Internet job scams: how to spot common red flags

In many ways, the internet has made searching for a new job easier than ever, but it has also made the process more dangerous. Scammers troll the internet in search of easy victims they can target with job scams. Fake employment opportunities can be found on Craigslist, social networking sites, and even job sites.

When searching for a new job online, be on the lookout for the following employment scam red flags:

  • Insufficient information

If the individual contacting you is using a personal email address instead of a work email address or if you aren’t given any additional contact information, such as a phone number or business address, the position is likely a scam. Other red flags include vague position descriptions and job requirements, lack of salary details, and no requirements for previous education or experience. You should also be worried if you search the name of the company on the internet and no results pop up.

Tip: If the email address looks suspicious, copy and paste it into the search box to see if it’s connected to a legitimate company. You can also type in the word ‘scam’ after the email address or the name of the employer to see if anyone else has reported the company for a job scam.

  • Lack of professionalism

Unprofessional emails that contain typos, misspellings, incomplete sentences, and other punctuation or grammar errors are common indicators that the employment opportunity is a scam. Another red flag is being asked to conduct an online interview using a nonprofessional chat service, such as Yahoo messenger. The safest way to conduct an interview remotely is to use Skype; but, even then, you should exercise caution and be on the lookout for other potential warning signs that the job isn’t what it appears to be.

  • Being asked to give out sensitive information

A legitimate employer will never ask you to provide sensitive personal information like your credit card number, banking information, driver’s license number, or social security number until you’re officially hired and filling out employment forms. If you are asked to provide this kind of information during the interview process, the position is probably a scam.

  • Being told that direct deposit is a requirement

A common scam among work-from-home and telecommuting jobs is being told that the only way to pay you is through direct deposit. The scammer then takes your account information, steals your money, and you never hear from him/her again. Using direct deposit can be very convenient, but real employers never require it. If you choose to use direct deposit, be sure to accept the job offer and complete new hire paperwork before providing any bank account information.

  • Being asked to wire money

As a potential new employee, you should never have to pay for things such as a credit report, background check, computer software, equipment insurance, or training—even if the employer claims they will reimburse you. Another common trick scammers use is saying that they accidentally overpaid you for something and they need you to send the “extra” money elsewhere. This is a huge red flag and is often linked to money laundering, which is a federal offense. A real employer will never ask you to forward money to a third party.

At the end of the day, the best advice to keep in mind when searching for a job online is to trust your gut instinct. If something feels wrong during the interview process or if the position sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To reduce the chance you’ll get scammed, use job sites that have privacy policies and only allow verified employers to view the listings.

If you’ve been targeted by an employment scam, you can help others avoid being scammed by reporting the incident to the Federal Trade Commission or the Better Business Bureau.


Guest blogger: August Braun

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