Career Advice

How to Spot and Avoid Job Scams

Job seekers are often excited to apply for new job openings. However, there are some dishonest individuals who take advantage of this enthusiasm by posting fake job listings on trustworthy platforms. These scammers waste your time and attempt to steal your personal information or money. It’s important to learn how to identify and avoid these job scams to protect yourself and your valuable personal information.

What Is a Job Scam?

A job scam is typically a fraudulent job posting crafted to mislead and exploit job seekers. Scammers employ various methods to achieve their ultimate goals, usually around identity theft and stealing money.

For instance:

  • Extracting sensitive information such as social security numbers, bank account details, or other confidential data
  • Stealing money by coercing applicants into buying products or services and reimbursing them with fraudulent checks
  • Requesting fee payments to cover administrative costs, background checks, or training materials
  • Coercing software downloads that contain spyware to monitor your computer activity and keystrokes

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How Do Employment Scams Work?

Scammers often trick job seekers by contacting them through private messages or posting fake job listings on platforms like LinkedIn.

Despite the efforts of many platforms to prevent fraud, phony job postings persist. Scammers invest considerable effort into crafting fake profiles and websites, pretending to be legitimate employers or recruiters representing reputable companies.

Once job seekers engage with the scammer, the scam typically happens during the application or interview process.

Common Types of Job Scams 

As job scams have increased in the last decade, new scam postings have emerged. Fortunately, the more you know about employment scams, the more you’ll be able to recognize them. 

Fake Fees for Recruiting Services

In this instance, scammers will ask you to submit an application fee for a “high-value” position or pay them upfront for their recruiting services. 

But the truth is that legitimate job postings don’t require application fees, and employers compensate executive recruiters and staffing agencies for their services.

Impersonating Real Companies

Scammers commonly impersonate real businesses. They may use phony LinkedIn profiles to advertise fake jobs using real company names or pretend to be recruiters from an established agency. Often, they’ll even impersonate actual employees during the outreach and interview processes.

In these cases, scammers often create email addresses, landing pages, and company profiles that resemble the real thing. But there are telltale signs—more on that shortly.

Fake Applications

Some scammers send candidates to an application page asking them for personal information such as their full name, address, and social security number.

They may also ask job seekers to create a password to check their application status, intending to use that password to attempt logging into their other accounts. These scams can lead to identity theft and hacking.

Phony Interviews

Scammers may contact candidates to schedule career coaching, recruiting consultations, or job interviews—with no intention of actually interviewing you. Instead, they aim to install malware on your device by asking you to download a specific messaging or video conference tool.

Deposit Fake Checks

This employment scam usually involves a few steps. First, the fraudulent employer sends a check to the job seeker, who deposits it into their bank account. 

Then, the supposed employer claims to have sent an excessive amount by mistake and asks the job seeker to refund the amount quickly. Once the person complies and returns the money, the fake check bounces and the total amount is withdrawn from the job seeker’s account. 

Additional versions of this scam involve scammers sending fake checks to candidates to deposit so they can buy money orders, gift cards, or purchase equipment from a particular website. A red flag to look for is that scammers tend to pressure applicants to complete these tasks urgently before their fraudulent check bounces. 

Reshipment Schemes

It involves asking an applicant to purchase something and ship it to the scammer in exchange for a full refund plus payment for your time. 

For example, they may ask you to order and ship a brand new iPhone to another country, telling you they’ll refund you promptly. But, once you ship the merchandise, they disappear without refunding your expense.

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How To Spot a Job Scam

How do you discern if a job posting is legitimate or a scam? Watch out for these telltale signs that raise suspicion and indicate potential fraud.

Vague Job Descriptions

If the job posting lacks details, that’s a big red flag. Fraudulent job posts may describe a generic role and avoid listing specific responsibilities. Another warning is job posts with unusually high salaries for entry or mid-level positions.

Suspicious Websites

Scammers often pretend to be from legitimate companies. One way to identify a fake job site is to look for irregularities in the website URL, such as misspellings or inconsistencies with the legitimate company’s domain. Poor website design, non-working links, lack of contact information, and forms requesting personal or financial information are also red flags. 

Fake Email Addresses

To identify a fraudulent email address, carefully inspect the sender’s email domain for misspellings or inconsistencies with the company they are pretending to represent. If the email was sent from a personal account, that should also set off alarm bells.

Be wary of emails that include grammatical errors, urgent requests for personal or financial information, or job offers that appear too good to be true. 

