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Scams Aimed at Job Seekers

If you’ve been having little success with your job search it can be easy to become disheartened, or even desperate. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people out there who’ll happily attempt to capitalize on your trying circumstances, using your need for work as the pretext to scam you.

There are various forms that these jobs scams can take, but the one element they generally share in common is a fake job ad, dangling the carrot of a position that sounds highly attractive as the bait to lure you in.

Sometimes ruse will make the perpetrator a little bit of money, normally through some sort affiliate scheme (more on which later), but won’t actually cost you anything other than your time, which, needless to say, you can ill afford to waste. However, sometimes the ploy will be more sinister, and could be aimed at either deceiving you out of money directly, or stealing your identity by obtaining personal details.

By knowing what to look out for you can avoid giving these unsavoury characters any of your time or money. Here some things to consider before you decide to respond to an ad;

Where You See It Posted

Companies spend a lot of money on finding the talent they need to ensure their future success. The recruitment industry wouldn’t be an industry at all if this weren’t the case. Businesses don’t mind making this investment because they know that, if they find the perfect candidate, they’ll be adding value to their organisation.

For scammers this isn’t the case and, as a result, they’re less likely to put ads up using media that cost a fair deal of money to use, such as major newspapers or professional recruitment agencies. Instead, they are likely to use outlets that are free. Whilst genuine opportunities can be found in such places, this does mean that, when looking for work using resources such as Craigslist.com or Gumtree.com, you should be extra careful to look out for signs of a scam.

The Ad Says You Can Work From Home

Scammers are, in some ways, similar to sales men, the all important difference being that, unlike a salesman, regardless of whether you go for their pitch or not, a scammer is inherently dishonest and doesn’t actually have anything to offer you. Nevertheless, they’ll use many of the same techniques as sales people and will have a similar attitude to their activities.

For example, you may have heard the expression that selling is ‘a numbers game’. The same applies to jobs scams. The more people taken in by an ad, the more money a scammer stands to make. Therefore, when they write up their fake ads, as well as wanting to sound like a real employer, they’ll also want to make sure their candidate criteria will apply to as many people as possible.

By giving their fake job a specific location a scammer would be limiting their appeal, as only people living within commuting distance of the premises would apply. To get around this, fake job ads will very often make the proud announcement that you can work from home, or that you can telecommute (which means essentially the same thing). By doing this, in one fell swoop, they’ve massively increased the number of people they can potentially con.

Whilst employers are becoming increasingly flexible in allowing their workers to telecommute some of the time, the truth of the matter is that, besides freelancers and the self employed, there are very few jobs where you can work solely from the comfort from your own home.

The Ad Says No Experience Needed

A genuine job ad is unlikely to declare that no skills are needed. The jobs market is very competitive and when businesses announce an opportunity, they invariably receive more applications that they can properly asses. This isn’t ideal for them, as it makes the task of deciding who the best person for the job is that much harder. As a result, firms tend to exaggerate the skill level needed to fill a role in an attempt to put lesser candidates off. They rarely work the other way around.

Whatever the job, to say no experience is needed is clearly not true, and will have been written simply to widen the number of candidates who qualify and thus encourage more applications. Remember, real employers want to receive a good number of applications from a select elite of candidates, they don’t want to be flooded with interest. Scammers, on the other hand, very much do.

The Job Title Is Extremely Vague

These days it is very common for employees to be given (or create for themselves) trumped up job titles that don’t have much of an obvious connection to what they actually do. As a result, it’s not too unusual to find genuine ads for roles within reputable companies that have fairly meaningless job titles. However, using very vague job titles is also a favourite ploy used by scammers. By avoiding putting anything too specific they are again, seeking to widen their net. ‘Administrator’ for example, is suitably non specific.

The Ad Features Inconsistencies

If there are a lot of inconsistencies in a job ad, then either the hiring company are incompetent, or they don’t exist. Whichever it is, you won’t want to bother applying.

These inconsistencies might be found in a number of places. For example, the eye catching job title might not quite fit the list of duties found further down the page. Alternatively, and much more commonly, the level of pay will far exceed what you’d expect to be offered from another job requiring a similar skills set.

Some scammers use the details of a real company to make their ad look genuine, but then they’ll use a free email address as a contact email, instead of an email address registered to that company. This is something you should look out for.

The Ad Lacks Details

If the details of the company aren’t given, that should arouse your suspicions. Likewise, if there’s no contact info pointing to a real life person, such as a legitimate looking email address, this should flag your attention. If all you are offered are links, that’s not a good sign as it suggests an affiliate scam (more on this later.)

The Ad Is Poorly Written

Legitimate companies will take great care not to embarrass themselves by posting an ad with spelling mistakes, and they’re highly unlikely likely to go overboard with the exclamation marks. If the ad is poorly written and tackily presented there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

What to Do If You’re Interested but Suspicious

If you’re not convinced that the ad is completely above board, but you’re still tempted to apply, do some snooping around before sending a CV. One good investigative technique to clarify the validity of an ad you’ve seen on a free board is to use Google to search for the company. If you do find it, is there any mention of the fact that they’re currently hiring on their own site? How professional does the site seem? Are their any concrete contact details you can use to find out more?

You can also use Google to see if the same ad has been used to advertise in lots of locations. For example if when you paste passages from the ad into the search bar, you find that the same ad has been used to advertise the job in the Craig’s List sites for numerous cities, as well as various other boards, it is probably a scam.

