Employment scammers try to trick job seekers using the same methods that real employers do – with job ads online, in newspapers and even on TV or radio. They may even reach out to individuals directly via email, phone or social media. These scammers dangle the carrot of employment, but they actually want to get their hands on your money or personal information.

Most job scams contain a few warning signs that they’re not legitimate. Here’s how to help spot an employment scam.

1. The Employer or Recruiter Initiates First Contact

One warning sign that the job may be fake is if the recruiter or employer reaches out directly to you unsolicited. This isn’t an automatic sign of a job scam – recruiters can, and do, reach out directly to qualified candidates to fill real positions – it’s also a tactic of job scammers.

If you receive communications about a job you didn’t apply to, make sure to do your homework and verify that the employer and recruiter is legitimate before you move forward.

2. You Receive an Immediate Job Offer

Receiving an immediate job offer before going through an official hiring process is a huge red flag. Just about every legitimate employer at least needs to review your qualifications and have you meet with a hiring manager. If you receive an immediate job offer without having to do anything, it’s probably a scam.

3. The Employer Requests Payment

Be wary of any company or recruiter that requests payment from you for an application fee, training, supplies or other expenses. Job seekers should be prepared to pay for normal expenses like traveling to job interviews or professional clothes, but you should never have to pay a fee to apply for or accept a job.

4. The Offer Sounds Too Good to Be True

Employers offering pie-in-the-sky promises are likely scammers. Any employer that offers a salary that seems extremely high for the job, offers an unusually flexible schedule, promises quick wealth or claims you can make a lot of money without working too hard is probably lying.

5. The Communications are Unprofessional

If you see grammar, syntax or spelling mistakes in the job offer or emails with the employer, it could be the sign of a scammer. This isn’t an automatic disqualifier – not every industry requires impeccable grammar – but it might be worth researching the employer to ensure they’re legitimate.

6. Basic Information is Missing

Is the listing fuzzy on the actual duties of the job, or the candidate qualifications? Can you find basic information about the employer on a professional website, such as their history, location, contact information and other details? If not, think about moving on.

7. The Employer Requests Personal Information

When you start working for a new employer, you have to supply them some personal information like your Social Security number (SSN) for tax purposes and bank account information for direct deposit. But this information is only needed after you get hired. If a new recruiter or employer asks for personal information beyond your name, location and contact info before you get hired, this could be a scam.

How to Avoid an Employment Scam

Before you accept a job offer or respond to a recruiter inquiry, take these steps to avoid employment scams:

  • Research the employer. Search the name of the organization and find their official website. Look for contact info, address and other information that establishes legitimacy. If you’re suspicious, search the name of the employer or recruiter along with the words “scam” or “complaint”.
  • Don’t pay anything. Legitimate employers do not ask you for money during the hiring process.
  • Don’t share personal information. While legitimate employers want basic info like your name and how to reach you, they shouldn’t need your SSN, date of birth, bank account information and other personally identifiable information.
  • Don’t respond to suspicious jobs. If the job sounds too good to be true, you spot lots of errors and mistakes or you can’t verify information about the employer, don’t respond to the job listing or communication.
  • Report scams. If you see a scam or become a victim, report it to the FTC and your state’s attorney general’s office.

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