Photo of job scams: how to spot them and protect yourself

Job scams: How to spot them and protect yourself

Looking for a job can be stressful, overwhelming, and frustrating, so when you receive a message from a recruiter or hiring manager who is interested in you, it might feel like a breath of fresh air. While there are a lot of real recruiters who work with third party companies like Robert Half, EdgeLink, and WunderLand, you need to be wary of every person who reaches out to you first because you might be a victim of job scams.

Why is that? Unfortunately, job scams are becoming more and more prevalent as a way for people to gain access to candidates’ bank information, 2 factor authorization, or Social Security number. In order to protect yourself, we’ve outlined how you can spot these fake jobs and how you can protect yourself.

Photo of job scams: how to spot them

1. They reach out to you first about a job

Often, people will pose as recruiters or hiring managers from third party companies or big tech companies and send you an email or message telling you about a role at their organization. The email might look legitimate and it might even link to the real job description, but there are some key red flags that you might notice.

  • The email is sent from an email address that is not associated with the company. For example, a Facebook recruiter emailing you from a address. Be especially careful because they might make it look real but there is something slightly off like instead of
  • If you are unsure if the email address is real or not, try to search it on Google to see what comes up. You can also search the email address plus the word “scam” to see if others have gotten this email in the past.
  • You should also search the name of the person and the company on LinkedIn. They might actually work at the company but on a completely different team, like purchasing, which should show you that they are not the real person emailing you.

2. The email is unprofessional and feels like a scam

Definitely be wary if the email has capitalization, spelling, and grammar mistakes. If they do not have a professional signature with their contact information or if they are vague about the job at all, you are probably looking at a scam. You have been in your job search for some time so you know what a real job description looks like – if they don’t include the years of experience needed, the tools that will be used, and other important aspects, it is probably not real. You should also be on your guard if they are sending emails at odd times (like 3am) or if they get back to you immediately.

3. You can’t find any information on the company

If a recruiter or hiring manager reaches out to you, the first thing you should do is research the company to make sure it is real. If you can’t find any information about them, do not respond because the email is a scam. But, some people will set up websites for their fake companies, so check the date on the bottom to see how recently it was created. If it is from this year, you should definitely be wary. If the person is reaching out from a big tech company, make sure that they spelled the name right in their email address and message. Some scammers will make mistakes or purposely misspell company names, so if it is spelled incorrectly, that should be a huge red flag.

4. You don’t need to interview for the job or the interview is done via email

Job scams prey on people who are desperate for an offer. They will often tell you that you do not need to interview or they will have you answer a couple questions via email or instant messenger. This should obviously be a major red flag. If a company is real, they will have you go through the traditional interview processes, which usually means a phone screen with a recruiter, technical assessment or challenge, and an onsite or virtual behavioral and technical interview.

5. They give you an offer right away

Similarly, some of these emails will give you an offer directly in the first message. If you see this, do not respond. Real companies do not give out offers in their first correspondence, no matter how impressive your resume is. These people are hoping that you will be so excited to get an offer that you won’t use your common sense – do not fall for it!

6. You have to send them confidential information

You should never send any personal information in your early communications with recruiters or hiring managers. If they are asking you to send your bank details, address, birth date, credit history, Social Security number, do not do it! Often, they will say, “we want you to set up direct deposit first so you can get paid right away,” which should inform you that they are not a real company. They also might ask you to set up a new bank account or a 2 factor authorization, but you should not do this either. This is one of the easiest ways for these people to scam you. 

7. They ask you to buy something or they want to ship you equipment

Sometimes, the scammers will ask you to buy specific pieces of software, pay for credit checks, or pay to apply or have your resume reviewed. This should be a warning sign – especially if they are asking you to wire money, send a check, or pay a nominal credit card fee. These are all tricks for them to get your information. Another common red flag is if they say they need your address and other personal details so that they can ship you equipment. Once again, real companies will not do this from the get-go.

With the above tips, you should be able to spot job scams and protect yourself if you find yourself on the receiving end of their outreach. If you get an email or message like the ones described above, just delete it and continue on with your job search.

If you are looking for guidance, Pathrise is an online mentorship program that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 on each component of their job search. Through workshops and 1-on-1 sessions, our mentors work with you on resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio optimization, reverse recruiting and cold emailing, behavioral and technical interviewing, and negotiation. 

Apply today.

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Alex MacPherson

Hi I'm Alex! Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2019, I have worked on the growth team for Pathrise helping job seekers hone their skills to land their dream role through curated content on interview prep, resume building and more.

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