If you’re job hunting on popular sites like ZipRecruiter, Indeed and more, watch out. You’re not the only hunter in the underbrush. In fact, the digital jungle is full of predators who are hungry to devour your private data.
When you’re desperate for a new position to pay the bills, you may miss some glaring red flags in a job posting. Work from home scams are especially risky, according to the Better Business Bureau’s Risk Index. Tap or click here for 10 warning signs of a fake job posting.
Thanks to the pandemic, many Americans were so desperate to pay their bills that they couldn’t recognize fraudulent jobs. In fact, Americans reported 70% more job scams in the first quarter of 2020 alone than in all of 2019, the FTC says. Some criminals even conned fresh college graduates out of thousands.
Scammers love to spoof real companies and take advantage of your optimism
Even Komando employees aren’t immune! Here’s how a job scam played me.
I graduated in December 2019. By January of 2020, I was searching the web for new jobs. I applied to at least three a day, desperate to get my foot in the door and find a good place.
I landed a few promising interviews with big companies, but they always told me afterward that I didn’t have enough experience for their liking. Over time, I lowered my standards, applying for jobs with lower wages and ignoring sloppy typos in emails from employers.
Ultimately, one company got back: Penguin Random House, a huge publishing company. I verified the person emailing me and found their LinkedIn account, so I thought, “Oh, great, this is really happening!” It never occurred to me that a criminal would create a fake job posting and pose as a real person to get the data on my resume.
We emailed a few times back and forth, and the alleged Penguin Random House employee told me to fill in some preliminary paperwork for a background check. Why wouldn’t I? This was after four months of radio silence from employers I’d reached out to, punctured only by rejection letters or emails saying, “Unfortunately, we have decided to move forward with another candidate.”
The few times I’d come close, I’d fallen in favor of another, more qualified candidate. This felt like my big break, and I was going to give it everything I had. In reality, I was running towards my bright future so quickly, I didn’t notice the pit of vipers ahead.
Bad things can happen if you aren’t careful — you could even be involved in crime
When you’re applying for jobs online, you should always have your guard up. Scammers are notorious for impersonating reputable companies. (Sometimes, they’ll even pose as FBI agents!)
They’re banking on you to give them the benefit of the doubt, excusing typos and other signs of unprofessionalism. That’s why you should never let your good nature cloud your judgment. That’s a surefire way to hand out your private information.
Luckily, I recognized the scam before I sent my SSN, but they already had my address, email and phone number from the paperwork I sent over — and that’s incredibly scary on its own. (Later, I sent a follow-up email saying I gave them the wrong address. They demanded the new one, and I handed over the address to a random McDonald’s a few cities away. Hopefully, they fell for it!)
If you aren’t careful, you could give away enough personal information for criminals to take over your accounts. Some scammers will open new bank accounts or use your identity for a deception scam, creating fake driver’s licenses or passports for their criminal activity.
WATCH OUT FOR THIS: The worst identity theft scam you’ve never heard of
Here are the red flags eager job applicants might miss
Speaking of the FBI, they put together a list of signs you need to watch out for. If you see a job posting that rings any of these bells, run for the hills!
- A potential employer asks for your credit card information: A legitimate company won’t do this at all. Even if they try to spin a story about reimbursing you for payments, remember that a real company would give you a credit card with a pre-approved amount of money on it.
- They ask you to purchase equipment: A real company would provide the equipment itself.
- They want to interview you through a teleconferencing app that doesn’t use phone numbers: Think about how easy it is to create a fake email address. It’s way harder to set up a fake phone number posing as someone else.
- The employer uses a private email: Pay close attention to their email address. Does it look like a private Gmail account? They’re doing this for their job — so they’d be contacting you from their work email the whole time.
- The job postings aren’t on the company website: If a job position is legitimate, it will be on third-party job boards and the official site.
- The interviews aren’t in-person or on a secure video call platform: If they ask you to download or use a video call website you’ve never heard of, that’s no good. If they ask you to download software specifically for the interview, that’s a surefire sign of a scam.
Whatever you do, never send a dime to a potential employer. Lots of these scammers will try to persuade you that they’re having a payroll problem. Maybe they’ll say you need to buy a program to work with them.
Don’t fall for it. Otherwise, you could lose a ton of cash. Here’s a horror story in which one job applicant lost over $2,000 to one of these scams!