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The job seeker’s guide to identifying and avoiding job search scams

Posted March 16, 2017 by


Fake email addresses. Copycat web sites. Requests for personal information before a job is offered. Interviews conducted only via instant messaging. Promises of salary that are too good to be true. Requests to submit payment to move to the next step of the job search.

These are just a few of the dirty tactics scumbags use to try and scam job seekers, including inexperienced job seekers like recent college grads and entry-level job seekers. The threat is real, and like any online or cyber threat, the people conducting the fraudulent activity are often trying to gather information to steal one’s identity or money.

The team at College Recruiter takes the threat of job search scams and fake job postings seriously, and has implemented a multi-step process that identifies and blocks the vast majority of identity thieves and other scammers from ever posting a job to College Recruiter. In fact, every single job advertisement placed on College Recruiter goes through an in-depth verification process to prove the job posting is legitimate, and all ads are verified through actual contact with a human with the employer posting the job ad – something not every job board can claim.

“Here at College Recruiter, we take these fraudulent attempts very seriously and work daily to ensure all the jobs that are posted on our web site are from verified employers to protect our job seekers from applying, interviewing, and becoming victims of identity theft,” says Dani Bennett, Sales and Client Services Manager at College Recruiter.

In the article Rise of Recruitment Scams Hurt Both Job Seekers and Employers Alike, the team at  global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas identified some recent and unfortunately, popular job search scams. What may be surprising to many is that these scams don’t just target small companies. Here are some examples:

  1. Scammers created a false ad for Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations. When a job seeker responded, the person who received the email asked for additional personal information, such as tax files, driver’s license, and birth certificate. Scammers then used this information to open credit cards and bank accounts. The messages from these so-called recruiters sound legitimate. In the Rio Tinto case, the recruitment email included an application with the company’s name and logo.

Remember, anyone can set up a fake web site or email account, for example through free email providers like Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail. College Recruiter, however, will not accept any job postings that use a free email provider to receive job applications.

  1. In another incident in Houston, scammers set up an actual interview, via Google hangout, using the name of a reputable company, and then offered a position. The scammers then asked the job seeker to move around large sums of money, in this scenario, up to $3,000. To carry this out, they sent fraudulent checks made out to the job seeker to start a home office, then asked the job seeker to forward that money to a third party vendor.

“Any time a company asks you to pay or hold money for them, you should immediately see red flags,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “A credible employer would never ask their employees to move money through their personal accounts. That’s why companies have accounting departments.”

  1. In July, Shell Oil, one of America’s largest oil and natural gas producers with over 22,000 employees, posted a notice on its careers site warning job seekers that scammers were using the Shell name and logo to recruit for positions.

Besides the obvious problem for job seekers, the toll these scams can take on a company’s reputation is huge, says Challenger. Most employers don’t know these fraudulent job postings are out there until they are contacted by job seekers who have figured out it’s a scam and contacted the legit company directly. By then, the company reputation is already damaged with those job seekers.

“From a recruitment perspective, once a company’s brand has been associated with these fraudulent ads, it may be difficult to attract the talent needed when a position becomes available,” says Challenger.

College Recruiter Founder Steven Rothberg added, “Some job boards, like College Recruiter, have formalized, proactive, anti-fraud measures in place, but many job boards are more reactive and rely upon their users to complain about fraudulent postings before the job board takes any action.”

Not only do cyber criminals post fake job ads, unethical recruiters also post fake job ads, often on sites where they can post free job ads. Why would they do that? To act like they are “well-connected” and have a long list of candidates to choose from. A recruiter may submit these resumes to the employer for which they are hiring for, to show activity – which employers value when working with recruiters – and that they have an active pipeline of candidates, when they have no intentions of responding to, interviewing, or hiring these employees.

How can a job seeker spot a fraudulent job posting, or job search scam? Follow these tips from the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota:

When you see an online job posting of interest, the BBB recommends the following:

Start with trust. Research the company’s BBB Business Profile – and customer reviews.

Google the company: This gives you a better idea of what the company does, what they are about and how to contact them. Be wary of companies with no online “footprints.”

Visit the company’s website or LinkedIn page: Doing this can help you learn where the company is located, how they hire job seekers, what people have to say about the business, what the office culture is like, their business practices, accomplishments and other information which may prove useful in a job interview.

