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This story originally appeared on Zippia.com.
When doing a job in the online marketplace, it is easy to feel bombarded by the multitude of search websites and career opportunities that are available to you.
When you look through all of this information, it is not always easy to tell the difference between a legitimate job and an unforgiving scam.
Not to mention, scammers are getting more sophisticated and finding new ways to take advantage of job seekers.
With this in mind, it's important to be aware of the common red flags. After all, your best defense is your own knowledge and research.
Here are key methods you can use to identify and avoid job fraud.
While it is unfortunate that there are people who take advantage of others, knowing these common red flags can save you irreplaceable time and money.
What is job fraud?
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Unfortunately, there are a multitude of job scams with different goals.
Fraudsters can attempt to steal your identity by collecting sensitive information, trying to trick you into cashing fraudulent checks or sending them money, or tricking you into paying for the services and supplies you want.
Scammers often target social media websites, job boards, and forums. So you should be careful wherever you look.
Whether you are on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, or any website in between, there is always a risk of encountering scams. You can even receive unsolicited email from people with dubious intent.
With that in mind, here is a list of the most common frauds that can occur in the job market.
1. Data entry fraud
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Data entry fraud is a classic case of "it's too good to be true". These scams provide you with a high paying job that requires very little to no experience.
Typically, these scams require prepayment for processing or training, and very rarely get as well paid as advertised. While there are legitimate data entry jobs, they rarely offer extravagant wages.
2. Pyramid schemes
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As the title suggests, pyramid schemes require the recruitment and payment of many people to support only a few.
Typically, there is no product involved in a pyramid marketing program, just the exchange of money between the child and parent members.
In order for someone to make money with a pyramid scheme, someone else has to lose money. Often times you are someone when you are hired.
Because of this, these scams are illegal in the US and many other countries.
3. Bait and switch fraud
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With these scams, scammers are trying to convince you by offering you an interview for one job while they are actively planning to have you interviewed for another.
By attending the interview, you may find that the position you applied for does not exist and that the company is trying to get you to take on a completely different position.
In general, companies perform this type of scam when they have a job they are sure no one wants. You may think that it is easier to convince someone to take the job if they discuss it in person.
4. Credit Report Fraud
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In this scenario, fake employers are demanding your creditworthiness as part of the hiring process.
Typically, the “employer” will ask you to use a specific service that will cost you money, even if they claim the process is free.
Ultimately, neither part of it is legitimate and they are trying to get you to pay for a credit report. Worse still, the scammer can potentially use the information they want to steal your identity.
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These scams are popular with thieves worldwide because the money transferred is instant and nearly impossible to track.
To make matters worse, these transactions are extremely difficult to reverse, which means you may never be able to recover your lost money.
While the referral request appears legitimate, it is known that fraudsters impersonate executives, managers, and other people in positions of influence in the company. Hence, you shouldn't trust titles.
In reality, these scammers are using multiple fake phone numbers, accounts, etc. so you should never send money to someone you don't know.
6. Direct Deposit Fraud
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Similar to a wire transfer, these scams are difficult to fix. To make this scam work, a fake employer offers a job that is "too good to be true".
If you were in the wrong position, the scammer would then say that they can only deliver your paychecks via direct deposit and therefore need your bank account details. Unfortunately, after receiving this information, the "employer" is likely to steal all of the money in your account and you will never hear from them again.
7. Phishing scams
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Typically in this scam, someone will send you an email stating that you are a perfect fit for a fake company / position.
However, you will find that if you are unable to apply directly for the position in question, you will be given a link to an unrelated website instead.
On this website, you will be asked to fill out a form with your contact information and other personal information.
If you fill this out, the scammer will have access to your personal information which they can use either to sell to a third party or to steal your identity.
8. Unemployment fraud
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Scammers can also use unemployment insurance and social benefits to lure you into their scam. A person or fake company may offer to fill out or submit your unemployment insurance claim for a one-time fee.
They will try to appear as professional as possible and claim to be affiliated with your state Department of Labor, but that in itself is not a reason why you should trust them.
Top 10 Job Fraud Warning Signs
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Given the multitude of job scams, it's important to spot the red flags that most scammers share. Here are the top 10 warning signs to watch out for.
1. Unsolicited Offers
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Whether you receive a call, email, or message on social media, receiving unsolicited job offers is generally not a good sign.
Often times, these offers are for jobs you've probably never heard of or applied to, and either offer immediate employment or the chance to get an interview for a great job.
Scammers can claim to be from reputable job boards and social media sites. Therefore, you should never trust them based on their credentials or their alleged source.
While a legitimate recruiter may point you out of a real job, you should always be careful about receiving unsolicited offers. Treat any unsolicited offer as job fraud – no matter where it comes from.
2. The job is "too good to be true"
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One of the easier ways to spot job fraud is to evaluate the promised quality of the job based on the simplicity of the position requirements.
When you compare these two aspects of the offer, you may find that the job is "too good to be true". Here are a few examples:
- They were offered an entry-level position with a salary well above the average.
- The position requires little to no experience.
- There are no application and interview processes.
- You can start working right away.
- You were contacted first.
