7 Scam Warnings For Online Job Hunters

According to legends we’ve heard, it’s possible to find a job by searching online. Flimflammers are also looking for you, looking to defraud job seekers. The BBB has 7 red flags to should watch out for that could indicate that job opportunity is just a scam.

1. Employer e-mails are rife with grammatical and spelling errors
2. E-mails purporting to be from job posting Web sites claiming there’s a problem with a job hunter’s account
3. An employer asks for extensive personal information such as social security or bank account numbers
4. An employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home
5. An employer asks for money upfront
6. The salary and benefits offered seem too-good-to-be-true
7. The job requires the employee to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram

Most of these are common sense, yet, somehow, they still keep working on people desperate for work.

Look for Seven Red Flags when Searching for Jobs Online [BBB]

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Chairman-Meow says:

    Bah! Fiddlesticks!

    Next thing you’re going to tell me that those “crazy like a fox” adds with the constantly changing website are a scam too!

  2. These aren’t so much scam strategies, as phishing strategies. This is step 1

    Step 1 Get personal information
    Step 2 Unknown
    Step 3 Make Money!

  3. Zimorodok says:

    Let’s add the carbon-copy-identical multi-level marketing scam job postings to that list.

  4. Eldritch says:

    Also, anything that says “entry level” or “marketing”.

  5. simplegreen says:

    Step 8. If you have to squint to understand the person on the other end of the phone, just hang up.

  6. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I had my personal information used by some moron at a big-name temporary agency to attempt to obtain credit for herself. So now I never give them my SSN# until they send me on my first job. Yeah, I know they can still scam me after that. No, they don’t need my SSN# to run a criminal background check. No, I don’t want to work with anyone too stupid to understand “you are utter strangers and I’m not going to give you all the information you need to clear out my bank accounts and drive me into bankruptcy.”

  7. @speedwell: I hope you reported this to the proper authorities. If they are “big name” a few loud complaints can damage their rep. I, for one, would like to know who they were.

  8. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    @Eldritch: Learned that the hard way after college. Went to a couple of places that were advertising “entry level marketing positions”. Somehow, selling urinal cakes and tampon dispensers to businesses door to door and being paid purely on commission wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

  9. QuantumRiff says:

    @speedwell: I been using sites like career builder, monster, and Dice, since I am moving across country in a few months, and looking for job. Several of the “larger” employers want you to go to their own website, and register with a username and password. What a pain in the butt, keeping track of it all. Some of those sites also want your social security number as part of the application process. I gave it on the first site, but after reflection, I no longer do that. Several sites won’t let you finish applying for the Job without one. That pisses me off, what do they need it for before they hire me? Are they doing background checks without telling me? Working in IT, doing security, that makes me paranoid, so I’ve taken to then emailing my resume to someone in HR, and explaining that I don’t feel comfortable giving out my social security number at this point in the hiring process.. I’m sure that has cost me a few potential jobs, but I just won’t do it anymore…

  10. QuantumRiff says:

    @speedwell: I would like to know who they are as well.. i’m applying for jobs online left and right, since I’m moving cross country. I have seen dozens of companies that require your social as part of the application process, and won’t proceede without it. I have gotten to the point where I don’t apply on their site anymore, and find an HR email address and just send my resume and a cover letter, and explain I don’t feel comfortable giving that info out yet. Why do they need my social before they hire me? There are too many chances for problems, like you seem to have found. (I’m sure not doing the application the correct way with a social has cost me a few opportunities…) Are they doing background checks without me knowing? Are they looking at my credit? They want my social, my address, my employment, etc.. Someone could have alot of fun with that info. Some of these companies are IT related companies, dealing with Security. One would think they should know better…

  11. QuantumRiff says:

    @QuantumRiff: Comments must be having issues, didn’t look like my first one went through, till I re-wrote it..

