Job Seeker Beware

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This old adage may never have been more true, particularly for job seekers. Job search scams are on the rise, so job seekers must learn to be savvy consumers of the job market with a primary focus on protecting themselves. It's not just a matter of being duped—these scams can have long-term effects on your credit rating.

Use the following tips to guide you. And remember that staff members at CES can help you evaluate job opportunities, resources, and hiring practices.

Red Flag - You are asked to pay to use services
Red Flag - You are asked to provide private information
Red Flag - An employer contacts you out-of-the-blue
Tip - Think about your online presence
Tip - Protect your friends and references
Additional Resources
Alert: Money-wiring scams

Red Flag - You are asked to pay to use services

  • Be wary of organizations that ask you to pay up-front fees to: use their recruiting services; access job listings; pay for a background check; or otherwise attempt to solicit funds from you. Access to job listings is free in most instances and many of the listings and resources behind the "fee" site are available elsewhere without a fee.
  • Legitimate hiring agencies and executive recruiters (a.k.a. head-hunters) typically charge their clients (the employer) when they find a candidate to fill an employer's available position.

Red Flag - You are asked to provide private/identifying information before you have accepted a job offer

  • As a general rule, don't ever share your social security number, bank or PayPal account, credit card information, or any other personally identifying information when first interacting with a potential employer. Some employers ask for a social security number on an application form. You may choose to leave that line blank and provide it, if needed, when an offer of employment is extended.
  • Once hired by an organization, you will be required to complete federal documents for the purposes of taxes and to confirm your eligibility to work in the U.S. (W-4 and I-9). These documents legitimately ask for social security numbers as proof of identity.
  • Once employed, you may choose to receive your paycheck through a payroll direct deposit. In order to set up direct deposit, you will need to provide your employer with your bank account information.
  • Do not forward, transfer, or "wire" money to an employer or any other person/entity.
  • Do not ever deposit a check, transfer money, and retain a portion for payment.

Red Flag - An employer contacts you out-of-the-blue about an employment opportunity

  • Verify any employers who initiate contact with you. You can check them out with the Better Business Bureau; or run a web search with the organization's name and the word "complaints" or "scam." Also, try to confirm the employer's contact information:
    --Is there a valid direct phone number associated with the organization, not just a cell phone? You could run a "reverse look-up" on the phone number in
    --Does the organization have a physical location, not just a P.O. Box? You could map the address as a safeguard.
    --Does the email address connect to an organization? A Gmail or Yahoo account may indicate a scam.
  • Be wary of job opportunities that provide you the opportunity to work from home and earn large amounts of money
  • Avoid vague offers such as "we work with major companies" or "we have thousands of jobs" without substantiated data to support the claims.
  • Note communications that have poor grammar, spelling errors, flawed sentence structure, and unprofessional or too casual language which may be an indication of a scam

Tip - When engaged in a job search, think about your online presence

  • Be careful when posting a resume to an online job board. This passive search method may not result in a high number of employment opportunities and may inadvertently disclose personal information (address, phone number) to an unintended audience.
  • Read any privacy policy associated with online job boards, especially if you decide to upload your resume. Pay attention to how long your resume will be kept online and who has the opportunity to access your resume. It's wise to ensure that you can delete your resume at any point in time.
  • Be sure to keep a record of where you have posted your resume and remember to go back and delete it once you have finished your job search.
  • Consider information posted by or about you on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. and think about how prospective employers might view it. Steer clear of providing overly personal information and maintain a profile that presents positive and accurate personal content. It's always a good idea to Google-search yourself and see what comes up.

Tip - Protect your friends and references

  • Consider the information you post about your friends on social networking and other public websites. You're not posting questionable photos or information about yourself online, so use the same restraint in regards to your friends. Ask your friends to return the favor.
  • Think twice about sharing your friends' contact information. If a recruiter asks for names of your friends so he or she can let them know about a "fabulous opportunity" don't assume your friends will be interested. Even if you think it's a great opportunity, your friends may not. It's always safer to provide the recruiter's contact information to your friends and let them determine if they want to get in touch.
  • Protect the privacy of your references and never include their contact information in a resume posted online.

Learn more and get help:

ALERT: Money-Wiring Scams
Whether posting positions under the name of real businesses or sending e-mails inviting students to apply for on-line work, inevitably money-wiring scammers request “applicants” to deposit a check into their accounts and wire money back (less a small fee for their payment). The perpetrators of these scams can be very hard to distinguish at the outset, often taking over the identity of a legitimate business. Sometimes the only clue that the employer is a scam artist is at the time they make the request. Here’s what to do if you come across this scam:

  • If you receive a check, DO NOT CASH IT. A legitimate employer will NEVER have a reason to have you cash a check and send them money. This request is always a scam.
  • If you do deposit the check in your account, alert your bank immediately.
  • Report the scam. Let CES know of any employer you experience who uses this tactic, but also be aware that this kind of scam exists in many kinds of interactions, like selling items through Craig’s List.

For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission's website on money wiring scams.