Moreover, avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails. When in doubt, always double-check the email address with the company via official communication channels before taking action.

The Hiring Process Is Vague

Legitimate hiring managers prioritize transparency by clearly outlining the interview process and ensuring candidates understand the steps, timelines, and expectations.

However, if an “employer” avoids discussing their application process and has poor interpersonal skills, it’s often a red flag indicating a potential scam. Another warning is that they try to collect banking info via a fake direct deposit form when they offer a job without a formal interview.

How To Avoid Job Scams

The following steps can protect you:

  • Verify suspicious posts by looking up companies online and reviewing their career pages.
  • Look for well-written job posts that list responsibilities, salaries aligned with the roles, and required skills.
  • Watch for signs of phishing (e.g., an altered URL, a standalone application, or no “contact us” information.)
  • Avoid any purchases during the application or onboarding process— even if you receive a check upfront.

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I Fell for a Job Scam: Now What?

If you suspect a job scam has targeted you, it’s vital to assess the potential impact so that you can respond effectively.

For instance, scams focused on gathering personal information may aim to use it for identity theft, while monetary scams employ various fraudulent tactics to steal from unsuspecting job seekers.

By understanding the nature and scope of the damage, you can take swift action to mitigate its effects.

1. Lock Your Social Security Number

If you suspect a Social Security data breach, call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 to request a Block on Electronic Access. Additionally, you can contact all three nationwide credit reporting agencies to implement a freeze on your credit reports.

2. Change Your Passwords

If you created a password for the scammer’s application process, change any similar existing passwords you use on other websites. Start with priority accounts like bank and email accounts to minimize impact and prevent further damage.

3. Contact Your Financial Institutions

Contact the banking or credit card organization involved when you suspect a financial scam. Credit card companies, for example, may allow chargebacks for fraud. The sooner you get in touch, the more likely they can help.

4. Check Your Computer for Malware

Your device is vulnerable to malware attacks by downloading attachments and files or visiting unsecured websites.

If you suspect your computer has been impacted, stop doing things online that involve using usernames and passwords, revealing personal info, banking, and shopping. Immediately take steps to scan for malware or reinstall your operating system.

How To Report Online Employment Scams 

Reputable job boards have reporting features, which let you flag the job posting and the employer profile for review. 

If you’re on a social media site, report the user and the job post. Detail your suspicions and note any communication that violates the platform’s terms of service. The goal is to get platforms to remove the fraudulent post as quickly as possible so it doesn’t impact other job seekers. 

After you’ve reported the job posting on the appropriate platforms, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Finally, report any phishing pages to Google and alert the actual company the scammer was impersonating. Both are good deeds that will protect others.

Wize Words

As technology advances, job scams are becoming more sophisticated and challenging to detect. So, verifying job posting details before applying is always a good idea. By doing so, you can avoid wasting time, money, and energy on fraudulent job opportunities. We wish you great luck with your job search.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wizehire legit?

Yes, Wizehire is a legitimate and reputable hiring platform trusted by over 18,000 companies. We streamline recruitment by optimizing job posts and distributing them across 100+ job boards to attract suitable candidates. Our platform boosts hiring efficiency with tools for tracking, scheduling, and analyzing recruitment activities, making it easier for businesses to find and hire top talent. If you’re a job seeker, check out our job boards.

How does Wizehire handle scams?

Wizehire takes the threat of job scams seriously. Our Trust and Safety team prevents hundreds of scams weekly by reviewing every job post, verifying each employer, flagging fraudulent job postings, and stopping account hacking attempts. In rare cases, when our team identifies fake jobs on the platform, they remove the job posting and immediately notify impacted employers and job seekers.

Are ghost jobs a scam?

Ghost jobs are job postings for positions a company isn’t looking to fill. The company may have forgotten to take the post down after hiring or be trying to create the illusion of company growth. While ghost jobs typically don’t intend to harm applicants, they still can. Candidates often put hope and energy into each application, and ghost jobs waste their time and create another perceived rejection—even though it wasn’t an available job.


  • Ana Gotter

    Ana is a strategic content marketer with over 10 years of writing experience, including extensive ghostwriting for HR and recruiting agencies. She firmly believes in the transformative power of storytelling, strategy, and research to create outstanding content.

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The article was reviewed by Danielle Bloxom

Ana Gotter

Ana is a strategic content marketer with over 10 years of writing experience, including extensive ghostwriting for HR and recruiting agencies. She firmly believes in the transformative power of storytelling, strategy, and research to create outstanding content.

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