Even though the global pandemic has pushed some companies to allow employees to work from home, it’s not a new concept. Working from home was — and still continues to be — an avenue for many people to earn money.
But that doesn’t mean that every remote or online job offer is legitimate. Some are outright scams, perpetrated by people who want to gain access to your personal information or trick you into spending money.
As you consider online job ads and offers, here are warning signs to look for to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Job Listings or Emails Are Full of Errors
Legitimate companies send correspondence from professional email addresses — not personal email accounts. When a job offer comes from what appears to be a personal address, such as a Gmail account, consider it a red flag.
An email that contains multiple grammatical errors or misspelled words is also a sign of someone who may be trying to scam you. Those types of errors may mean that the scammer is simply careless. However, it could be a strategy to weed out all but the most gullible of recipients, which make for better-scamming targets.
Job Description and Requirements Are Vague
If you regularly look at job ads, you’ll likely notice that they almost always include specific details about job duties, hours and requirements for the position offered. Salary and benefits might also be stated.
Job ads that could lead to a money scam include those that are vague and have very little detail. Once you reply to this type of ad, you may receive an email. Note if the email also seems generic, such as not having your name in the greeting line. If so, it’s likely a boilerplate reply to anyone who responds to the scam.
What You Thought Was a Job Opportunity Wasn’t
You apply or register online for what you think is a job opportunity. Then, you get a reply offering you a membership to a job database or some kind of career service, such as counseling, for a fee.
While there may well be a product or membership you can buy, advertising a job to get your contact information — and your money — is scammy.
Upfront Expenses Are Required To Gain Access to the Opportunity
People who are desperately seeking an online job are vulnerable to scammers. A scammer may ask job seekers to pay for a training course or certification to gain eligibility for an attractive job offer.
If you send the money, you might get something in return but it won’t be a job. A legitimate job offer will not require you to pay to apply.
Interviews Take Place Over Messaging Platforms
An online job interview through web-based interviewing platforms like Spark Hire or HireFunnel is what you’d expect from a legitimate company. But if you’re offered an interview on messaging services like Google Hangouts or Yahoo Messenger, be leery.
Scammers use these platforms to “interview” you for a job. Then, before the interview is over, they offer the job to you and ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number, to set up direct deposit for your upcoming paychecks.
The Job Seems Too Good To Be True
In most instances, if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. The same goes for job descriptions that offer easy work for terrific pay with no training. If you see this kind of ad, alarm bells should go off in your head.
If you think it could be a legitimate job opportunity, do some online research to find out if it could be a scam. Check the reported salary for the job on a site like PayScale or Glassdoor. If the compensation is way less than what you’re being offered, it’s likely a scam.
The Company’s Online Presence Doesn’t Exist or Is Minimal
When a company is offering a job that you’re interested in, it can pay off to research its background. Look for its website and see if it looks professional and informative or if it’s basic and vague. Check out any social media accounts to see if there are followers and evidence of company events and actual people who work there.
Also, go to LinkedIn and search for the company name. If it’s legitimate, there will be a link on the company’s page to take you to employee profiles of real people who actually work there.
A Sense of Urgency To Hire
If you see an ad for a company that is hiring immediately or has a same-day hiring process, be on guard. Additionally, if a representative contacts you immediately after you apply and says the company is looking to fill the position that day or week, politely ask why. According to a recent Indeed survey, only 4% of job applicants hear back from a company the same day that they apply.
Plus, no matter how fast a company wants to hire you, a legitimate hiring process still takes time.
The Web Address Is Slightly Altered
If you see a job ad that appears to be from a well-known company that’s offering online jobs, put your detective hat on. If you click on the link, you might be redirected to a site that looks legitimate — but examine the web address closely. Look for a subtle change in the address, such as an extra letter, a dash or a dot.
Scammers often recreate a well-known website, using a slightly altered web address to reel in unsuspecting job seekers.
Personal Details Are Requested Upfront
While it’s not illegal for a company to ask for your Social Security number on a job application, you do not need to supply it at that stage. Only after you have been offered a job would it be necessary for the company to have the number for hiring paperwork.
Also, be wary of a job application that asks for your birthdate, along with answers to random questions, such as those you would use to secure a password. This could be an attempt to steal your identity or gain access to your accounts. Here are some examples: What is your mother’s maiden name? Who was your first employer? What was the name of your first pet?
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