Recognize the Signs of an Online Job Scam

by Sam Burgoon on September 20, 2012

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With the current high unemployment rates, online job scams aim to rob desperate job seekers of precious time and money. In the form of online job advertisements, scammers lure people into revealing sensitive personal information. However, if you are searching for a job through online ads there are several ways for you to recognize and protect against such frauds.

Warning Signs

Protect your finances by recognizing several signs that an online job is a scam. Review the following examples that are often used on fishy ads:

1. Asks for money up-front. You should never be asked by an employer to pay for a job. No application fees to get a job should apply either. You should simply avoid online ads that request payments up front. Jobs are meant to pay you instead of the other way around.

 2. Job is different than advertised. If you apply for a job in your related field, but on the job interview you are told that the position is for something completely different, something shady could be going on. For example, if you go to a job interview for a position as a computer designer, but the employer offers you a position as a door-to-door salesman with a much lower salary, simply walk away.

3. Requests sensitive personal information. Only provide sensitive personal information like social security numbers if you are hired since it’s needed for tax documentation submission. Never provide any personal information via e-mails either. Some scammers basically place fake online work ads to steal identities and credit card information.

4. Job ad redirects you to another website. Job ads are sometimes made to redirect people to dubious and unsecured websites. If you find one of these redirecting ads, simply close the browser tab for the new website and avoid hitting any unknown links.

Protect Yourself

Before applying for a job, research information about potential employers or companies first. In addition, protect yourself from fraudulent online job ads by following these safety tips:

1. Don’t send resumes to free email addresses. Reputable companies will usually have e-mail addresses that relate to their brand or domain names.

2. Check the source. Advertising companies should place job ads under the correct category if the position is legitimate. You can always use search engines like Google to find a bit more about a potential employer.

3. Check for typos. A short and vague description on a job ad filled with grammatical errors is more than likely a scam. If the job description offers very few details or seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Searching for work shouldn’t be a time to worry about falling victim to an online job ad scam, but sadly, fraudulent situations can arise. However, you can protect your personal information and finances by recognizing how these scams work. For further assistance, check the BBB (Better Business Bureau) or FTC (Federal Trade Commission) websites for complaints about specific online ads and companies.

Photo: Robert S. Donovan


Sam Burgoon is a social media marketing executive for several personal finance websites. He has a degree in business administration and marketing and has previously worked for companies like Bank of America and Oracle.