Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Employment Scammers and How to Spot Them

28 March 2013

Times 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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