Even if there are great jobs out there, it is good to be careful if you think an offer you've received ticks off some of the signs on this list.
Before starting your job search, evaluate your own experiences and expectations so that you have an idea of which positions would realistically match your qualifications.
3. The job description and requirements are too vague
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Although scammers try to create a credible job advertisement, they tend to make the job description and requirements too ambiguous.
This is because the criteria should apply to as many people as possible so that more people are attracted to the scam.
For example, they can write that you must be 18 years old, a citizen of your country of residence, or that you need access to the Internet. You will almost never mention years of education or experience as a requirement for the position as it would exclude a large number of people who might get caught up in their scams.
In general, trusted job postings have quite specific requirements. When in doubt, do some research online to find out what to expect in specific areas or with individual companies.
4. Your research doesn't add up
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When deciding whether or not to take on a position that you are interested in, it is important to find out about the employer and company concerned.
When faced with a real company, you should be able to find their website, social media page, or other source that confirms their legitimacy. Do not trust a company that you cannot find information about.
Skilled scammers can set up believable fake websites. In this case, however, beware of duplicate websites or use the website's domain or IP address to see how old it is. Typically, corporate websites that are less than a year old are not very trustworthy.
Additionally, you may find that there are scammers out there who pretend to represent real companies. By doing research, you can also uncover inconsistencies in these fraudulent offers.
For example, if you receive an email from a well-known company about a job vacancy, check how that company normally publishes its job vacancies.
If the descriptions you received do not match the descriptions the company typically posts on job boards, then you may have been fraudulent.
5. Missing contact information
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When you've received an email or found a job posting that interests you, look out for the employer's contact information.
For example, it is extremely unprofessional and unlikely for a company to send an email that does not include the address, email address, and phone number below.
Also, don't believe anyone who tells you they need to send you an email with their personal email because the company's servers are down or because the company hasn't yet set up their email system.
For security reasons, copy the email address from the email you received and paste it into your search bar. Check the results. You might find spam reports or the email address of the real company that someone is impersonating.
6. Spelling and grammar differences
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Look out for incorrect spelling and grammar while browsing a job posting or reading an email you've received.
Overall, a company would never post or post professional job vacancies without doing it again. Professionalism is important to any valid business.
With that in mind, here are some inconsistencies to watch out for:
- spelling mistake. While this is the most unlikely mistake you will encounter, there is no way you should trust an email with misspelled words.
- Grammatical mistakes. Correct grammar can sometimes be difficult to determine, so be even more vigilant about this. For example, "You are invited to join us" is correct while "You are invited to join us" is incorrect.
- Capitalization errors. Companies are careful to capitalize on certain things. Company names, titles, and locations should all be capitalized: "Google", not "Google".
- Punctuation errors. Things like commas, periods, and brackets should always be followed by a space.
7. You will be offered an online messaging interview or you can skip the interview
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Some scams will tell you that your interview is being conducted through an online instant messaging service, or they can even try to convince you that you can start work right away without an interview.
Even if you have been offered a remote work position, it is not normal. If the "employer" refuses to offer you a phone or face-to-face interview, it may be fraud.
These scammers may also include instructions on how to contact the hiring manager that requires you to reveal sensitive information.
If you consent to a messaging interview, you'll want to ask detailed questions about the position during the interview. Don't be fooled just because the interview questions sound legitimate, and watch out for overly personal questions regarding your social security number, bank account, or credit card information.
8. You are requesting confidential information
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In many job scams, the fraudster's goal is to obtain information about your identity, bank account, or credit cards. With this information, they can steal your identity and your hard-earned money.
Therefore, never trust a job offer or employer who will quickly request your private information such as your social security or credit card numbers.
For example, scammers can try to send you to websites that are likely to fill in this information, even if you haven't received an interview or other credible information about the company.
While there are cases where you may need to provide personal information, these steps are well advanced in the hiring process if you should be aware of the legitimacy of the company.
Overall, you should check that websites are safe and do your research.
9. You are expected to pay for something
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No legitimate company will ask you to pay for any part of the hiring process. If so, you should refuse.
Here are some things that scammers might have to pay you for:
- Buy and download this program / software. If an "employer" tells you that you will need to pay to access a program or software that is necessary to advance your job hiring process, use caution. You should never have to pay for the software or programs you need for a job, and you shouldn't trust anything that prompts you to download.
- Pay for a credit report. As mentioned earlier, fake employers may ask you to use a specific service to prepare a credit report. Even if they claim this service is free, getting a credit report is not a normal part of the hiring process and you shouldn't trust it. In the worst case scenario, the scammer may even try to steal your identity.
- Pay to improve your resume. Scammers may tell you that you need to update and improve your resume before you can reapply for the position. They may refer you to a service or person who can review your resume and provide you with an estimated cost. No real employer wants you to do this.
Regardless of the request, you shouldn't trust an "employer" who has to pay you for something before you can get the job.
10. Trust your instincts
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No matter how smart the scammer is, job cheating will generally feel troubling from the start.
Do your research, ask questions, and pay close attention to the answers you get. Often you can spot small discrepancies right from the start.
Never let someone press you to do something you are not comfortable with. Trust your gut and stop talking to someone who makes you feel uncomfortable.
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