Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Employment Scammers and How to Spot Them

job_scamTimes are tough out there. Which means a lot of workers are getting less picky about what they apply for – and many of them have let down their guard to trust someone – only to be disappointed. Increasingly desperate job seekers Stephen A. Cox of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) writes, “The dismal employment rate means that a lot of people are desperate for work and may be grasping for any job which creates a great opportunity for scammers.”

There are some well-established red flags, though, that can help tip you off to an employment scam. Here are some of the warning signs, according to the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau:

Orphan email addresses. Use caution when responding to any generic email address with a domain that does not correspond with any business’s Web site, or with emails going somewhere other than to a company executive or the human resources department.

Sites promising access to “previously undisclosed federal jobs.” All federal jobs are posted on www.usajobs.com.

Emails that don’t greet you by name. This is a classic sign of a spammer, not someone legitimately looking for a qualified applicant for a real opening.

“I saw your resume at Jobsite.com” when you never posted anything at Jobsite.com.

Job guarantees. Legitimate companies have a hiring process and screens. They don’t want anyone who is going to reflect poorly on their company, or who will be a potential source of liability. They aren’t going to guarantee a job to you, sight unseen, without knowing anything about you.

“Thousands of jobs!” Be wary of any email or web site boasting that they have thousands of jobs at Fortune 500 companies clamoring to fill them, without providing more specifics, advises the New York State Department of Labor. Legitimate recruiting firms advertise specific jobs to targeted applicants, and will have detailed information about relevant openings.

Phone numbers with area codes 809, 876 or 284. These are Caribbean phone numbers. The scammers lure you into calling the number and listening to a long recording of someone reading job listings. You are busy writing down these “leads.” They are busy charging you $5 per minute in phone charges.

Premature demands for a Social Security number. For the most part, you aren’t required to provide this information until at least the interview stage. Be wary of anyone holding themselves out as an employer who demands personally identifying information, including your date of birth and Social Security Number before you actually come in for an interview.

Requests for money up front. Legitimate businesses do not require a “deposit” to “reserve your place” for a job, nor do they require money for a “background check,” which should be among the last steps in the process before you are formally offered a position, anyway. However, some jobs will request you provide an official set of fingerprints from your local law enforcement agency, and there may be a fee to have this done. You normally pay that fee to the local law enforcement agency, though, not to the employer.

‘Get rich quick’ schemes. These should be obvious by now, but people still fall for them.
Many fake offers promise a high salary and benefits package in exchange for little work and minimal to no experience. Still other phony employers make equally baseless claims to give you a job from the comfort of your home. Though both of these scenarios sound ideal, they are often an effort to exploit the unemployed or student population that are desperate to secure an income. There are many job opportunities that do offer options to telecommute or work from home; however, it is vital to do your research on the company to confirm that the offer is real.

It’s prudent to be cautious when you are applying for a new job. Monica Vaca of the Federal Trade Commission suggests that applicants “follow up with the offices of any company or organization mentioned in an ad or an interview by an employment service to find out if the company is really hiring”. Some employment scammers may falsely claim to be recruiting for a business that isn’t actually hiring. This is why it is crucial to always do your research when looking for a new job. The Better Business Bureau can help you to research a company’s reputation, and the Federal Trade Commission is another handy resource for additional information about employment scams and other common scams (www.ftc.gov/bcp/index.shtml).

Doing your research on a promising job offer can pay off by saving you valuable time and money. As the age-old adage goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Real jobs nationwide in Vitaver’s CAREERS section.

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16 Responses to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Employment Scammers and How to Spot Them

  1. Charles Asay says:

    This is good reading for all Job hunters, thanks for posting it.

  2. Dana Gentles says:

    That’s for sure, also be aware of the online agencies asking for money in exchange for jobs or that the membership that gives first choice but in essence no job offers that leaves the unemployed more broke and frustrated.

  3. Wendy says:

    Great information! I’ve received many of those annoying messages. (ie. work from home etc.. or work as a transfer agent). I just delete them now and wish I could completely get rid of them. I like this web-site. I’m going to add it to my favorites.

  4. mumtaz ahmed says:

    I just had the same insident last week, someone wanted me to give him money first, I. Knew exactly this was not a real deal, he called me from India, I can’t even understand his english it was the worst ever english I ever heard, but lucky me, I was one ahead for him, it would be so good if we can catch these kind of people, honestly, the world will be a better place without them.

  5. Helena Hellman says:

    Good article! It was very interesting to read it. Thanks!

  6. Emily H. Robideau says:

    That is a great article. Sadly this is becoming the norm.

  7. Jonathan says:

    I have posted a short essay (about 2500 words) of all the red flags I’ve come across so far (about 25 major categories) broken down by phase: job search, phone screen/first contact, interivew, and on the job.

    If you are connected to LinkedIn and part of the Linked:HR group, you may view it here: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Red-Flags-Spot-During-Job-3761.S.228182810?view=&gid=3761&type=member&item=228182810

    Otherwise, feel free to contact me at my email address carey (dot) jonathan (at) gmail (dot) com to receive a copy.

    Thanks,

    Jon

  8. Anita Woodruff says:

    There are some very useful tips here. Thanks for sharing this article.

  9. Colan Mirela says:

    Unfortunately this happens not only in USA but worldwide and on all social sites including LinkedIn.

  10. Richard Colligan says:

    Good article. I was scammed right on the LinkedIn network. I responded to a company, Video Masters, Inc. (VMI) of Kansas City, Mo. for proposal assistance. I assisted them with their proposal that was due to the U.S. Army in only 7 days.

    Well, It has been over a month now and I am still trying to get my money from them. It is hard to say, “Pay me first” before I do the work, but, that is what it is coming down to. Unfortunately the Better Business Bureau (BBB) does not handle these kind of cases. So all of you must be on your guard when you respond for assistance on this network or any network.

    • Phil Elliott says:

      I, similar to Richard Colligan, have had attempts to draw me into a scam. First and foremost one must remember “even a dog can be someone on the internet and you would never know it”. That gives dogs a bad wrap (I’ve had as many as 9 at one time and am a dog lover) but it is true. All those sayings like “buyer beware” etc, etc, etc, apply here on LinkedIn.
      I’m sorry to say it but there is no Government agency that has been created to help in this case. *How ever*, if the Government would supply a web site for other than Government jobs that might be the way to go. It could be an arm of the FBI or a separate entity/agency. Now my wallet is crying…

      • Richard Colligan says:

        Thanks Phil:

        I hate to be the one to say, “Show me the money first” but, it has come to that. I guess for the time being we need an Angies List in reverse. A List of the “bad apples” that we have encountered on our Proposal LinkedIn network. So, I will start off by identifying the first company to put on the list of not to do any proposal business with:

        Vidio Masters, Inc, or VMI Systems,
        2604 N.E. Industrial Drive,
        Kansas Ciry, MO 64117

        Kenneth Cleveland, J.D.
        President
        VMI
        2604 NE Industrial Drive
        Kansas City, Missouri 64117
        Phone: +1.816.587.0000
        Skype: Kenneth.VMI
        http://www.VMI.com

        This should be a start of companies to be on the lookout for!!

        Regards,
        R. Colligan, Ph.D.

  11. Ariel Gevara says:

    I agree and strongly feel that there has to a way for job seekers and applicants to have some form of remedy or a government agency that can would help them, right?

  12. David Trudel says:

    good article.
    How often have we seen positions of employment adds posted after the fact of the job has already being filled

  13. Linda Trujillo says:

    I agree, great information. Some of the tips I was on the right track and sort of doing anyways, but still had some doubts because I was desperate. Some of the other tips I didn’t know at all. Thanks again.

  14. Mark Lundholm says:

    Nice article and enumeration of scammers. Do any of you know about or have information on good “work at home” options. Bill Press used to advertise one of these on his show but hasn’t lately. Perhaps it’s still an option though. Good luck and vibes to all of you out there!

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