Beware of employment scams when applying for jobs online

Image courtesy: Unsplash

  • 90.95 million spam and scam content was proactively removed by LinkedIn in the second half of 2022.
  • The number of scams related to job and employment agencies reported to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) almost tripled between 2020 and 2021.
  • According to the FTC, the first quarter of 2022 saw Americans being scammed out of $68 million owing to fake job and business opportunities.

Surprised? Perhaps you are!

Worried? We bet you definitely are!

If you are a job seeker, you should be vigilant when negotiating with agencies or recruiters. With employment scams on the rise, doing your due diligence is crucial now more than ever. Be it avoiding hiring scams on job boards and social media like Indeed and LinkedIn or fake job offer emails that cajole you into paying for bogus things or sharing your personal and confidential details, you need to be careful and assess a job offer’s authenticity.

And if it’s too good to be true, perhaps it is.

As a job seeker, partnering with a reliable and experienced headhunter can help you steer clear of fake jobs and end up losing money and even sanity, to some extent.

How Job Scams Work

1.      Fake Job Offer Emails

The email purportedly comes from a “recruiter/employer” who claims to have found your resume on a job board or says that you applied for the position and are the perfect candidate.

Even though you may not remember applying to such a job or being interviewed, you may be tempted to take the offer up.

Scammers sending such job offer emails typically ask you to provide personal information such as:

  • Your Social Security Number (with the pretence of it being required to hire you)
  • Your driver’s license (which makes your birthday known to these people)
  • Your bank account details (on the pretext of transferring your paychecks or making direct deposits, they say)

Sometimes, they may even ask you to pay from your pocket to buy certain gadgets they say you will need to handle the job well. They could also ask you to pay a certain amount to process your onboarding and set up your salary account.

Once they have your confidential information, they could cause harm in different ways, ranging from cleaning your bank account to identity theft.

2.      Fake Check Scam

These job scams ask you to purchase a list of equipment, which could be a file cabinet, laptop, external hard drive, printer, etc. Your “supposed employers” say that you will be reimbursed the amount made to purchase these items later on with your first paycheck. Want to know what really happens?

The scammer will send money to somebody and tell you a pretty convincing story about why, when you receive this money, part of your new job will be to send it elsewhere or buy items or equipment or gift cards for your new boss.

In many cases, this scam is successful because banks often take a couple of business days to make funds from deposited checks available to you, but it can take weeks to realize they are fake. By then, you (or other gullible job seekers like you) will have made their purchases.

3.      Employment Scams through Hacked Websites, Emails, or Social Media Accounts

The scammer will take the communication forward in case you have already applied to the company via its website career form or connected via social media or email. The scam communication will feel like the real deal but they have minute slip-offs that you could spot if you are careful.

Addressing the job offer to the wrong person, moving you through the application and hiring stages much faster than usual, or offering salary and perks that are far too high than the industry standards are some notable red flags that you should be wary of.  

4.      Impersonating Job Placement Services

Another common type of employment scam involves impersonating job placement services, like headhunters, staffing agencies, etc. It pays to know that they will never ask you (the jobseeker) to pay for their services or for a job offer they make, because the responsibility to foot the bill lies on the employer.

Apart from the above hiring scams, you can come across employment scams on verified job boards (though the job boards are verified, the ad posters may not always be verified) and social media platforms. So, don’t let your guard down.

Checklist to Notice Employment Scams

Although hiring scams come in diverse forms, there are still some red flags that can help you identify one. Not sure what to look out for? Here’s a checklist that can help:

  • You are asked to pay to get a job.
  • You are asked to deposit a check and send the money back.
  • You are contacted through non-company email domains (for instance, an authentic IBM recruiter, John Doe, would reach out using a company email like, but the email of a scammer is likely to be
  • You are required to buy start-up equipment (say, a laptop, inkjet printer, scanner, etc.) from the company with the promise of the amount paid being reimbursed in your first paycheck (though it never arrives).
  • You are asked to share your bank account information or SSN/ESSN (even before you have received the job offer or started working).
  • You are asked to shell out a non-refundable registration fee.
  • The job posting is available on job boards, but not on the company’s website.
  • The website of your potential employer looks legit with the original logo and photo but the URL is slightly tweaked. Instead of the real, for instance, it could be www(dot)micro-soft(dot)com or www(dot)microosoft(dot)com or www(dot)1micro-soft(dot)com.
  • The job advertisement or email is dotted with errors and the job description and requirements are vague.
  • The job advertisement is flashy, and uses too-good-to-be-true terms like ‘unlimited earning potential,’ ‘quick money,’ or ‘free laptop,’ but has nominal skill requirements.
  • The job requirements lack specifics and apply to almost any candidate but offer a pay that’s extremely generous and far above the industry standards.
  • The potential employer shows an urgency to hire, and the job listings include words like “hire immediately” or “hiring to be concluded within a week” and you are rushed through the process and get a job offer within the same week of application.
  • Instead of a direct call, you are approached and interviewed through instant messaging services, like Telegram, or WhatsApp, or via social media platforms.
  • Your potential employers lack verifiable information, which means you can’t verify their web address, phone number, location, or employees.
  • Your questions and concerns go unanswered and unaddressed.
  • You get a job very quickly without your work experience being verified or being asked for references.
  • You are asked to install unfamiliar software, particularly one that’s proprietary, for online interviews, instead of using a popular, well-reputed app, such as Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.

How to Report Employment Scams

If you notice the above red flags in a job advert on job boards like Indeed or social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter, you can report it to the website or job board, many of which have settings to facilitate users to report suspicious listings or communications. The job board will typically remove any listings that violate its guidelines while social media platforms are likely to review your submission.

For instance, on LinkedIn, you could report hiring scams here. Twitter ads or tweets too could be reported.

Reporting a phishing page to Google is another step that you can take. Google’s Safe Browsing team will use the information you share to shield users from online scammers. Based on the team’s findings, Google may update the site status in its Transparency Report.

You should also contact the hiring company to let them know of fraudulent activities (hiring scams in this case) that mimic their name, website, brand logo, etc. Since scammers usually use real company names to gather sensitive information from job applicants or set up a site that looks almost like the real company, you should inform the actual organisation that someone is using their name in a scam or a job application form on a fraudulent website that looks almost like their own website.

Final Words

Now that you know aboutemployment scams, how to spot the red flags and avoid the dubious ones, and report them, be vigilant, and don’t let your guard down.

Here’s wishing you the best for your job hunt!

If you are looking for a job in the IT sector or as a C-suite executive, you can reach out to us at Inhunt World and we’ll be happy to help.

This article was written by