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 both their private information and their personal safety.
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: An employer contacts you out-of-the-blue
Red Flag: You're asked to provide private information
Red Flag: You're asked to pay to use services
Red Flag: You're asked to wire money
Red Flag: Employer information does not add up
Red Flag: Your intuition tells you something is off
Tip: Think about your online presence
Tip: Protect your friends and references
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're asked to wire money
Whether posting positions under the name of real businesses or sending emails inviting students to apply for online 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. And it's not just a matter of being duped—these scams can have long-term effects on your credit rating.
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 Using Money Transfer Services information page
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, or retain a portion for payment when requested by a potential employer. Ever.
- You are asked to publish intellectual property that you do not own. This could include posting a professor's syllabus to an online site in efforts to assist fellow students. If you do not own the material, do not share it with the online world.
Red Flag - An employer contacts you out-of-the-blue about an employment opportunity
Note: CES does not provide employers with student's personal contact information without their consent. Ever.
- If the employer contacts you via email or via LinkedIn, and this person is unknown to you, it is wise to be cautious—even if they have purported graduated from Puget Sound. How did they find you? Before responding, research the company and individual to check for legitimacy.
- Is the company online? Even if they are, that does not necessarily mean that they are scam-free. Scammers often pretend to represent real companies, and at first glance, the website may seem legitimate. Dig deeper.
--Does their web content sound authentic or is it full of buzz words and misleading jargon? You can also go to Domain White Pages to search the company's address to see when the website was created. If it was during in the last year, be on guard.
- If the company is legitimate but the position still feels off to you, double-check that the online job posting you were referred to actually appears on the company's career opportunities web page. Some scammers will pretend to work for a real company but post fake positions on other job search platforms.
- If the employer seems a little too keen on immediately hiring you, don't let flattery mislead you, especially if you know that you do not meet the position's qualifications. Take your time to research and ask questions.
Red Flag - Employer information does not add up
- Does the email address connect to an organization? A personal email domain, such as a Gmail or Yahoo account, in many cases indicates a scam.
--Does the email domain match the company's domain? Double check for domain names that appear identical but are in fact a letter or two off. This is a high indicator of a scam.
Example: firstname.lastname@example.org vs. email@example.com
Can you catch the difference?
- Be wary of job opportunities that provide you the opportunity to work from home and earn large amounts of money.
Part-Time 20 hours a week
Work from home
Make $72,8000 annually
No interview required
Company "located" in Spain
- 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? The area code should match the organization's location. You could run a "reverse look-up" on the phone number in whitepages.com.
--Is the person who contacted you on LinkedIn? If not, this does not confirm malicious intentions. However, it is safe to say that the majority of legitimate recruiters in today's day will be using LinkedIn and will be attached to the organization they claim to represent.
- Does the organization have a physical location, not just a P.O. Box? You could map the address as a safeguard. Is the employers location consistent with what's listed on various web platforms? Check their address on their company website, Facebook page, online job posting, and LinkedIn account.
- Warning--scammers can create fake LinkedIn profiles making it seem like they are recruiters or alumni from your college. Encounter a scam on LinkedIn? Here's how to report.
- 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 read like they have been translated: poor grammar, spelling errors, flawed sentence structure, and unprofessional or too casual language. These factors may be an indication of a scam.
Red Flag - Your intuition tells you something is off
Recruiters (or others offering to help connect students with opportunities, even if their LinkedIn profile appears to indicate that they graduated from Puget Sound), will not:
- Arrange interviews in locations other than a known business (i.e.: you are invited to interview at a hotel)
- Invite candidates to meet outside of typical business hours (i.e.: you are asked to interview at 8:00 p.m.)
- Ask candidates personal questions that are irrelevant, and considered illegal (i.e.: the interviewer asks about your religious beliefs, nationality, dating history, or whether you are single)
- Make a candidate feel uncomfortable in any way (i.e.: your intuition tells you something isn't right)
If you experience anything that makes you question a networking outreach, job opportunity, interview, etc., please listen to your instinct. And then let CES know about your concerns.
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.
- 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, LinkedIn,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.
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