Job Scams Are on the Rise, Here’s How to Protect Yourself

Find out the common types of employment scams, how to spot them, and what to do to ensure a job offer is legitimate.
3 min read

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  • Job scams are on the rise and often appear as work-from-home jobs.
  • Fake checks are one of the most common ways scammers steal money.
  • Don't share personally identifiable information such as Social Security number, birth date, and bank information.
  • Do your due diligence and check the person and company to make sure they are legitimate.

Job hunting is already stressful, but the growing number of job scams make it even more daunting. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that up to 14 million people have been victims of employment scams, with a total loss of $2 billion. 2020 had an unprecedented number of job scam complaints after a lot of people were laid off because of the pandemic.

Employment scams are an unfortunate reality, so it's important to become familiar with the common warning signs that an opportunity might not be legitimate. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Job Scam Warning Signs

How do you know if a job offer is a scam? Becoming familiar with these red flags can help.

  • You are asked for personally identifiable information, like your Social Security number, birth date, and bank information. A legitimate employer only asks for this information after they've hired you for payroll purposes.
  • You are asked to participate in a nonstandard interview such as through Facebook Messenger or Google Chat, or your interviewer doesn't appear on screen in a Zoom interview.
  • You are sent a check to cash. The fake check scam accounts for one in three reports of scams. Some even send a fake paycheck. Steven J.J. Weisman, an attorney and professor at Bentley University, explains how it works: The unwary victim deposits the counterfeit check, gets provisional credit from his or her bank and then, following instructions from the scammer, wires the money for the training fee or equipment to the scammer before the check is discovered to be counterfeit, which can take weeks. At this point the funds are taken back by the bank from the victim's account, but the money wired to the scammer is lost forever.
  • You are asked for money. You should not pay money to be considered for a job or to train.
  • You are contacted through text or Facebook Messenger. The only exception is LinkedIn, but double-check a person's credentials. Also, be wary if someone contacts you from a place you don't know or haven't applied to.
  • You find grammatical or spelling errors indicating it might be a fake company, or you can't find a job vacancy on the company website.

Common Job Search Scams

Some common types of jobs that scammers use to lure people are:

  • Work from home jobs: Usually, the scammers promise ways you can make money by stuffing envelopes or other easy work you can do at home. Victims have reported a median loss of $3,000 on these scams. Making money in the comfort of your home is the most appealing to job-seekers, and scammers know this, says Zachary Colman, CEO of Creatitive, a branding firm.
  • Mystery or secret shopper: Commonly, scammers will tell you to purchase a gift card so that you can evaluate the store.
  • Data entry jobs: Scammers use advertising for these jobs to hook people into sharing personal information and/or arranging to send you a counterfeit check.
  • Reshipping products: In this scam, you are hired to reship products on a probationary period. You actually end up trafficking stolen goods and don't even get paid. The reshipping scam has accounted for 65% of the job scams reported to the BBB.
  • Programs offering you quick and overnight success: In 2019, the FTC identified one such company, Effen Ads, which used spam emails showcasing fake celebrity endorsements for their work-from-home program. If you're looking to break into a new industry, check out free or low-cost legitimate programs.
  • Pyramid schemes: Pyramid schemes depend on you recruiting others to invest. The FTC reports that these schemes are going by names such as blessing looms, sous-sous, and circle games.

How to Avoid a Job Scam

The best way to avoid a job scam? Be informed about the common tactics used. Here are some ways you can check if a job offer is legitimate:

  • Check the recruiter's or employer's contact information. Always check the email address and phone number of the person communicating with you about the job, advises David Aylor, an attorney who focuses on criminal law.
  • Find out and confirm the company information. Check the website and profiles on GlassDoor, LinkedIn, and the BBB. Look for anything that appears out of order, such as a lot of grammatical or spelling mistakes, that flag a possible fake company. Be aware that sometimes scammers use a real company that they have no connection to. Don't hesitate to call to find out if they are indeed hiring for that job. You can also search their careers website.
  • Never share personal identifying information before you get a job offer. Limit what information you put on your resume.
  • Never agree to cash a check, send money, or buy a gift card to pay training fees, purchase supplies or equipment, or send money to a third party.
  • Use your network. Knowing who is looking over your resume and who you are giving your information to is the best way to ensure you don't fall for a stranger's elaborate scam attempt, says Aylor.
  • Search for other scams on the internet. Enter the company's name and scam or complaint. You can also use tools like the BBB's Scam Tracker.

Everything Else You Need to Know About Job Scams

How do you know if a job offer is legit?

A job offer is legit if the employer checks out when you verify their information. If it's a real company, you can check their website to make sure it's a real job opening or opt to call them.

Can Indeed have fake jobs?

Yes. Unfortunately, most job sites cannot prevent scammers from posting. According to one BBB study, Indeed was the most common way for scammers to connect with targets, accounting for 32% of job scams.

What should you do if you get scammed by a job?

If you are a victim of an employment scam and lost money, report it to the police and to your state consumer protection office. The Better Business Bureau also recommends you file reports with the following agencies: is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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