Job Scams: How to Identify Fake Job Offer Emails, Employment Scams, and Fake Companies

Dayton Uttinger  | 

Getting a new job is always exciting. Whether it’s your dream job, or you’ve just been unemployed for a while. But sometimes, things can be too good to be true. Scammers can try to take advantage of job-seekers’ vulnerabilities, so it pays to be vigilant.

Job Scams to Watch Out For and How to Tell If a Job Offer Is Fake

There’s always a new employment scam out there, but here are some of the more common ones to keep an eye out for.

Fake Job Offer Emails

Don’t remember applying for a job, but suddenly receive an offer online? That’s a huge red flag. Companies rarely hire people that didn’t even apply, so double check any unsolicited offers.

Too Good to Be True

There are some perks we’d all like with a job, but if this offer has all of them, be wary. If you’ve been offered an easy, part-time position with flexible hours, a six-figure salary, and beer shipped directly to your door… it’s probably a scam.

No one wants to part with something for nothing, least of all employers. If it’s too good to be true, it likely is.

No Interview

We know interviews can be nerve-wracking, but skipping this step is not good news. Legitimate companies will want to get an idea of your personality before they hire you. It’s okay if your interview takes place over the phone or webcam, but having no interview at all is worrisome. If you were hiring, wouldn’t you want to know who you were paying? Also, remember that interviews aren’t one-way; an interview is your chance to ask questions and decide if you want to work for a company or person. Cutting this out of the process is a major red flag.

Vague Requirements or No Job Description

Some adverts promote their perks in big, flashy letters but don’t include anything else about that job. What sort of education requirements are needed? Hours? Benefits? Expectations of duties? If the offer is missing these essential bits of information, be cautious.

Unprofessional Conduct or Communication

Everyone is always trying to make the best impression in the business world, so if you are offered a job in an unprofessional manner, that’s not a good sign. Lots of grammatical or spelling mistakes, strange formatting, or inappropriate content are all signs that your potential employer is not legitimate.

They should contact you from a company email, not insist that you download an IM app to communicate. Many scammers do this to hide their lack of credentials.

Employer Solicits Confidential Information

Your employer might run a background or credit check on you, but they shouldn’t be asking for you Social Security Number or account number over email right out of the gate. This is a fast way to become a victim of identity theft.

You Have to Pay for Something

This is a sure sign of a scam. You shouldn’t have to pay for your own background check, download a specific software, or otherwise pay to apply for a job. If you hire a professional headhunter, then you’ll likely have to pay for their services, but that won’t stem from an email out of the blue. Don’t trust companies that require that you buy something before you can apply.

How to Check If a Company Is Real

If you’ve seen a couple red flags in their offer, or just have a bad feeling about it, do yourself a favor and check out the company yourself.

Search for the Company Online

Look up the name of the company online. Real, legitimate businesses have reviews, social media profiles, websites, and might even appear in periodicals. They want to do everything they can to get their name out there, so you should have no problem finding them online.

Search for the Company and “Scam”

Rarely will you be the first victim of a job offer scam. They’ve probably targeted other people too. If this offer is illegitimate and ill-intentioned, you’ll find others talking about it online. Search the name of the company along with the word “scam”, and heed others’ warnings.

Do a Gut Check

Real companies won’t make you feel like something is off. They’ll want to impress you too, often with well-maintained offices and smiling recruiters with names and everything. If you feel like this is a job scam, go with your gut. That instinct is there for a reason; trust it.

Getting any kind of job offer after searching for a while can be a relief, but you should examine every offer with critical eyes. Scammers know that job seekers are often desperate, and they seek to take advantage of that. Don’t be an easy target for them.


Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.

This post was updated October 10, 2018. It was originally published October 10, 2018.