Con Job: Recognizing and avoiding job scams

job scam scammerI’ll never understand how someone can sleep at night when they spend their time taking advantage of other people. Even more so, when the people they target are already vulnerable. There’s a particularly vile brand of scammer who targets people looking for a job; people who in many cases are already vulnerable and lacking confidence, and sometimes already feeling a financial pinch. Let’s take a closer look at job scams to see how they work, and how you can protect yourself.

Who are the victims of job scams?

You might be thinking, “I’d never fall for something like that”. Before you dismiss this outright and stop reading, let me assure you that I’ve spoken with a lot of people in professional careers who have either been taken in, or nearly were; highly intelligent people who – one might think – should know better. Scammers know that some people are really confident in their ability to recognize a scam. So confident, in fact, that they can easily miss the warning signs. You may not be as immune to job scams as you think.

How can you tell if a job is a scam?

Most of these con jobs start when a job seeker has uploaded their resume to one of the job-search sites. They’re contacted by someone posing as an employer offering them a position. It seems almost too good to be true – the job doesn’t sound too difficult, it comes with a great salary and benefits, and the ability to work from home. You’ve got all the qualifications (and you might not notice that they’re broad enough that just about anyone would). The interview is a fast-track process, sometimes even just by chat message or email, sometimes by phone. Never in person, but to reassure you, the ‘employer’ explains that they hire everyone remotely this way, since everyone works from home. You ace the interview, and before you know it, you’ve got an offer in hand. Or at least it seems like you do.

How do job scams work?

The scammers are in this for two things. Some want your money, some want your information, and some go for both.

The ones looking for your information use the ‘onboarding’ process to get it. There’s a form that needs to be filled out, they say, to make sure you get paid and get signed up for benefits. All your contact information, of course, your Social Insurance or Social Security Number, your banking information; all pretty normal, right? Well, as it happens, that’s also the information that a criminal needs to steal your ID.

The scammers who want your money get it by convincing you to send it right to them. How? One of your first duties as an employee is to buy some supplies or equipment. Nothing too expensive, just stuff you’ll need to outfit your home office. And of course, your new ‘employer’ would never expect you to buy it on your own, so they send you a cheque to cover the expense. In fact, the funds they send more than cover it, because your next job as the ‘employee’ – after you buy the things they’ve asked you to – is to send the balance to someone else; a supplier, they say. Usually, they tell you to do this by wire transfer. Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast …

The call from your bank comes a few days later. That cheque you deposited? It was counterfeit, a fake. The account it was supposed to be drawn from doesn’t exist. Yes, everything about it, right down to the company logo, seemed completely legitimate. It might even have been a real company’s logo (scammers often convincingly impersonate actual companies), but everything else was a fabrication. By this time, the wire transfer has gone through. The money you sent wasn’t your employer’s, it was yours. At this point, your chances of getting it back are slim to none.

People have lost thousands of dollars to job scams this way. People who – in some cases – could least afford that loss. It’s cruel, it’s heartless, and I will never understand how these lowlifes can sleep at night when they do this to another person.

How to protect yourself from being job scammed

If you’re actively on the market, you’ve probably got resumes sitting on one or more job sites. Be cautious. When an employer contacts you, do your research and listen to your gut. Go directly to the company’s website to make sure that everything lines up with what you’re seeing from the recruiter. Watch for these warning signs that it might be a job scam:

  • The job seems too good to be true
  • Email address domains don’t match the company’s
  • There’s no in-person interview (only text or email)
  • They require a lot of personal/financial information
  • You have to deposit a cheque and send money elsewhere

If some of these red flags are there, it might not be a job you’re interviewing for … it might be a job scam. Investigate, and be ready to walk away so you don’t lose your ID or your money.



Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash