For jobseekers, the hunt for your dream job is often stressful enough. It’s time-consuming, difficult to find the right fit, and then there’s all of the stress that goes into preparing for interviews.
But there’s another important piece of the process to add to your to-do list: avoid application scams.
There are more remote jobs hitting the market than ever since 2020. Unfortunately, that also means there’s more space for fraudsters to take advantage of jobseekers. Online job scams have more than doubled in the last three years. According to the Better Business Bureau, 14 million people were exposed to job application scams in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
It’s never been more important to delineate between a legitimate opportunity and someone trying to steal your personal information or money.
Recognizing red flags: How to spot fraudulent job posts
Not every job application scammer acts the same. But there are a few common tactics they use. Here are some of the signs of deceptive job applications:
Requesting financial or other sensitive information up front
Once you nail the interview process, any legitimate new employer will need some additional information about you to bring you on board. They’ll need your personal information to verify your identity and your banking details to pay you.
But what makes asking for this info a red flag is when someone asks those questions up front — before an interview or offer. If a company asks you for this information too early in the process, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It may be for a legitimate reason. Or it may be an online application scam. If it’s legitimate then the company would have no issue explaining why.
Asking for payments
The whole end goal of your new job is to receive a paycheck. So if a so-called “business” asks you to pay them during the application phase, chances are they’re a scammer.
Never send money to anyone claiming to be a recruiter or HR department. A legitimate job application process will not include requests for money as part of the candidate experience.
A sketchy email address
Not every scammer is going to have a painfully obvious email address like email@example.com. But the email address listed on a job posting — or used by a “recruiter” to communicate with you — could be a good clue about the job’s legitimacy.
If the email address includes the name of a business (like Amazon), is the name misspelled? Does the domain name match the real business website?
Alternatively, fraudsters might try to reach out via a generic personal email address. However, recruiters or hiring professionals will almost always contact you using their organization’s email address.
One way to confirm if an email address is correct is to go to the business’s website and see how their email domains are written. For example, an email from Wizehire will come from @wizehire not from @wize_hire or some other similar but different address. Always double check these emails before providing any information.
There are a lot of great jobs out there. But if the opportunity sounds too good to be true, it might be because it is. Fraudulent job posts might offer an unrealistic salary or benefits (especially for minimal hours or responsibilities).
Pay transparency in a job posting is great and can even be a green flag. But that transparency also needs to be honest. If you think a job posting’s salary info is suspicious, you can also research typical salary figures for the specific role or industry using websites like Glassdoor.
A job “offer”…that happens way too fast
Similarly, if the hiring timeline seems too good to be true, it likely is. Watch out for immediate job “offers” that come after minimal effort or information from your side. If you’ve been “offered” a job without ever talking to or interviewing with someone from the organization, this is a big red flag.
Everyone makes mistakes. And it’s not uncommon to catch the occasional misspelling in a job posting. But if the whole application is littered with awkward phrasing, bad grammar, or mistakes, that could be a sign something is amiss. A professional organization should have a professional-looking job posting.
The art of due diligence: research to avoid job scams
For most job opportunities, a business will run some type of background check on you. But did you know you could take a similar approach to avoid application scams?
It’s important to do your due diligence and ensure the organization you think you’re applying to is actually who they say they are.
If you see a job posting for an organization you’ve never heard of, do some research. Do they have a business website? Are there online reviews from customers or even former employees?
You can also check social media sites, especially LinkedIn, to learn more about a business. Sites like AngelList, Crunchbase, and Clutch can provide more information about startups, which may not have an active social media or web presence.
Even if you recognize the business’s name, you’ll want to do your research. Make sure all of the information in the posting matches what you can find online. For example, does the posting’s domain name match the organization’s URL? One missing or extra letter could be a sign that it’s a fraudulent job post.
Protecting your personal information: How to safeguard yourself against scammers
It’s understandable to feel confused about deceptive job applications. Scammers are very good at what they do and have fooled many jobseekers before you. That’s why it’s so important to take some simple steps to protect yourself as you begin the job hunt.
Don’t include sensitive personal info on your resume
Your resume should include basic info like your name, education, and experience. But be careful with other personal details you offer. Never include your social security number, for example. Also be careful with items like your home address. If you decide to include an address, ensure that the business you’re submitting your resume to is trustworthy.
Verify the business before handing over personal information
That need for trustworthiness extends to any info you provide to a business. Perform your own “background check” by looking at their website, double-checking email addresses, searching for online reviews or even searching for the name of the person contacting you. Make sure they’re the real deal before moving forward in any application process.
Trust your gut. If you feel confused about why someone is asking for a certain piece of information from you, just ask. Professional organizations will be able to explain why they need specific items. But online application scams will be vague on details.
Avoid online application scams
In this day and age, there’s no shortage of fraudulent application schemes. But that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim. With a few simple acts of due diligence, you can avoid application schemes and get one step closer to your dream job.