Contact the company directly: Ask to speak to the person who does the hiring (find out their name and title). Calling the company also shows initiative and could give one an extra edge when it comes to landing the job.

Be leery of postings with grammar or spelling errors: Such errors are often a sign the job isn’t legitimate.

Here are some additional red flags to watch out for when searching online for that perfect job from the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota:

Personal financial information is required: Never give out your financial information such as your credit card number, bank account number, Social Security number, to someone you don’t know – especially if it’s online.

Upfront payment: If they request that you pay an upfront fee prior to employment, stop. A legitimate job offer will never require payment upfront.

Failure to answer basic questions: The potential employer hesitates to answer general questions about the job – If the person interviewing you is vague or dodges questions about what the company does or what type of work you’ll be doing, be cautious.

Promises of huge salaries with minimal effort: This could be a sign of a “work at home” or pyramid scheme. Remember, if everyone could make good money working from home, everyone would do it. And pyramid schemes are illegal and not sustainable over time.

Reshipping Positions: Scammers sometimes enlist unwitting job seekers to help them send merchandise – paid for with stolen credit cards – out of the country. These operations are illegal and you do not want to be a part of them.

Mystery shopping jobs: Though there are legitimate mystery shipping companies, there are many bogus entities that send consumers counterfeit checks, asking them to cash them, spend money at various stores and then wire back funds, keeping a small portion of the funds as payment. However, these checks bounce, leaving consumers deeper in debt. Remember, at best, mystery shopping provides supplemental income.

“Always be leery of offers too good to be true and situations where the ’employer’ will only communicate via email – even if they claim to be with a legitimate firm,” says Dan Hendrickson, Communications Coordinator of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “If you’re in that situation, it’s always a good idea to reach out to the legitimate company’s HR department to confirm a connection.”

Besides asking the applicant for money, scam postings tend to include errors in grammar and spelling, points out Challenger. “Most companies use language which has been proofread and approved by multiple departments, such as legal and marketing, before job ads are posted,” he said.

There are additional scams, such as in the creative field. In this case, a person will create a fake project, and ask for the creative professional to submit work samples without ever meeting in person. This could very well be a creative professional looking to steal these samples, or ideas, and use for their own benefit or gain. For example, they could be collecting a large number of samples to show in a presentation, and take credit for them. They then only respond back to the job seeker stating “sorry, but we have decided to go in another direction” and the job seeker wasted time applying for the fake job, they also had their creative ideas stolen.

“Be wary of giving away too much of your proprietary information too early in the process,” says Laura Mazzullo, a recruiter and owner of New York’s East Side Staffing. “If you have been on a few interviews for a firm that you really want to work for, and sharing is part of the process, you should be more comfortable with the idea. But, if a ‘robot’ is asking you for your creative work/prior projects without human interaction, think twice.”

When working with recruiters, get the name of the organizations they are sending your resume to and for what specific role before sending, says Mazzullo. This way you can do your own homework and research. And when applying for jobs online, always try to find a mutual connection at the company for which you applied.

“The best thing you can do is supplement your online research with human connection,” says Mazzullo. “See a job posted? Research who works there. Find a connection. Does anyone from your college work there, whom you can email? If you can connect with an actual human being about an opportunity directly, it’ll be much safer.”

Also, be leery if you have never heard of the company, recruiter, job site or social media page, says Jayne Mattson, Senior Vice President of Keystone Associates, a career transition, outplacement and leadership development firm. Watch out for job postings that promise you can make a lot money in a short amount of time. Also, be cautious when reading the language of a job posting. Overly zealous sales/persuasive language is a red flag, such as “you fit our perfect profile, click on this link to learn more” or “do you want to make money? Then click here to get on your path to financial freedom.”

Job search scams are so real The Federal Trade Commission has created a page dedicated to signs of job scams, which offers this reminder to job seekers

“Scammers know that finding a job can be tough. To trick people looking for honest work, scammers advertise where real employers and job placement firms do. They also make upbeat promises about your chances of employment, and virtually all of them ask you to pay them for their services before you get a job. But the promise of a job isn’t the same thing as a job. If you have to pay for the promise, it’s likely a scam.”

Be cautious. Be careful.

“If it’s too good too be true, it probably is,” says Mattson.

Want to ensure you conduct a safe and secure job search? Then stay connected to College Recruiter. Start by registering with College Recruiter to have job alerts emailed to you. Then visit our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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