By Jim Johnson, Senior Vice President, Technology, Robert Half
Searching for a new job can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. But putting yourself on the market these days means being vigilant to avoid fraudulent online recruiting schemes.
As a recruiting professional with more than 20 years of experience, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of shady job pitches and some obvious scams. The bottom line? You should always research prospective employers — and never pay to apply for a job.
Complaints about job-related scams started spiking during the COVID-19 pandemic. As employers moved to remote work — and remote hiring — fake recruiters began to target job seekers online, especially fresh graduates and the newly jobless.
The scammers’ goals are simple: To gather personally identifiable information (PII) from you during the “hiring” process that enables them to steal your money or identity or trick you into laundering cash for them. The Better Business Bureau estimates more than $60 million is stolen each year by these cons.
But with a little knowledge of how these job scams work, you can recognize and avoid them.
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Common job scams
The fake job listing. At Robert Half, we’re scrupulous about ensuring the authenticity of every job posted on our site, but not every recruiting site performs the same due diligence. The takeaway: Never let your guard down, even on those paid job platforms.
Social media is another hotspot for fake jobs. Scammers create Facebook pages or LinkedIn profiles to advertise fake opportunities; although these platforms try to block them, some slip through. Fake jobs are also shared around Twitter through shortened URL links (bit.ly or ow.ly). Always verify the recruiter/employer’s social media account is authentic by checking out their posting history and the number of followers.
The fake job site. Scammers will even create fake employment or recruitment websites. This scam can be harder to spot than the rest because it can look very professional. Usually, these scams will request PII like your Social Security number or bank details under the pretense of a prescreening or to set up a “paycheck” auto-deposit.
The unsolicited fake job offer. Job hunters uploading their resumes to the web might receive an email — or even text — offering an attractive work-from-home job. You might not remember applying (because you didn’t), but if the sender looks real enough, you might be tempted to accept. What happens next is a rapid “onboarding” via email or text to gather your PII. Of course, there is no job, but your identity may have just gotten a new user.
Spotting red flags
Here are some signs the recruiter you are dealing with isn’t on the up-and-up.
Urgent activity. Be suspicious if the hiring process seems to be moving very quickly without a virtual or in-person interview with the hiring manager or verification of experience or credentials. Typically, most candidate evaluations involve a set of interviewers and at least two rounds of questioning.
Cryptic contact. Scammers don’t want to show their faces or give their real names, so if a recruiter or hiring manager isn’t willing to video-chat or meet in person, suspect foul play. Text-only communication is also a red flag. You should always be able to reach your recruiter by phone or video chat.
Upfront fees or purchases. You should never be asked for payment to apply for, accept or perform a job. If you’re working with a Robert Half recruiter, know you will never be asked for payment at any point in the job search or hiring process.
Spelling and grammatical errors. Everyone makes mistakes, but scammy solicitations will be obvious because of the volume and type of errors — many of which will reflect poor English translation.
Lack of employer branding. If you’re even slightly doubtful about a hiring company, investigate them online. If you don’t see much evidence of a professional employer brand — like digital content about what it’s like to work there — the company and job most likely don’t exist.
Improbably high pay or signing bonus. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Get a reality check by researching salary bands for the position in your region. Robert Half’s Salary Guide is a great place to start.
Generic email addresses. Legitimate businesses have their own email domains and won’t be using a free, generic webmail account like Yahoo or Gmail.
The first rule of defeating job scammers is to trust your gut. You may feel a job contact is a little too eager, the process a little too easy, and that should be enough to put you into investigative mode.
Second, be vigilant in protecting your PII. Consider setting up an alternate email address and Internet phone account like Google Voice just for your job search. Do not disclose any identifying or banking information until you have accepted a verified written job offer and are completing a verified IRS form. Robert Half recruiters will never ask for your personal information over the phone.
Don’t click on links you receive without checking them out. Use your workplace IT security training here: hover over any URLs and examine them carefully for misleading links.
Finally, be thoughtful about how you conduct your search. Any job hunt should start with tapping your personal and professional networks for leads. And no matter where you are in your career, talent solutions firms like Robert Half will welcome you as a job candidate and guide you through the whole process while keeping your best interests at heart.