5 Signs a Side Gig Is a Scam

African man browsing work opportunities online using job search computer app, black jobless seeker looking for new vacancies on website page at laptop screen, recruitment concept, rear close up view.
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The promise of making some extra money to supplement our paychecks probably appeals to most of us, whether it’s to make ends meet, save for a special occasion or start a college fund for the kids. While plenty of legitimate side gigs can help you to achieve your financial goals, not all jobs you find out about through online job boards or other methods will be your ticket to a paycheck.

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That’s because the job could be a scam. Fraudsters have a way of duping hard-working people into falling for the promise of lucrative jobs, only to find themselves later victimized financially or by identify theft.

So, job seekers: Beware. Job scams contain several identifiable traits that fraudsters have figured out how to make look legitimate. Read on for five common job scams, as well as to learn some ways to spot a job that isn’t on the up-and-up.

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Email Job Invitation

If you’re actively seeking a job, you might have posted your resume on job sites. And one day, you may be thrilled to receive an email response. But proceed cautiously. While the email could be legitimate, scammers have been known to deceive with promises of an interview or, even better, a job right away. To put you on the payroll as soon as possible, your purported new company will ask for information such as your Social Security number or bank account number for direct deposit — a sign of a scam.

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Interview Through Messaging App or Chat

Flex Jobs reports that a scammer could contact you through a reputable site, such as LinkedIn, and want to discuss a job with you. A legitimate job opportunity through LinkedIn will have a tried-and-true next step, such as a phone, Zoom or in-person interview. A scammer, however, might ask you to download an app to continue the conversation, the Better Business Bureau says. At that point, the scammer will attempt to get you to send personal information, opening the door to identity theft.

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Job Placement Service

Temp or staffing agencies could prove great ways to find side gigs. But if one wants to charge for a job lead, don’t pull out your wallet. The employer pays the staffing agency for delivering a quality employee — not the other way around. If you’re asked to pay a fee, it very well could be a scam.

Government and Postal Service Jobs

An ad for a federal government or postal job sounds promising, and maybe you could work it around your current employment. But when you respond, you’re told you need to pay a fee to learn more or to acquire the study tools you’ll need to pass a job exam with flying colors. The federal government will never require you to pay a fee to find out about open jobs. You can search the employment lists yourself at either the federal government or postal service websites.

Reshipping Jobs

The job ad pops off your screen and the description sounds perfect: a reshipper. All you have to do is accept delivery of a package at home, then put it into new packaging and send it to an address provided to you — often overseas.

The items you’re taking delivery of frequently are electronics or luxury goods paid for with stolen credit cards. And you have three problems. By doing this job, you could be committing a crime by shipping stolen goods. You try to contact the company to find out where your paycheck or shipping reimbursement is, and the number is disconnected. Plus, you provided your personal data to get paid, and now your identity has been compromised.

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How To Avoid a Job Scam

If you’re contacted about a job that you didn’t apply for — or one that seems too good to be true — the Better Business Bureau advises that you take the following steps before proceeding with a prospective employer.

  1. Verify through an internet search that the company and job are real. A search for the company’s name and “scam” can point out red flags. Also, look at the corporate website’s careers page to verify the job is listed. Scammers often try to hide behind legitimate companies to pull off their frauds.
  2. Don’t divulge your personal information until you are 100% confident the employer and job are real.
  3. If you’re hired on the spot without an interview, think twice.
  4. If an employer wants to pay you before you’ve spent a minute on the job — especially if you then are asked to repay all or some of it — don’t fall for it. Post a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission or Better Business Bureau.

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About the Author

Jami Farkas holds a communications degree from California State University, Fullerton, and has worked as a reporter or editor at daily newspapers in all four corners of the United States. She brings to GOBankingRates experience as a sports editor, business editor, religion editor, digital editor — and more. With a passion for real estate, she passed the real estate licensing exam in her state and is still weighing whether to take the plunge into selling homes — or just writing about selling homes.
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