Over the last several months, many people have found themselves job hunting online. With the rise in COVID-19 cases in the spring and businesses temporarily shut down, the unemployment rate was the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, leaving a lot of people scrambling to find stable work.
For a lot of people, this was the first time navigating online job boards. Websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Zip Recruiter help connect businesses looking to fill positions and available applicants.
However, this is the perfect playground for scammers. Fraudsters will post fake job offerings and trick people, who are frantically looking for a job, into giving them personal information that can be used fraudulently. And while using these websites to scam people is not something new, with the uptick in job searches, spotting these types of scams can be difficult.
Something else to consider is that while these signs of scamming may seem obvious to some people, those who are desperately trying to find an open position to support themselves will sometimes miss these red flags because they are so focused on finding a job. Instead of noticing how strange it is that a recruiter or Human Resources recruiter might ask you to do some of these tasks, you instead bypass that gut feeling and are simply relieved that you found a job you can rely on for income.
We know how confusing navigating these websites can be, so we want to make sure you keep your eyes peeled if you or someone you know is searching for a job. Here are some things to look out for when it comes to searching for jobs online, so that your information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
Requesting Personally Identifying Information
There are recent reports of fraudsters posing as recruiters and using these job-listing websites as a way to retrieve personal information from those looking for a job. These scammers tend to create fake job postings, making them appear to be from a reputable company, and then using this as a way to get personally identifying information.
These scammers will typically take applicants through an email interview, where applicants answer questions via email instead of a formal interview (either in-person or video chat). Once you have accepted a fake job offer, these fraudsters will request that you send copies of identifying information, such as your driver's license and passport. However, once they have this information, they are never heard from again, and can use your information to open up accounts, take out loans, and commit other fraudulent behavior.
It is important to know that legitimate job recruiters or HR reps will never request this type of information, and you should make sure to report any job listing that is requiring applicants to do so.
Paying to Get a Job
Another way to know if the job that you recently accepted is a scam is if they require you to pay in order to get the job. Many scammers will charge an “up-front fee” and make you send them money via wire, check or gift card.
These fees could include:
- Software: If the job that you are looking at requires that you purchase some software upfront, then it is most definitely a scam.
- A credit report or credit check: some scammers will ask that you send them money to pay for a credit report or credit check, however, most employers will handle the costs associated with these reports.
- To have your resume reviewed by a professional: another ploy by job board scammers that is used is to have you pay money to have your resume reviewed by a professional before they take a look at it. This is most likely to get you to pay for the resume service, and the job offer will not necessarily be there at the end of it.
While these scammers may sound convincing, never send payment to a recruiter when applying for or accepting a job offer. This type of scam is geared towards people who are desperate for a job right now. If you do receive an offer from a company and they ask you to pay an upfront fee of any kind, the job posting is not legitimate and should be reported.
Additionally, something else to be on the lookout for is check scams. Scammers have been known to send a fake check to an applicant with instructions to cash the check, purchase office supplies for their office, and then send back the remainder of the money. This is especially relevant right now, as many companies are offering employees to work from home. However, this is a clear sign that you are being scammed, as the check will bounce and you will be left with a charge from your financial institution.
Additionally, scammers are now using this classic check scam as a way to launder money. Some scammers will send you a fake check and ask you to deposit it into your personal account. Then, they will ask that you send only a certain amount to another bank account. However, this money laundering scam can cost you, as when the check bounces, you will be left to pay back fees to the bank.
Can’t Find Consistent Information About the Company
If you are questioning whether the job offer you received is legitimate, then it may be beneficial to take a deeper dive into the company and perform some quick Google searches. Legitimate companies will have information readily available on their website or even on their Facebook page. However, if you find that you are coming across little or conflicting information about the company in question, then the job offer could be a scam.
For instance, if you are finding little information about the company that you received an offer from, this is a red flag. Well-established companies that have a solid foundation will want to have information readily available, for both applicants and potential new customers. If you are finding no information about the company, it may be time to move on from that job offer.
Additionally, a common tactic used by scammers is to pretend that they represent a well-known company. An example would be someone saying that they work at “Johnson and Johnson,” however, a quick Google search will reveal that the correct spelling of that company is “Johnson & Johnson” with the ampersand in the middle.
Scammers have often been known to send fake websites in order to appear legitimate. It can be difficult to tell if a website is legitimate or not, and one way to combat this is to use the Domain White Pages to see when the website was created. In this case, if the recruiter claims that “Johnson and Johnson” has been around for more than a hundred years, but the IP address in the Domain White Pages says that the website was created within the last year, then this person is most likely not a real recruiter.
Communication is a Little ‘Off’
Even though there is so much technology and communication tools at our fingertips, one way to tell if you might be getting scammed is if the communication seems a little strange. Most HR reps or recruiters will want to schedule a time to talk over the phone or have a one-on-one meeting where they can get to know you and you can explain your skill set is depth. However, if a recruiter from a job board website is only communicating with you via email or messenger app, then this could be a scam.
Additionally, if you notice a lot of major grammatical mistakes, such as misspelling, strange word usage, strange capitalization or punctuation errors, take it as a red flag. These small mistakes could be an indication that you are not communicating with a real recruiter.
If you are communicating with a potential employer, pay attention to their email signature. Most major companies will have an official email signature so that anyone they are communicating with can easily get in contact with them. However, if the recruiter or head of HR that you are talking to via email does not have any information on how to get a hold of them, such as a direct line or cell phone number, then you may want to proceed with caution. Because scammers want to be as vague as possible, they often will limit how they receive communication, so this could be a red flag to pay attention to.
While we are on the topic of email communication, make sure to keep an eye on the email domain that you receive recruitment emails from. Legitimate recruiters will email applicants from a domain registered to the business, whereas scammers tend to use Gmail or Yahoo accounts that look similar to the company’s email address.
The Offer is Too Good to be True
Another tried and true way to know if you are being scammed on job boards is to think about the offer itself, and if it seems like the offer is ‘too good to be true,’ then it is most likely a scam. Scammers will often present a job offer that have outstanding benefits or pay, offering way more than what is considered normal for your industry. This is a ploy to get you more interested and get you to send them more personal information.
Some things to look out for would be:
- They mention that they found your resume online
- The listed salary is way above the job requirements
- They inform you that you have received and been offered the job after only messaging you briefly, with no formal interview.
While this may seem obvious to some, those who are in need of a job and ardently looking for something on available will oftentimes miss these signs. Pay attention to what the recruiter is offering so that you can avoid this scam.
What to Do if You Fall Victim to a Job Offer Scam
So, we know what to look out for, but what do you do if you have already fallen victim to one of these scams? Here are some action steps for you if you or someone you know was recently scammed.
- Report the scam to the job board. Whether it was a reputable company or one you might not be too familiar with, make sure to report them immediately.
- Freeze your credit report, especially if you gave the recruiter personally identifying information that could be used to open up credit cards in your name.
- File a report with the FTC. One of the best things you can do for you and your community is to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. From here, you will be given easy steps on how to report the fraudulent behavior and what your next steps should be.
We want to make sure your information doesn’t end up in the hands of a fraudster, so stay vigilant about who you give your information out to. If you want to learn more about how Blackhawk Bank can help you, contact us today!
VP Physical & Information Security