Your job search has been exhausting. While few people love looking for work, last year’s on-again, off-again lockdowns made employment searches even harder. Maybe you were hired only to learn the position had been “frozen.” Perhaps you were laid off. Or you could have been a 2020 college grad, “entering the worst job market since the Great Depression.”
Regardless, the unsolicited message seems like a lifeline. A hiring manager liked your profile or your portfolio. Your skill set is exactly what the company is looking for; the salary is more than you could have imagined. Be careful. A string of unsuccessful first dates should sharpen your instincts, not soften them. Instead, desperation often leads to poor choices. Online scams aren’t just about getting phished or buying nonexistent products. There are thousands of fake jobs on LinkedIn ––– just as there are on every careers site. Flexjobs admits that for every one legitimate work-from-home job, there are approximately 60-70 job scams. So before you do anything, see if your “dream job” matches one of these warning signs.
1.They Ask for Money
This is always a red flag. Period. Unless you are purchasing a franchise or planning to be an independent contractor, you shouldn’t spend money to work. Yes, there are top-notch placement services that charge executives but they would NOT be contacting you via LinkedIn. Legit companies don’t charge employees for jobs and neither do temp agencies (their money comes from businesses that use their service –– but then you already knew that, right?).
2. They Ask for Personal Info Right Away
Eventually after one or two interviews and a slew of emails and phone calls, you will be asked to provide a social security number prior to starting a job. Sometimes this information is also used for a background check. After you’ve been hired, you might fill out a form for direct deposit that includes your bank info. Think about how long this all took with your last job. Now, just after responding to the LinkedIn message you are being asked to provide socials and bank deets. Huge red flag! If you ever get an email directing you to click on a link to submit your info for a background check, credit report, or other online form send it all to the junk file. Your email provider likely has a “phishing” box you should check as well. These scams often come up in online apartment searches; either way never, ever provide information that can be used for identity fraud. According to the FBI, people lose an average of $3,000 after responding to fake job listings that gets them to to hand over their personal information. Make sure to do your due diligence on any company that reaches out to you. Don’t just verify their existence, verify the identity of the person recruiting you.
3. The Pay is Way Above Average
You likely wouldn’t spend much time looking at an online ad for a beach rental listed as $400 per month. You’d know right away it was too good to be true. Yet the longer people go without a job, the more they want to believe something amazing is right around the corner. And it could well be –– but it won’t be a work-from-home job assembling products or posting Amazon ads for six-figure compensation. If the salary is dramatically higher than you’d expect, it’s likely you’ve uncovered one of the many fake jobs on LinkedIn.
Of course not every fake job promises high wages. Some of the listed figures are ideal compensation for sales jobs. Generally speaking, commission-only sales jobs are a bad bet. If you’ve never worked in sales before and you’re being asked to with the promise of untold thousands in returns, chances are it’s not legit. Sometimes it’s for a door-to-door selling job, other times you’ll be asked to buy “samples.” Many multi-level marketing companies make most of their profits from “sales people” who buy their product in the form of kits. If the ad has keywords like “salary potential” or “earn cash quick” it’s probably a scam. They may ask you to work for free during a “training period” –– remember the U.S. Department of Labor requires by law that employees be paid minimum wage. So as you look for work, keep in mind a position’s average salary and your own expectations. If you’re asked to work for considerably less, it’s worth asking how they determine salaries.
4. The Posting Looks Dodgy
If you’re sent to the business’s website and it looks less professional than something your 13-year-old sister could create, that’s a warning sign. So are misspellings, disjointed syntax, and poor grammar in the original posting. Often they indicate an overseas scammer. Even if a real live business is involved, would you want to work for anyone who paid so little attention to detail? Unless you’re looking to be hired as an editor for people who really need one (in which case you should get some of your pay upfront), do not respond to postings that look worse than an elementary school book report.
Not every online job posting is a scam. I know, because I have found some amazing collaborators on Craig’s List. With so many people working from home, the number of legitimate opportunities have increased exponentially. Unfortunately, so have the scams. Stay safe.