Spot a Scam: How Job Seekers Can Protect Themselves from Online Employment Fraud

Have you ever come across an online job ad for a position that was simply too good to be true? Or, maybe you’ve found a posting that blatantly excluded the employer’s name, website, and other critical information. If so, you may have stumbled upon a fraudulent ad.

While online job boards allow candidates to apply for jobs more quickly and conveniently than ever, they’ve also created new avenues for employment fraud. According to the Better Business Bureau, more than 7,190 employment scams have been reported since January of 2018. For example, this past summer, a pair of graphic designers fell victim to a scammer impersonating a South Carolina company hiring remote employees. After applying for the fake position, the job seekers shared personally identifiable information with the “hiring manager” via Google Hangouts and paid more than $6,000 for “vendor-approved” home office equipment before realizing they had been duped.

Rest assured, today’s leading job boards and talent communities do their best to detect fraud and deter scammers from spoofing their candidates. However, every job seeker should learn how to spot a fraudulent job ad. Here are four red flags to look out for:

1. The job ad asks for money. Steer clear of job postings that ask for bank account numbers, credit card digits, social security numbers, PayPal account details, and other sensitive personal information. If you come across the phrase "wire transfer" in the ad or in any correspondence with the hiring manager, it’s a surefire sign that the opportunity is a scam.
2. The ad is filled with errors. Everyone makes mistakes, but a posting riddled with typos, all caps, exclamation marks, unsightly formatting, and/or spelling and grammatical errors should make you think twice before clicking “apply.”
3. The posting is missing critical information. If the ad leaves out the company name, the job location, and/or a link to the company website, take caution. But remember, even ads bearing legitimate company names could be fraudulent, since scammers can impersonate real employers. Faux job ads may also be extremely short, including only salary information and perhaps mention of how easy it will be to earn money.
4. The contact information includes a major domain name. When contact info listed in an ad includes an email address with a major (or unknown) domain name (such as or rather than the employer’s domain, tread lightly. Similarly, be wary of email communications with the employer that do not include a signature or contact details.

In addition to recognizing red flags, job seekers must take proactive steps to protect themselves when searching for their next career opportunity. Here are four tips for safely navigating the online recruitment space:

1. Read all content in the ad carefully. Again, look for glaring typos, missing information, mentions of wire transfers, and contact email addresses with major or unknown domain names. Double-check for disclaimers or “fine print” at the bottom of the ad. By taking the time to review the posting thoroughly, you’ll also ensure that you’re fully qualified for the position and that you understand the directions for applying.
2. Research the employer. Check the company’s website to verify that the position exists. (And if you can’t find the company’s website, you might want to start running in the opposite direction.) When in doubt of an ad’s legitimacy, call or email the employer directly to see if they are actively recruiting for that role.
3. See what others are saying. Consult the company’s Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission ratings, and other review websites. Even if the company is a “real” employer, you will find valuable insights on these sites that may (or may not) deter you from pursuing an opportunity with them.
4. Take caution with links. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails that appear to be a personalized note from a hiring manager or recruiter who saw your resume on a job board. If you are unsure if the email is genuine, do a little bit of research (see tips 2 and 3) before moving forward.

Above all, trust your gut when searching for jobs online. If an ad raises any bit of suspicion, don’t apply until you’ve thoroughly vetted the employer or recruiter. Lastly, if the job sounds too good to be true, it probably is – but that doesn’t mean that your dream job isn’t out there. You just have to be smart, savvy, and safe in your search.

Author Bio

Aaron Horst is the Director of Engineering with iHire, a leading recruitment marketing platform that brings candidates and employers together in 56 industry-focused communities.

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