  12. RoboSheep says:

    My social on webforms is 111-11-1111 with a note that they can have the real one later. There is no reason they would need a ssn for making the hiring decision just knowing that you have one should be enough. I’d like to see a law the prohibits a company from asking for your SSN until a job offer has been made and accepted so that way these scammers can be shut down quickly.

  13. Orv says:

    @QuantumRiff: The new policy where I work is that all system administrators get background checks. You can thank morons like the guy who locked the San Francisco city government out of their computers for this invasion of privacy.

    Incidentally, one of the things you’ll find about sites like Monster is that most of the ads are from temp agencies and placement companies. Many of the jobs don’t really exist in the form they’re listed. I’ve had far better luck checking local newspaper ads (many are online), the government-run job sites that some states have, or even the websites of individual employers in the area that I think I’d like to work for.

  14. Derv says:

    Bonus: Don’t waste your time on Craigslist looking for a job unless you are in one of the major markets where Craigslist charges the employer to post a job. Scammers don’t like to pay $25, apparently.

  15. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I hear some companies/agencies are running credit checks as part of the application process. Apparently, people with good credit scores are the best workers. [sarcasm].

    Also to add to the list, be aware of “payment processing” or “medical billing” work-at-home type jobs. You could be laundering money for pyramid schemes and 419 scams.

  16. mickbw says:

    Don’t forget Mystery Shoppers.

    I would suggest whenever possible to use sites like Indeed.com as they aggregate from most of the major sites and don’t require you to sign up to use their service. That can help to funnel out some of the dreck.

  17. mrosedal says:

    So here is a question for someone. I am currently looking for a job. And I had one potential employer ask if they could run a credit check on me. The employer was a hospital and I was having a face-to-face interview so it was ligit. Now I can maybe understand a bank wanting this information, but what do they think it is going to prove? Oh lets hire this person cause he has excellent credit. I was quite outraged by them asking. And the funny thing is that my credit score is well above 750 so I certainly have nothing to fear…I just thought it was such a stupid policy that I was unwilling to cooperate.

    Anyone else run into this or know why they would need it to work at a hospital?

  18. timmus says:

    It’s a good idea for job seekers to go to the credit bureaus and lock down their credit reports before walking through the zoo of job openings, handing out SSNs from the peanut bag. There’s too many people asking for access to this kind of information before offering the position, and in this kind of job market it’s not like you can tell them to shove it.

  19. ludwigk says:

    Look, they send me large checks from banks in Russia, which I cash, then I send them the money packed in air-tight foodsaver bags stuffed into half empty coffee tins, and I get to keep 10% off the top for my expenses. What’s unusual about that?

  20. theblackdog says:

    @mrosedal: Generally they have found that if a person is at a high risk of getting in over their head with debt, said person thinks it’s a really good idea to swipe drugs or medical supplies and resell them on the black market.

  21. dmbbnl429 says:

    and therein lies your catch-22, you cant get a good job if you have bad credit, you have bad credit because you cant get a good job and pay off your debt!! I wonder if these practices will change as more Americans are building massive amounts of debt and defaulting on loans.

  22. MissTic says:

    I’m getting a lot of “sell insurance and make 100k a year!” emails via Monster.

    So far, they have been legit companies and real emails. I’ve conversed with two of them on the phone. I didn’t give any personal info nor was I asked for any.

    I did tell both parties that I was currently seeking a _______ position (my industry) and would not consider a job that involves leads generation, cold calling or working on commission. Both people were very polite and wished me well.

    FWIW – yahoo hotjobs seems to be getting more traction than Monster these days.

  23. TWinter says:

    @mrosedal: Hospitals usually do all sorts of background and credit checks. If you’re providing patient care you could steal drugs, if you’re in the paper pushing side of things you have access to all the info you would need for identity theft.

  24. Jigen says:

    I had an account on monster.com and would constantly get emails about job offers where I would have to pay $1500 or so for training, which of course would be reimbursed afterwards.
    The best were the ones written entire in caps. Or when I’d get a number of identical emails, just with different company/employer names on them.
    I finally had to delete my account due to the overwhelming scam attempts being thrown at me.