You should also try searching for the company name alongside terms such as ‘jobs scam’ or ‘fake job ads’ and see what comes up.

If this doesn’t clear things up, you’re next step could be to send some generic inquires to try and fill in any missing information. If you keep getting automated responses that’s a bad sign. By the same token, if they say they’ve received your CV and think you’re a great looking candidate before you’ve even sent one, that’s a sure signal that something is amiss.

If they send you a link to a site be wary of the fact that it might be a misleading redirect. For example if they gave you a link like www.victorycommunications.com/apply-now.asp try removing everything after the forward slash. If it’s an unrelated site, it’s a scam. Also have a click around the site. If it looks hastily constructed and isn’t very functional, it’s probably just a flimsy front.

Whatever you do, don’t hand over any money in an attempt to secure a job, regardless of the reason they might say it’s necessary.

Types of Scam

There are many ways a scammer might manipulate you into doing what they want using a job ad. By knowing what they’re after you can better avoid them. Here are some of the most common motivations behind their actions.

Affiliate Deals

Sometimes all a scammer is trying to do is get you to click a link. Their ad might be designed to send you to a sight full of Google Adsense adverts and affiliate links, and the scammer, who has lead you there under false pretences, will make money every time you click a sponsored link in attempt to find what you’re actually looking for.

Sometimes their affiliate deal will involve them earning a commission every time they get somebody to sign up for a service of some kind. For example, their ad might send you to some sort of listings page that asks you to sign up as a member. When you do so, mistakenly thinking it’s related to your application process, they make money.

There a number of other services that they could also have a vested interest in you taking. One scheme will involve the scammer making you believe you’ve reached the later stages of their recruitment process only to tell you that your interview/orientation needs to take place using a certain web-conferencing service. They’ll tell you to get the free trial version of the software, and receive an affiliate payment when you sign up. However, they’ll get a bigger payment if you end up getting the full version of the service. By delaying your interview beyond the trial period they are often able to make this happen, as you keep the programme on your computer past the expiry of the free trial and end up paying for the full package.

Other scams will also mislead you into paying for a service under the pretext that it is an important part of the recruitment process. One great example of this which is extremely popular in the US is credit score agencies and background checks services. The scammer will normally tell the applicant that they have been given a job and that they simply need to carry out a background check or get a ‘free’ credit check done to confirm their validity. They will send you a link to their ‘preferred provider’. These services will turn not to be free, or if they are, you signing up to them will earn the scammer money. Needless to say this will get you no closer to securing a job.

Stealing Your Money

Other scams are a lot more direct and seek simply to take money from you. One version of this type of scam will see you landing a job where your duties basically consist of you receiving cheques form overseas into your account and then sending the amounts on elsewhere. These cheques will inevitably bounce and you’ll be left out of pocket. These sorts of posts will generally use job titles such as book keeper, accountant, admin clerk.

In some cases the cheques won’t bounce, and you will indeed be allowed to keep a commission for your efforts. The catch? You’ve been duped into money laundering by a criminal organisation and are at risk of being arrested.

Another way for scammers to get to your cash is to make you actually part with money up front, usually as payment for working resources, such as product assembly kits, which you will have almost no chance of actually profiting from. Sometimes, rather than a physical product, you’ll be asked to pay for information, such as a list of potential clients you could a sell a particular service to, or instructions on how to perform some sort of work at home job, such as email processing, stuffing envelops or typing.

Generally, this information will be completely useless or will attempt to turn you into a scammer yourself, by giving you nothing more than tips on how to advertise the same ‘job’ you thought you were going to be doing to other job seekers, thus involving more people in the scam, pyramid scheme style.

Be wary of any ad that leaves a lot unanswered and asks you to phone a number for more details, the chances are it’s a premium rate line making some nefarious individual a lot of money.

Finally, look out for recruitment services scams. Having got you to reply to a fake job ad, a scammer will use it as an introduction to start charging you for their useless career coaching services, promising to land you a role in a similar vacancy in return for payment.

Stealing Your Identity

You can also end up losing significant sums of money in the event that the job ad is a nothing more than an elaborate ploy to glean personal details from you that can than be used to steal your identity.

A criminal posing as a company may tell you that prior to being able to employ you, they’ll need you to send over copies of documents such as a driving license or passport, other wise they might claim they need your personal information to carry out a credit check. You should never send such documents before you’ve been formerly employed.

Even if they only get some information about you, this is often enough to use as a starting point to try and find out more about you. Above all remember never to divulge information such as your National Insurance number of bank details until you are sure that there’s a genuine job waiting for you.

Finally, you need to be aware that some identity thieves will actually go to the lengths of contacting you directly. They’ll snoop around to find out enough about you to be able to get in contact, usually via email, and say that they have had your CV handed to them by an acquaintance and that they want to offer you a job. This is just to make their demands for your personal information all the more tempting.

Unfortunately, the old maxim ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ holds true in the field of job searching as much as anywhere else in life, and if your contacted with a job offer out of the blue, from someone who’ve never heard off, the overwhelming likelihood is that they’re trying to steal from you.

Think of Your Physical Safety

If you are invited to a interview with a company that you’ve been able to find very little information about, be sure to try and find out as much about them as possible. Visit the location before hand and let friends and family know where you’ll be.

Never allow an interview to be arranged in your own home or accept a lift from an interviewer.

Next article: How to properly read a job ad.