How not to get scammed as a job seeker

When you’re desperate for a job, you may ignore clear red flags that a job is not all that it’s said to be. Some of us fall for these scams more than others.

A new Wall Street Journal report found that job seekers under age 34 are particularly susceptible to employment fraud, as employers shift to all-digital application processes. In the Journal article, nonprofit Better Business Bureau said millennials make up the majority of its 3,800 scam complaints.

Whether you’re a millennial or not, all of us could be better about protecting ourselves from job cons. If a job opportunity sounds too good to be true, interrogate these suspicions. A $20-per-hour job where no experience is necessary? A work-from-home job promising huge profits and little sales? Buyer beware.

Here are some tips on how to avoid being conned:

Do your homework on the company

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recommends looking up the company online through a search browser. If you type the name of your prospective employer and the word “scam” or “fraud” and tons of results show up, it’s time to look elsewhere.

You can even look up the phone number being used to contact you through a search browser and see if it’s been linked to a scam. If you want to do a more official dive, contact the Better Business Bureau or state consumer protection agencies that keep track of complaints filed against companies.

Job scammers can assume the identities of real companies to con you into giving up personal information. Are hiring managers using a personal email or a company one? Be skeptical of a Facebook recruiter contacting you from a personal Gmail account.

If a recruiter on LinkedIn who’s contacting you seems fishy, follow up on your initial hesitation. Search the company’s page on LinkedIn and run it through a site like, which can tell you how old the domain is and who owns it. If the company’s domain is “private” or only a few months old, be wary, a Forbes article recommends.

Avoid jobs that ask you to pay

Remember: scammers want to separate you from your money.

Consumer Affairs reports that victim of check scams “tend to be small-business owners, or ‘direct sales representatives'” who are most likely to be taking in checks from strangers.

To highlight this, the magazine detailed a case where a woman received a suspiciously large first check from a new employer that turned out to be fraudulent. The article’s author suggested that the scammers were trying to using a bad check so that the woman would send over money with a real check to make up the monetary difference.

Overpayment fraud was the third-ranked reason for complaints filed with the Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2016.

Being a smart job seeker means being suspicious of schemes promising you access for a fee, especially if it’s access to free information like a government job listing. You shouldn’t have to pay upfront for access to a guaranteed job or job training materials.

“Employers and employment firms shouldn’t ask you to pay for the promise of a job,” the FTC states.

Don’t be rash

A con artist wants you to act quickly, not think things through. The FTC said that to avoid a scam, you should slow the process down. Hang up on the phone call demanding your credit card information or else. Be skeptical of verbal promises for jobs.

Legitimate employers will give you written contracts with an explicit start date and give you the necessary time to look it over. Talk to people in your network to ask whether they’ve ever heard of the company.

If you do your own detective work and double check your instincts with facts, you can help protect yourself against wily scammers and avoid losing your money, pride, and time.