  25. Also, employers that make you pay for “training.” I was looking into working as a personal trainer while in school, and for a mere 400 dollars Bally’s would license me, and then maybe I could work there.

  26. Carabell says:

    I got three scam job listing emails just today, and I haven’t had an active resume on a job board since last February.

  27. the_gank says:

    @timmus: so if someone here takes your advice and their credit is locked down by the bureaus — as requested by them…what if they now get a job and the company can’t seem to run a background ?

    #1. Do the credit bureaus charge to locked down your credit?

    #2. If yes, do you need to pay to unlock it once you get a job?

    if no to ? #1, do u pay to lock/unlock it ??

    This is actually a good idea considering someone like me who is seeking employment..might try this if there’s no penalty for doing so

  28. TechnoDestructo says:


    Actually, they may need your SSN for a criminal background check. Or at least, it could help.

    My neighbor was having the damnedest time getting any kind of job for almost a year before she found out that background checks were coming up with someone with the same name with fraud convictions.

  29. TVarmy says:

    Vector is CutCo knives, they tend to target seniors and teens just out of high school or on summer vacation in college. They’re partly on online sites, and also send out official looking job interview invites. Don’t go, they’ll make you buy a big sales kit you’ll lose money on as people only buy so many sub-standard knives.

  30. temporaryerror says:

    I’ve encountered someone who’s credit was locked down per their request as the result of a DMV breakin. When I called to get a credit check on them, the agent told me that they had a phone number on file that was given to them by the individual in question when the credit report was locked down. Whenever someone tried to run/apply for credit under the guys name, the c bureaus were instructed to not release the info or do anything until they had contacted the person at the # that they had provided and given the OK. No ok, no credit check/report. But, the guy was still able to have a check/report run on him if he implicitly auth’d it.

  31. temporaryerror says:

    @TVarmy: re: Cutco/vector marketing- If you ever see online ads or telephone flyers that say “earn $15/hr part time!” that is CutCo. When you call, or apply online, they don’t tell you what they do. When they call to “interview you” they don’t say what it is that they do. Only after about 20 min into the group interview do you discover what it is that they do. On a related note, it is in the “manager’s” best interest to have rapid turnover. They make more money that way.

  32. digitalgimpus says:

    Another one is headhunters who want job hunters to pay for job leads… reputable headhunters are paid by the employer looking to fill a position. The shady ones often will deliver a large # of jobs for $x dollars. Even encouraging you to buy, get a job, then resell the list to someone else (smells like a pyramid scheme).

    I got one of those a few years ago via email.

    Sorry, no dice. I can go to a job hunting site myself.

  33. corbyz says:

    “The job requires the employee to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram”

    People fall for that? Seriously, this is like natural selection in the modern age.

  34. TheFlamingoKing says:

    “1. Employer e-mails are rife with grammatical and spelling errors”

    Wait, that sounds like my boss…

    “6. The salary and benefits offered seem too-good-to-be-true”

    Oh, wait, nevermind, that’s definitely not my job…

  35. bbbco says:

    What about an email stating that 8 weeks of training in India were required?

  36. SarcasticDwarf says:

    How about using your common freaking sense? Good god, it is not hard at all to figure out when it is a scam.

  37. AndrewJC says:

    The problem with “common sense” is that it isn’t.

  38. parrotuya says:

    Caveat Emptor!

  39. mac-phisto says:

    for those legitimate employers seeking new hires on the web, be as detailed as possible in your postings. i’ve responded to a few postings that seem genuine, but are real vague on information (like a company website &/or specific location). instead, they ask that interested applicants email a contact for more info. in my experience, the response is almost always a link to a b.s. $10,000/hr scheme. now i just pass over any posting that doesn’t give me enough info to decide if it’s a real post or not.

