammar, spelling errors, or unprofessional communication
A legitimate employer or recruiter usually uses proper grammar and spelling. They'll also proofread job posts and emails before sending them. But job offer scams and fake job posts may contain several typos or misuse words. You might also notice that scammers randomly capitalize words, make basic spelling mistakes or use run-on sentences.
The scammer may communicate unprofessionally in other ways, too. For example, they could use a personal email address rather than one from the company's verified domain. They may list fake or suspicious contact information. Such issues indicate the person probably doesn't work for the company and intends to deceive you.
Vague job descriptions that lack specific details about the company or position
A job offer scam may feature an unclear job description that leaves you wondering what type of work you would actually do. For example, an Indeed job scam post might just mention "data entry" or "sales." These vague job posts may not include a specific company name or clear job title but instead highlight a competitive wage to tempt you to respond.
Legitimate employers use clear job descriptions outlining the role, location, duties and requirements. Someone may be scamming you if the job description is missing these items. Search parts of the job description online to see if it's from a legitimate company or a reported scam.
How to report job scams
The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) fraud reporting tool allows you to file a job scam report. It will ask you about the type of scam, any money you paid, the scammer's information and comments about the situation. After you report a job scam, the FTC offers guidance and shares reports with law enforcement as needed. Your state attorney general's website may also have a form for reporting job scams.
You should also contact other organizations, such as the company or job site where the scam originated. For example, LinkedIn has a form for reporting job scams. Similarly, if you're dealing with an Amazon job scam, you can contact the company by email.
If you lose money in a job scam, let the card issuer, bank, gift card or money transfer company know someone scammed you and file a fraud report if possible. Depending on the payment method and your situation, the provider may reverse or refund the charge. If you used cryptocurrency, however, be aware that crypto platforms are largely unregulated. Only the recipient can typically initiate a refund; as such, these payments are usually irreversible on your end.
Summary of Money's common job scams and how to avoid them
Whether you're seeking the highest-paying jobs in retail or the highest-paying jobs in health care, keep these common fake job scams in mind as you conduct your search. If you notice unprofessional communication, payment requests or odd recruiting practices, avoid responding to that job post or email. Rather than risk losing money or having someone misuse your personal information, apply on the company's official site. If you fall for a job recruitment scam (or if you have already), contact entities such as the FTC as soon as possible.