How to Spot Online Job Scams
Waves of layoffs that marked the Great Recession have been accompanied by waves of online job scams designed to steal your identity or financial information. Families across the country have been placed in tough situations – and in many cases – their sense of urgency is overshadowing caution.
To help you better interpret employment postings, we’ve compiled the following tips outlining signs of potential scams:
- Personal Data Requests – Legitimate employers should not request any personal data, such as a driver’s license number or Social Security Number (SSN), until you have met with a company representative in person and accepted the job offer in writing. The one exception would be a job with the U.S. Federal government, which may request SSN prior to employment.
- Utility Bill Requests – There shouldn’t be any reason a potential employer would need to see a utility bill. According to the Department of Homeland Security, utility bills cannot be used as a form of identification to determine employment availability, for citizens or non-citizens.
- Website Issues – When researching jobs online, be sure the website domain of the company you wish to work for is correct. Many scammers will develop websites with domains that are similar to well-known companies in hopes of eliciting personal information. Also take note of the quality of the site. Are there significant grammatical errors? Do the claims seem too good to be true? Are there issues with functionality? These may be signs the company is a sham.
- Outstanding Offers – Be suspicious of seemingly amazing offers that don't match your job skills, or a work-from-home gig that enables you to make a six-figure income with very little effort. If getting rich quick was really that easy, we’d all be doing it. Additionally, be skeptical of companies that extend offers to you when you never inquired. Some scam artists will claim they saw your resume on an online portal. Research any request thoroughly before responding. You can verify companies with a local phone book, Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Who Is database. You can also drive by their physical locations.
- E-mail Address Provider – Check the e-mail address of individuals responding to your job inquiries. It can be a red flag when potential employers use free e-mail providers like Gmail or Yahoo rather than e-mail addresses with the company name.
- Up-front Fees – Individuals who request payment for job leads or job placement may be scam artists. You should never have to pay for a job. If you are paying for a job recruitment service, be sure to verify its legitimacy with the BBB and make any payments in person.
If you suspect you are the victim of an online job scam, first check your credit report for any irregularities at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also create a temporary fraud alert with each of the three major credit bureaus:
• Experian: 1 (888) 397-3742• TransUnion: 1 (800) 680-7289• Equifax: 1 (800) 525-6285
To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), visit the FTC Complaint Assistant.