    & hr managers should be canvassing sites to ensure that their company is not being spoofed – i’ve also encountered this, with “apply now” buttons redirecting to “_real_company_.XXXXXX.com”-type domaines.

    finally, i’ve limited my info/resumes on job posting sites (monster in particular) after a rash of emails from illegitimate employers. careerbuilder still seems to have some integrity in this area – i don’t know if they actually have an approval process for employers seeking access to resumes or if the cost to view them results in less “scams”, but whatever they’re doing seems to be working for now.

  40. selianth says:

    With my resume being public on monster.com for about 3 months now, I’ve only gotten 1 or 2 insurance/marketing/sales type “offer” emails. On Yahoo HotJobs, I had literally 2 a day for a week until I made my resume private again. Just for that I’m much more inclined to use monster.

    I second the recommendation above to use indeed.com. I never would have found the job that I just got an offer for if I didn’t.

  41. iguanoid says:

    nthing indeed.com. Enter in an advanced search with all the terms you want and tweak that by filtering out unwanted terms and then save that as a bookmark. Instant job search every morning.

  42. Zelucifer says:

    front_towards_enemy: The “ever changing” website, appears to be for research reasons. I believe they give out a different number based on the time/channel/whatever critera they want. This way they know when there advertising dollars are best spent.

    This is solely conjecture, but it appears to be the only logical conclusion, assuming of course that they aren’t wasting thousands of dollars on domain name registrations.

  43. k1ckstand says:

    From my experience, job-seekers should avoid listings that do not explicitly state what you would be doing on the job. I see this metioned in previous posts, but it needs to be repeated for the naive. If they won’t disclose what you need to know over the phone or by e-mail, they’re probably out screw you.

    Most online listings I’ve encountered were nothing more than attempts to coerce me into an interview for a job that doesn’t really exist. Once there, they attempt to low-ball you into some pointless, skill-irrelevant position that is a fraction of the compensation mentioned. What a waste of time.

    Also, beware of any offers that want to “acquaint” you with the company before continuing the interview process. I’ve fallen for this once before and it turned out to be nothing but a huge marketing spiel about how you need to have their certifications to “make it” in the industry. I got up, told the speaker to fuck himself and left the building with about half of the people in attendance following suit. Good times.

  44. HFC says:

    Who are the people who fall for these tricks and where can I get their e-mail addresses?

  45. Haltingpoint says:

    A few things I’ve noticed…

    Affiliate sites – There are sites out there who will email you and say they have positions they think you are qualified for and you can learn all about them by clicking the link to their job site. Either this is just a random job site or some affiliate pulling in links from other job sites. I usually respond that I am only interested in the specific positions they email me the text description for.

    Sales – Somehow insurance sales people think my background (which has zero sales experience) would be a good fit for them. I just delete these now…should probably setup a gmail filter for them too.

    Headhunters – There are good ones out there and there are crap ones. Try searching around for industry specific recruiting firms…I know in the ad industry there are specific ones for media, account management, creative, etc.

    Placement firms – Companies like Aquent, Acquity Group, Creative Circle, etc. A lot of these are subsidiaries of Robert Half…a giant scam and a half. It is very insightful to look in the forums on Indeed.com about these specific companies. Plenty of fun complaints to read there.

  46. hellbent says:

    what, seriously? if a person needs a job, they probably dont have $1500 to ‘get’ a job, are these the stupidest scam artists ever?
    if you are looking for a job and will pay $1500, i have a bridge to sell you….

  47. blackmage439 says:

    I have 7 things to watch out for while online job hunting, and they all arrive in my spam box every day.

    The only thing Monster and Career Builder did for me was open up my email address to spammers and phishers. The posting were always out-of-date or not correct. The employers NEVER checked their accounts; you had to use their email and contact info, or they would never see your application. Even doing so, the employers were all nucking futs. Some “lost” my applications; some never received it, even through their application process. I don’t think I’ll ever use Monster’s or Career Builder’s services again.

  48. Jobs Working Online says:

    Thanks…good to know.