With any global disaster, challenge or crisis comes gaps that allow fraudsters to do what they do best: take advantage of security lapses and people who are rebounding from hardship. In fact, job scams have indeed increased during the pandemic, with the Federal Trade Commission reporting cases of fraud on the uptick since COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic. As if trying to find a new job isn't stressful enough, you definitely don't want to add to that the utter disaster of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, losing money and time in the process.
Here are 10 red flags to look out for to avoid job scams or fraudulent employment opportunities:
1. You can't verify the company's background.
Sis, if you can't verify the company's headquarters, email address, staff list, or phone number, the company more than likely does not exist or it isn't one you want to work for. Major companies correspond via email addresses with their own unique domain (so no Gmail, Yahoo, or personal accounts) and they certainly don't send messages that are full of weird spacing, choppy wording, or misspellings, so pay attention to those details. Also, reputable companies have their own websites (with a year at the bottom of the Home or About pages that states when the site was last updated or how long its copyrights are valid.)
If a company doesn't have a website that provides detailed and up-to-date information, ask the recruitment manager to verify where you can find this information. You can also search via LinkedIn or another social media site.
2. They offer you the job with no interview.
Experts advise that if a recruiter claims they randomly found your resume via a website or through a "search" and wants to immediately offer you a gig, you should raise an eyebrow. Most recruiters will let you know about an open position that actually fits your qualifications and will schedule a real interview with you before anything remotely related to an offer happens.
3. The job description and pay is inaccurate or too good to be true.
So, let's say you're up for an entry-level assistant position, and the description says you only have to work 20 hours a week, with very minimal duties. Then, you make it to the initial interview phase and find out you'll earn a yearly salary $80,000. That amount of pay is clearly not the norm for a starter job and the duties of an assistant in any industry is far from minimal. Trust me, the job listing is fake. Look out for details about the job that just seem outright outrageous.
4. They ask you for money to "confirm" your applicant spot or take the job itself.
This one brings me back to my pre-teen days in Manhattan, where modeling agents would walk up to me, give me their card, and say, "Hey, you're tall and beautiful. We can represent you. Give us a call." I'd call (being the fast-tail, wannabe-city-wise kid I was) and they'd say, "Just bring $59.99 to the casting and we'll have you in magazines and on commercials." Yep, it's the same type of con, except it involves a regular nine-to-five. When I finally started doing commercials and plays, my mother never had to pay anyone except dance teachers, beauticians, and others who prepped me for gigs.
A job search is free, and there are too many free resources out there for you to spend your money on trying to get a gig. When a company wants a great candidate, they cover the costs of getting one, not the other way around. (Oh, and hiring a headhunter is a totally different thing, and even then, you'd still need to vet the professional or company.)
5. They want private information about you before giving an offer.
Any time someone is asking you for your social security number, birth date, and bank account numbers before salary negotiations are being discussed, you should run and never look back. It's never a good idea to just give out your private information for a job interview. Typically companies will not need this sort of information until it's time to put you on the payroll, and even then, you'll need to be sure that the company you're signing contracts with is on the up-and-up. (See tip No. 1 on how to research this.)
6. They ask you to buy equipment or technology before an offer has been made.
Reputable companies either offer the technology needed to do the job, or they will fund the purchase of those items. This is key to remember, especially now that remote work is so popular and so many companies are offering job opportunities that require you to use technology to communicate. And even if it's a regular nine-to-five, this conversation should be part of the benefits negotiations anyway. You really shouldn't be using your own computer and technology to do business on behalf of another company, especially if there's proprietary or private information being shared such as customer contact information, confidential emails, contracts, and money transfers.
7. The recruiter is overzealous or promising too much up front.
It's great to get a job offer especially if you've been struggling for months to get a new one, but any recruiter promising you the world is probably a fraudster or just not being quite upfront about what the opportunity really demands. Be sure to research benefits and perks typically offered for the particular job or for your industry and compare that to what the recruiter is offering.
Ask additional questions about the companies they work with to provide benefits, who will handle payroll, how vacation days are set, and what banks the company uses for things like retirement accounts. The more supporting information, the better.
8. The company isn't doing well enough to even afford to hire new people.
If you're not looking into how a company is doing financially before signing on to work for them, sis, you're missing a key step in the job search process. Many major companies have listings via business publications (and if you don't know about popular "top companies" lists, just do a quick Google search.) Also, some companies are listed via the Better Business Bureau, or the local papers where they're headquartered cover their successes and failures quite often.
Whatever the case may be, step your research skills up and start looking into their business practices and latest news updates such as layoffs, closures, or takeovers, and proceed with caution.
If a company is basically having too many money or personnel problems, they might not actually be hiring and some phony might be contacting you fraudulently "on their behalf."
9. The job description is too vague.
Experts have said that long job descriptions can be red flags for a position that's either hard to fill or that has a manager who's hard to please. Well, there are indeed red flags for job descriptions that don't provide much elaboration on duties, expectations, or qualifications at all. Be especially leery of those that only state "high school diploma acceptable," or "little to no experience needed." (Hey, Craigslist.) It's a good chance that the job is not real or is simply not worth your time.
10. You can't verify their methods of reliable payment.
As a freelancer, I'm big on this, because people will play with your money if you let them. When you're going through the job search process, it's good to ask the HR managers or interviewers (before or during the interview) what company they use to handle payroll or what banks they work with in handling accounts payables.
Ask them to give you a point of contact for payment issues and then do your research on that person, department, or company via a simple online search. You can also talk with a rep at your own bank and ask them whether the companies or payment methods are legit.
If a prospective employer is offering a limited or inconvenient method of being paid, asking to only do non-traditional wire transfers, or being vague in answering your questions, rethink continuing the process of interviewing. (And again, never, ever, ever, give them your personal banking information or social for payment options until you've done your research and feel comfortable doing so.)
There should always be an option to be paid through an FDIC-insured method or through a traditional direct deposit. And if you don't trust the banking method, just don't bother signing on to that job. Nobody wants a problem when it's time to get paid, and you'd hate to have no one to contact about a grievance over a missed paycheck or a discrepancy, or worse: about not getting paid at all.
Just remember, if a situation during your job search doesn't feel right, it probably isn't, and what sounds too good to be true probably is a nightmare. Tap into your network, use online searches as a guide to make sound decisions, ask lots of questions before even agreeing to be interviewed, and be diligent.
For more job search tips, career advice and profiles, check out the xoNecole Workin Girl section here.
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