Jobfishing: 10 Ways to Avoid a Job Scam
Let’s talk about jobfishing. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
“Jobfishing” is a term used for scammers who advertise jobs that seem great but are fake. Think of people on dating sites who are “catfished” or drawn in by a fake profile. Many job seekers don’t recognize the signs of scams and fall for too-good-to-be-true jobs.
Millions of workers are looking for new opportunities, whether currently employed or unemployed. You must learn to identify scams and avoid them at all costs. Any job seeker, including high-level professionals, can fall prey to scammers.
Unfortunately, with jobfishing, scammers intend to harm by playing with people’s lives. Recently, a fake company hired 50 employees and lured victims to work on commission for six months. BBC News investigated the company only to find fake employees who used internet photos and fabled content on their LinkedIn profiles.
How Do They Do It? Who Are the Victims?
FlexJobs’ recent survey shows more millennials are victims than any other age group. When we think of millennials, we acknowledge they are tech-savvy, intelligent, and conscientious. However, they are also more trusting, naive, and willing to share information about themselves online.
Scammers prey on vulnerable job seekers at the edge of desperation and regularly find victims. Over the years, they’ve managed to masquerade as a solution to career changers and job seekers who are vulnerable because of their needs.
Scammers have learned to advertise fake jobs to lure people into engaging in conversations.
Victims interview for jobs and leave their current jobs believing they are getting better a one. They onboard unsuspectingly to the new fake company, and work without ever getting paid.
Victims range in various age brackets and career levels:
- Unemployed or underemployed
- Laid-off or terminated
- Older people who have limited resources
- People who are looking to make more or extra money
- People desperate to break into an ideal field
10 Things You Should Do to Protect Yourself Against a Job Scam
Unfortunately, most job seekers do not research companies before applying to them. They assume listings on a legitimate job site are safe to use. Be ready to do the deep work necessary because fake companies are doing their best to look legitimate.
Here are ten things you can do to recognize, minimize, or altogether avoid scams:
1. Investigate the Company’s Legal Standing
Check if they are a legal entity in their state and see if what they claim is true.
Action tip: Avoid them if you cannot find the company on sites like SimilarWeb or if they are red-flagged as a suspicious site.
2. Check the Company’s LinkedIn Page
There are many legit new companies, but often brand new companies are the framework for scammers. See if the company has a LinkedIn company page, research founders, CEO, and employees. Talk to the employees and ask them questions about their positions, the company culture, and their experience working there. If the company CEO is featured in the news, ask employees if what the CEO says is true.
Action tip: If the company has conflicting comments about their reputation or their integrity is constantly in question, it’s best to stay away.
3. Beware of Sparse Websites
Since remote jobs are highly coveted, scammers frequently promote and advertise fake jobs to appear like the real thing. However, their web pages tell a different story. Often the website contains minimal information and may only be one page.
Action tip: Be suspicious if information about the company is scarce. Companies should have more than a two-page website of who they are and what they do. Other companies and former employees should be talking about them positively.
4. Never Pay Money
Any job requiring money upfront is not a real job.
Action tip: Report the company immediately to Federal Trade Commission.
5. Be Wary of Emails and Links
Fake jobs will also use recruiting tactics via email to lure you into clicking on a phishing link. You can tell something is wrong when the URL looks like a familiar but misspelled company name or the email address looks odd (e.g., j.dunn@homedepo892928).
Beware: Don’t click on it or any links in the email. They also send correspondence from Gmail, Yahoo, or other private email addresses for you to reply to.
Action tip: Report it and block it. This article offers the various types of phishing.
6. Research the Interviewer
Got an interview? Start researching the interviewer through LinkedIn and do a Google search. Fake interviewers often make it too easy for you to get hired and lure you into trusting them. Be wary if they are trying to get your personal information.
Action tip: You can try the company website to see if a profile exists or LinkedIn (trust LinkedIn more). Be skeptical if there is little information about them on the web or if their profile looks like someone else’s. Zoom and other video conferencing software have made it easier for scammers to show real people and heighten victims’ trust.
7. Look Out for Poor Writing
Spelling and grammar errors look like spam communication, and it should be a red flag to you, too. Communication errors can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, primarily in recruiting efforts.
Action tip: Companies that look unprofessional likely are. Don’t move forward with them.
8. Be Careful of Fake Company Reviews
Fake reviews about the company may be on many review websites, even on Google and Yahoo. Look to see if social network users are giving the company bad reviews.
Action tip: Search by the company’s account and search by using the company’s name in a hashtag ( e.g., #Lensa). You can see what other users say in real-time if they are running ongoing scams. Include Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter in your search about a company’s reputation.
9. Watch Out for Background Checks
There are legitimate jobs that require background checks, such as educational, healthcare, or government employees.
However, fake companies requiring confidential background checks are most damaging to unsuspecting victims. As the FBI website states, “The PII (Personal Identifiable Information) is used for nefarious purposes, including taking over the victims’ accounts, opening new financial accounts, or using the victims’ identity for another deception scam…”
Action tip: Your state may have a law like Illinois does in using credit as part of a background check for employment without your consent. Don’t give companies this information.
10. Stay Away From Untrustworthy Websites
Scammers wanting you to go to sites red-flagged by Google or other search engines will use it to get your banking information.
Action tip: Stay clear from those sites and report them immediately to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Proactive Measures You Can Take to Guard Against Scammers
Investigating companies is the most important action you can take in your job search. Whether the company is legitimate or appears fake, you should always take precautions. Some scammers look so similar to actual companies you can’t assume anything.
Here’s how to proactively protect your private and personally identifiable information:
- Check your credit report yearly to ensure no employer, creditor, or identity thief uses your identity for scams.
- Make sure your computer, tablet, and cellphone have the full suite of online protection software. Advance scamming technology gathers your personal information to get your financial account information. You can start with free malware, spyware, and security software here. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to mask your IP address for lurkers looking for victims when using public Wi-Fi.
- Conduct regular searches of your name on all search engines, including Google, Yahoo, and Bing, to see if your name or likeness is used. There are cases of using someone’s picture or name for scamming purposes. The other reason to conduct regular name searches is to ensure your name isn’t besmirched by someone using your name to scam individuals. Legitimate companies do these searches to protect their brand reputation. It would be best if you did the same.
- Change your passwords frequently. There are inexpensive software choices like LastPass Manager to record long and complex passwords.
It’s best not to trust any company and assume they want something from you. Fake companies have many tools they use to appear legitimate. This makes it especially important to screen them before trusting them with your assets.
Scammers are after your money and your personal information. Don’t let them get it.