Preventing Job Seekers from Being Scammed

By Sandi Sibilio

People who are looking for work utilize the internet and social media as critical job search tools. Meanwhile, job scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at taking advantage of our reliance on technology, often by posing as real employers. Their most vulnerable prey: recent college graduates as they conduct a first job search; individuals with gaps in work history, a criminal history, or a disability; and retirees looking to supplement their income who may not be familiar with current technology.

As a career counselor, I have had many clients excitedly tell me about the amazing job offer they got over the phone - if they just send in money to pay for their training costs, or give their bank account information so that their paychecks can be deposited. It is no easy feat convincing a person who has no income and the rent due that they are being preyed upon. Preparing job seekers in advance for the red flags to look for before they start their job search is a good strategy to prevent them from being scammed. If the seed has been planted, people may be more open to reporting a scam, or at least to considering that the job that sounds “too good to be true” may be just a scam.

Warning Signs
Career counselors should coach people to be wary when:

  • Upfront payment is requested to get the job – for example: for a software program needed to work from home, or training materials, credit or background check fees, a work visa, or travel expenses
  • A job advertisement is vague about the position and requirements
  • Information about a job is not on company letterhead or uses bad grammar or punctuation in communications; or the company sends multiple recruitment letters – sometimes identical letters from people with different names but the same job title
  • A recruiter uses a free e-mail address like @gmail.com instead of an e-mail from the business’s domain name with a business address and phone number
  • A job is offered without the submission of a resume, or after a brief or no interview
  • The job posting says “no experience required”, or the employer is not interested in your work history or skills
  • A request is made by phone, text, or e-mail for personal information - social security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, credit card information, or bank account information - so that paychecks can be directly deposited
  • The job opportunity looks too good to be true: easy work with high pay, high starting salary for an entry-level job, or wages way above the typical pay for a similar job
  • The recruiter requests you to recruit others for the same position
  • The recruiter pressures you to accept the job
  • A person high up the corporate ladder – CEO, company owner, or HR Director - is recruiting you
  • A company approaches you about a job for which you didn’t apply.

Proactive Avoidance of Scams
A career counselors can assist job seekers when they’re unsure about a job solicitation. First and always, check out the company online. Search the company on the internet and the word “scam” and see if others have reported being scammed by the so-called company. A legitimate company is likely to have a webpage; a company with no internet presence should be suspect. Share information about a scam with other counselors. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have a repository of reported scammers that can be checked when a job is suspicious. The FTC recommends victims of a scam file a complaint with them. This will prevent others from being scammed and make officials aware of the problem. Information can be found at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0243-job-scams

Job scams can result in identity theft, loss of confidence, legal problems, and loss of money. Being scammed can add tremendously to the stress of unemployment. As career counselors, we need to make people aware of the signs of a job scam, and of how to avoid being the victim of one.


Sandi Sibilio, MS, SHRM-CP, CWDP, Director of Career Development Services at Fellowship Place, a non-profit mental health agency, has over 15 years of experience helping individuals to reach their career goals. You can contact her at sandisibilio@gmail.com or connect with her at www.linkedin.com/in/sandi-sibilio

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