Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the frustrations of imaginary jobs posted on internet job boards. In it, I referred to legitimate companies that post job opportunities that may or may not have existed at one time, but are now only posted to entice job seekers to submit their resumes to the company for non-existent jobs. But there is another type of imaginary job – the job scam.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get an e-mail with the name of a job posting site in the subject line, and content that says something like:

Hey, I’m swamped at work, and my boss authorized me to addon [sic] 2 people to help me finish inputting all of this data. It pays very good.

These e-mails tend to follow free postings I have submitted to the site listed in the subject line of the e-mails. The text above is from one such e-mail I received about a month ago. There was a hyperlink at the end to click on in order to respond. Some days I receive the exact same e-mail, misspellings and all, from two different names with two different e-mail addresses. These e-mails always bring to mind a few questions:

  1. Are these job scams cleverly thought out in great detail, with the simplistic language and frequent misspellings carefully crafted in order to lead the target to believe they are applying to a well-intentioned employer seeking help through a personable e-mail? Or perhaps they are created by someone who is actually stupid enough to launch a job scam and send out thousands of e-mails without first proofreading the content. It has to be one of the two. But more importantly…
  2. Do people really fall for these???

As hard as it is for me to believe, the answer to number 2 must be ‘yes,’ considering the frequency with which I receive these e-mails. The only ridiculousness I see more often comes from an overly polite Nigerian gentleman who, despite his position of royalty, somehow always chooses me to accept an unusually large sum of money he is having trouble wiring to a U.S. bank. All I have to do is provide him with my personal information and, once the money has been wired, he will split it with me. Needless to say, I have no plans to retire to the Caribbean any time soon.

Job Scam Targets

While anyone can fall prey to a job scam, most scams target those who seek out work-from-home positions. According to Christine Durst (co-founder and CEO of Staffcentrix) women with children who are not in a position to work an 8 to 5 office job and who do not have a college degree are a popular demographic for job scammers to target. Another is seniors who have retired from the workforce, but are looking to supplement their income due to the declining stock market. Unfortunately, those who most often fall prey to internet job scams are the ones who can least afford it.

Avoiding Job Scams

So what can you do to avoid these scams? In reality, the worse the economy gets and the higher the unemployment rate rises, the more people will reach the point of desperation and respond to these scammers in the hopes of gaining employment. But there are still several elements you can look out for in order to not fall victim to a job scam:

  • Never pay money up front. No legitimate employer will ask a job applicant to front money in order to get hired. Anyone asking you to send money, join a paid site or divulge personal information should be considered suspect.
  • Any job that advertises the opportunity to work from home should be subject to extra scrutiny. While many employees in consultative roles work from home, most of us try for years to convince our employers to let us do so. Be wary of any entry-level position that offers the privilege up front.
  • If a job ad states “no experience necessary,” know that a legitimate job will pay accordingly. If an ad claims to offer thousands of dollars a week with no experience required, this should immediately send up a red flag. Employers who are seeking entry-level employees will still usually request a resume and want to set up an interview to make sure you fit the company culture. Then expect to start at the bottom of the pay scale.

For those who are seeking an entry-level job, a work-from-home position, or both of these, they do exist. But extra caution is necessary in order to avoid job scams. When you job hunt, always hunt smart. Finding a job isn’t like winning the lottery. Expect to follow the same procedure as any other job seeker with regard to submitting your resume, interviewing and salary negotiation. Remember to let your common sense prevail – no one ever got rich by answering a mass e-mail that just happened to land in their inbox. If a job opportunity seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

Image: Shutterstock

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.