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What are Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

January 22, 2021 by Daniel Azzoli

Person with an outstretched hand

Have you ever stumbled upon a job opportunity that seems too good to be true? Maybe it was through email, on a job board, or over the phone. Regardless of how you came across it, it’s not always easy to tell if a potential opening is legitimate or not.

The truth is, job scams are a real thing, and the internet is full of increasingly sophisticated scammers looking to prey on those who may not be able to tell what’s real and what’s a potential recipe for disaster.

So, what can you do to help you avoid falling victim to a scammer? How do you recognize a fake job advertisement from a real one? You’re going to want to start by doing your research and making sure you know what to look for.

Whenever you’re on the hunt for jobs online, make sure you have a good understanding of what type of job offer scams are out there and what to keep an eye out for to identify what’s legitimate and what isn’t. This an important step to take when it comes to any type of online scam out there, whether it’s gift card scams, personal loan scams, or more. To get you started, we’re going to go over a few common types of online job scams as well as some common warning signs to look out for.

Common Types of Job Scams

Whether you’ve lost your job and are looking for work or you’re just looking to make a career change in your life, it helps to have an idea of what particular areas or even positions are commonly targeted by scammers when you’re trying to avoid in-person or online job scams. There are plenty of types of job scams out there, many of which we haven’t listed below, but these are some common ones you may want to keep an eye out for.

1. Administrative Job Scams

If you’ve ever looked to get a great deal on a secondhand item, there’s a chance you’ve visited a few popular websites, such as Craigslist. But on top of being a marketplace for people to post their old bikes or used appliances, it’s also a place to visit when you’re looking for work. However, be careful because since its inception, it’s also been a hotbed for scammers looking to take advantage of job hunters.

person using their laptop to look up information on job scams

The types of jobs that you might see posted on this platform can vary, but a common thread is that they’ll often have generic titles. This could be something like, “Administrator”, “Administrative Assistant”, or even “Customer Service Agent”. That’s not to say that every job you see posted with these types of titles is going to be a scam, but you may want to be especially thorough when evaluating these openings, as it has become very common for scammers to post these types on websites.

On top of generic titles, these openings may have some other common traits. These can include things like:

  • Being a work-from-home position
  • Not having a specific company location listed
  • Not being willing to do an in-person interview

2. Data Entry Scams

When you’re looking for a job, work from home job scams should be high up on your list of pitfalls to keep an eye out for. Why? Because of the appealing nature of working from home, scammers may heavily target people looking for these types of roles.

Within the scope of these types of jobs, data entry positions should be ones that you heavily vet before making any commitments. Generally speaking, these jobs don’t require a ton (if any) experience and are fairly entry-level. Because of this, they may appeal to people looking for a way to start working online with a low barrier of entry. So, if you’re approached to start a data entry job where you’ll be working from home, approach with caution. For example, if the hourly pay seems unusually high or you’re not asked to interview, it might be a scam.

3. Freelance Writing Scams

If you have a knack for writing and/or previous writing experience, you may be looking to make a few extra bucks by doing some freelancing online. If you’re in this position, the last thing you’d want is to do good work that goes unpaid, right?

person typing on their laptop and looking up info about job scams

Well, the truth is, there is more than one type of job scam out there. When it comes to scams surrounding freelance work, the goal of a scammer may not be to squeeze a few dollars out of you. Instead, they may be looking to get some free work out of the interaction.

So, how does this typically play out? You might start by seeing a job post for a freelance writing or a research position. As part of the application process, you’ll need to submit some writing samples. Once these are reviewed, you may be asked to submit an even longer sample in the neighborhood of 600 words or more on a specific subject. If you’re being scammed, you won’t get hired but the person scamming you now has a free piece of content to publish that they haven’t paid for, and you’ve just wasted a few hours of hard work for nothing.

What to Look Out For

If you’re looking for a freelance job, there are certain things you’ll want to look out for to avoid being caught up in a scam. First, make sure that some sort of company information is provided. If it’s not easily available and the potential employer is resistant to giving you what you’re looking for, be wary.

Another thing to watch for is how much work you’re handing over before being hired or paid. It’s fairly common for you to need to give a writing sample before being hired for freelance work, but if they continue to ask for more samples, start asking questions before you commit to writing anything else for them.

Signs to Look Out for With Job Scams

Now that we’ve gone over some common online job scams, it’s time to look at some of the key details to look out for to avoid them.

1. Unrealistic Details

It’s not always easy to find a good job, especially after the year we just had in 2020. So, if you’ve stumbled on to a potential job opportunity and some of the details surrounding the job or the interaction seem a little too good to be true, keep your guard up. Here are some things to look out for.

They Reached Out to You: There are times where a recruiter might contact you from a completely legitimate company with a real opportunity. Maybe they found you on LinkedIn, or maybe a former colleague recommended you. But if someone reaches out to you unsolicited and either tells you that you’re in the running for a job, or even that you have the job without any sort of interview, do some more digging into the person and the company.

The Wage is Unrealistic: If you see a job posting that has an unusually high wage, be wary. What does this look like? Well, for example, if you find an entry-level role that’s offering $40 an hour, this may be a red flag. Similarly, if the wage is high and no experience is required, this may not be a legitimate opportunity.

dead end street sign

Like we said about Craigslist, there are some job boards which are populated with fake opportunities from scammers looking to take your money, steal your personal information, or get free work out of you. To lower the chances of falling prey to a scammer, only go on job sites that have visible privacy policies and have ways to verify the employers that post jobs.

2. Poorly Written Emails Without Contact Information

While receiving a well-written email discussing a job opportunity isn’t a guarantee that it’s legitimate, there’s a better chance that a detailed and articulate email is more likely to be real than the opposite. If an email is full of spelling mistakes, wonky grammar, and bizarre punctuation, be careful.

You should also always make sure that the email has the necessary contact information of the company as well as for the person emailing you. This means making sure that their address and phone number are easy to locate and that the person emailing you is using a company email. If they’re using a personal email and tell you that the company is having technical difficulties or some sort of excuse along those lines, be cautious.

3. Hazy Job Descriptions

A legitimate job description will nearly always come with a list of requirements for any potential applicant. Being aware of this, job scammers are likely going to include the same details in their postings. The difference is, the requirements listed in an illegitimate job posting may often be incredibly basic in hopes of attracting a lot of applicants. They could include things like citizenship, being at least 18, having internet access, and more. If there’s no mention of previous work experience or minimum level of education, be careful. Legitimate job descriptions will generally be specific.

You should also make sure that the employer is willing and able to answer questions about the position. If things seem a little vague and you ask for more details, and they ignore you or reassure you that you’ll be trained, don’t settle for this type of answer.

Consider These Warning Signs and Listen to Your Instincts

While it’s important to do your research and make sure you know what things to look out for to avoid job scams, it’s also important to heed that uncomfortable feeling you get when you know something isn’t right. If you ever feel unsure about what’s going on, don’t be afraid to ask questions from the employer and be wary of their answers.

Overall, take your time with this process and never allow yourself to be pressured into making a commitment you’re not comfortable with. Be thorough, do your research, and if you do end up uncovering a scam, make sure to report it!


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