Job scams come in many forms, but in all their forms, the scammers all focus on taking advantage of you during your hunt for employment. They know many people find themselves in desperate situations if they can’t find work. It’s easy to overlook job scam red flags if you’re in a rush and trying to secure a position. It’s important to know how to identify job scams and to keep an eye out for the warning signs, so you don’t end up in a bad situation.

Before we get into the tips on how to avoid potential job scams the first, most over-arching tips we would like to provide is– Trust Your Gut! If something seems sketchy or under-the-table then take a step back.  Job-hunting is a vulnerable time when people are desperate, excited and a bit overwhelmed so it’s important to stay calm and collected when something seems a bit strange. Don’t be afraid to admit to the potential recruiter or employer that you are hesitant or think the job may be a scam.  Most legitimate companies/jobs can provide you with documentation to help ease your concern and will likely do so in an understanding manner. Scammers, on the other hand, are likely just to get mad at you and threaten you with the loss of a non-existent job. In all of this, trust your gut!

Requests for Sensitive Information

You do have to provide some sensitive information over the course of your job hunt, but this happens later in the application process. If someone calling themselves a recruiter asks for personal information such as your social security number, birthday or tax information, they are trying to steal your identity.

If you encounter someone attempting to do this, contact the company they claim to represent, as well as the police, so you can help prevent them from causing harm to yourself and others. If the scammer is using a social media platform, like Facebook, contact the social media site and report the scammer to make it difficult for this person to continue using that platform to find victims.

Avoids Answering Your Questions

How does the recruiter react when you ask questions about the position? Do they change the subject or give you a non-answer? A recruiter should be doing everything they can to sell you on the job, so avoiding questions is a key sign they are a scammer. This is “How to spot a job scam 101.” You also want to pay attention to how quickly they provide this information, especially if you ask a question that’s out of the box. A fake recruiter may be prepared with generic answers to common questions, but they have to come up with unconventional responses on the spot.  A legitimate recruiter might not know every last answer to the questions you ask, but they will normally offer to find out and call you back. Try to think of questions only a true recruiter or hiring agent would know. This is easier if the job is a specialized trade such as welding or forklift operation. A hiring manager for a welding position should know exactly what welding codes will be necessary for the job and a recruiter for a forklift position should be able to tell you what type of forklift vehicle (stand-up, sit-down, cherry-picker) will be driven.

Doesn’t Provide Job Details

A real placement firm provides you with complete job details in writing. You should know exactly what type of position you’re applying for, the rate of pay, the length of the contract, the company you’ll be working for and other essential details.

While the recruiter or staffing firm acts as the intermediary between you and the company, that doesn’t mean they lack information about the position. The only area that a legitimate recruiter may lack is technical knowledge if the position is intended for highly-specialized IT personnel. However, the recruiter has a general understanding of the duties, pay and workload in that situation.

Again, here you can try to think about questions that a legitimate agent would know but a scammer may stumble on.  For example, a recruiter can probably lay out the full medical benefits plan for you or describe different company policies such as uniforms, technology usage or parking.  A job scammer may give short answers, no answers or change the subject altogether.

Requests Payment

Don’t pay money to anyone for a job. One of the biggest job scam warning signs is when the company you are supposed to be working for asks you to pay them.  People trying to get payment and claiming it’s for credit or background checks, recruitment fees, equipment or supplies are not legitimate recruiters. It’s unlikely that there’s a real job involved at all. Typically, you won’t hear back from the scammers after they get their hands on your money.

Think of it this way. You’re looking for work or connecting with recruiters because you want to make money. Why would you have to make a payment when you’re trying to bring in an income? The recruiter might promise exclusive opportunities or priority applications, but they don’t bring any value to the table.

As well, most (if not all) legal and legitimate companies provide these services (background checks, credit checks, drug tests) for free because they are taking on these costs as part of their hiring procedures.  Other costs such as recruitment fees, uniforms, benefits packages or equipment fees can often be deducted from your paycheck once you have worked and been paid. 

If You Fall for the Scam

If you fell for a job scam you may be asking “How do I report the job scam?”  There are a few places you can report the site, company or advertisement. This can potentially prevent others from falling for the scam.  As well, this may not totally stop the scamming company from operating but make their efforts much more difficult. You can first report the fraudulent job to the site it is posted on by contacting the site’s customer service.  You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Better Business Bureau.

Scammers are opportunistic and take advantage of people who are distracted by other matters, such as finding a job. By paying close attention to the recruiters, staffing agencies and other people you interact with during this process, you can avoid wasting time, risking identity theft or losing money.

An Ōnin Staffing recruiter will never ask for sensitive, personal or financial information online. If you are approached by a recruiter online who claims to be with Ōnin Staffing, always call or visit your local Ōnin Staffing branch to confirm the position.