Common Job-Search Scams and How to Avoid Them

It’s been a good couple of years for scammers. Employment scams were rated the riskiest of 2019 by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Victims of such scams reported an average loss of $3,000, not to mention damages to their credit scores and their peace of mind.

Job search scams

Why have job scams been so pronounced recently? With the internet now a primary job-search tool, the digital distance between employer and a would-be employee has left a space where scam artists can intercept good-faith searchers. While it’s implausible to avoid the internet in your job search, if you aren’t cautious, you can easily become some swindler’s next mark.

To help you stay safe, here’s how to spot and avoid job-search scams.

Spotting the con

Like any hustle, a job-search scam begins with contact—though contact points will vary. Scammers may reach out through social media. They may place fake postings on job boards, directing applicants to spoofed company websites. They may reach out through unsolicited emails, claiming to have seen someone’s online profile.

Then comes the pitch, which goes something like, “We’re hiring immediately, and we think you’re the perfect candidate for the job.” The touted job will typically pay well or come with desirable fringe benefits—minimal hours, work from home, free products, and the like.

Sometimes scammers offer a job without an interview, but because this is an instant red flag, many employ a fake interview. After the interview, they offer the job and may send employment papers to appear genuine.

Next, the scammer will claim they need something before the job can start. They may request:

  • Credit card information to run a credit check;
  • Bank account numbers for direct deposit delivery;
  • Money to pay for necessary equipment or supplies; and
  • Subscription fees for required training or services;

The scammer’s goal is to purloin money or personally identifiable information (PII). Once the scammer has either, they vanish and leave their victim to sort out the mess.

How to vet an offer

Scammers work hard to appear legitimate, but like any forgery, there are telltale signs to look for. Here are a few ways to suss them out:

The job is too good to be true. Then it probably is. Be extra wary of jobs offered without an interview or through unsolicited contact.

Check the URL. The web address should begin “https://” not “http://” as the “s” means it is secure. Also look for misspellings, odd website suffixes, and weird placement of words. Google, for example, would never post applications at “” or “ /google.”

Do online research. Do a web search for the hiring company’s name. The first hit should match the recruiter’s information. Multiple hits suggest fraudulence. You can also check a website’s registrant and contact information through WHOIS or cross-check the business with the BBB.

Examine the email address. The recruiter’s email should match the company’s domain. An Amazon representative won’t conduct business from an “” email. Similarly, few businesses use free email client domains from Gmail or Hotmail.

Be careful with PII. No employer needs your credit card information. They will need some PII for payroll, but only after you have been hired. Before providing it, thoroughly vet the company. Better still, only provide PII in person.

You don’t pay. All jobs require some training or equipment, but unless it’s a freelance gig, it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide both.

Look for anything odd. Always be asking, “Have my past employers made such requests?” If the answer makes you feel uneasy, best to back out.

Stay diligent

There are many other types of scams, such as pyramid and money-laundering schemes, and even the most diligent can fall prey to a convincing grift.

If you fall victim, file reports with the BBB, the FTC, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Then contact your bank and credit-reporting agencies to freeze activity on your accounts.

By understanding the nature of the con and learning to spot the signs, you can better protect yourself and find the job that is right for you.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market