With COVID-19 still among us, as well as the previously present increase in technology usage, scammers are more active than ever. Some might even say they are multiplying like flies.
Now wait a minute— what does the coronavirus have to do with job scams?
The current worldwide pandemic actually has a wide range of influence on this rise in scamming. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, complaints about scams for certain job opportunities have spiked this year due to implications that stemmed from the coronavirus. With multitudes of workers being laid off from their jobs, as well as the many individuals whose jobs have “gone remote,” it is safe to say that a lot more time is spent on the internet. This is especially true with those who are on the lookout for new work opportunities— such as college students like yourself. Nowadays, many people are taking to the internet to conduct their job research and/or fill out their job applications.
You may be thinking to yourself, “it's pretty obvious when something is a scam,” or “this is common sense stuff," but that is far from the truth. Some scams are so obvious that it's almost funny. On the flip side, there are many others that appear extremely legitimate to the untrained eye. To make it even worse, there are about 60 to 70 job scams for every 1 legitimate job posting. For soon-to-be college graduates like yourselves who are getting a foot in the door of the working world, this can be an especially scary concept. Let’s learn some more about job scams in the U.S. so that scammers don’t get in your way of putting that degree to good use!
The words “job scams” and “job search scams” have already been tossed around quite a lot in this blog, but what is the actual definition of a job scam/job search scam? The Better Business Bureau tells us that job search scams (otherwise known as job scams or employment scams) “typically occur when job applicants are led to believe they are applying or have just been hired for a promising new job, but they have actually fallen for a scam.” Job scammers are anywhere in the world lurking right underneath the keys click-clacking on your computer. Typically, job scammers are tech-savvy men within the age range of 27-40, but they could be anyone. What all of them have in common is their access to the internet and their malicious intents. The reason for scamming activities boils down to one end goal: to gain access. This could be access to your personal information, access to your money or bank account, and/or access to your credit card data. Why would scammers want these things? They could simply want to skim a couple bucks off of you, but usually they go so far as to steal your identity or even leave you completely bankrupt.
It's more likely than not that you have one, if not many, social media accounts. Amongst the most common platforms job scammers use to lure in their prey are LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Instagram, and even Facebook. In fact, out of all online platforms where job scams can take place, Indeed.com is home to 32% of those scams. As mentioned earlier, job scammers are targeting unemployed individuals such as college students like yourself. Not only do they know you want a job post-grad, but they also know that you want that job fast. Therefore, you are more likely to overlook some obvious warning signs that a certain job advertisement is fraudulent. We will discuss these warning signs, as well as tips to avoid job scams, later in the blog.
Here are just a few of the most common job search scams in the United States today:
Data Entry Scams
Legitimate Data Entry jobs are usually responsible for tasks such as maintaining databases, preparing source data, and reviewing data deficiencies. Data entry scams, however, come in many forms and typically promise a lot of money for a “data entry” job that requires minimum-to-no skill. An example of a job posting for this type of scam is: “Submit information into online forms starting at $30/hour. This is a legitimate way to make easy money from home!”
Pyramid Marketing Scams
Pyramid Marketing Scams, otherwise known as multilevel marketing (MLM) scams or Pyramid Schemes, usually do not even involve an actual product. With these scams, you will invest time and money into a fake business and fake product, as well as recruit others to join you as “investors”. It is called a “pyramid” scheme because the number of investors increases at each level, and the only way the real profit is earned is through the sale of new distributorships (the acquisition of new “investors” for the “company”).
Wire Transfer scams involve moving money from one account to another in a very short amount of time. The way and the speed in which the transaction is done makes it extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, to recover those lost funds. Usually, these scams will come in the form of emails that say you won a prize but first need to pay some money to receive it.
Unsolicited Job Offers
Unsolicited job scams also usually come in the form of email; however, they are not initiated by the job seeker. Instead, it will be a random message offering something like immediate employment or even a job interview opportunity. This fake interview will most likely take place over instant message, and the scammer may even be posing as a well-known company to appear more legitimate.
Here are some examples of actual job scams via email, the Internet, and Social Media:
And if you’re a girl with an Instagram account, you probably recognize this type of message:
General Tips to Help Avoid Job Scams
- Research the company where the offer is coming from, as well as the individual who contacted you.
- Try researching the company name plus the word “scam” on the Internet and see what pops up.
- Search information on the company’s website as well as any reviews you can find on the company.
- Try to find the LinkedIn page of the individual. Do they even have a LinkedIn? If not, that can be a red flag.
- Keep in mind the common red flags of job scams.
- These include:
- Higher than expected wages (if it seems too good to be true, it probably is)
- No previous experience or skills required
- Fast employment opportunities
- Grammatical errors in the job posting
- Offers to be hired without an interview
- Offers to be paid before doing any work
- Do not ever send money to strangers.
- Even if it is just for “training videos” or to “receive a prize.” You can never trust someone you don’t know.
- Chances are that no legitimate job would require you to send them money.
- Always trust your intuition.
- If your gut is telling you no to something, then listen to it. Remember - it is better to be safe than sorry!
Eliminating Those Pesky Scammers
With all this information, the question still remains: “Other than avoiding the job scam at all costs, what should I do once I encounter one?”. You should report it, of course! It can be reported to either
(1) the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/ or
(2) to your state attorney general at https://www.naag.org/find-my-ag/.
On the FTC fraud report webpage, they will have questions for one to answer such as: “what type of job or money-making opportunity was it,” and “did you send the scammer payment of any kind?” If you decide to report it to your attorney state general instead on the National Association of Attorney Generals website, you should:
(1) click on the photo of your state’s Attorney General
(2) scroll down to the bottom of the page to the section that reads “file a complaint”
(3) click on “file a complaint” once again under the name of your state, and then
(4) follow the instructions provided.
Maryland’s Attorney General is Brian Frosh, and to make it easier for you (because I know how busy you probably are) the direct link to his complaint page is https://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/pages/cpd/complaint.aspx. Though it may be tempting to just ignore the scam, especially with your already busy schedule, reporting it helps to ensure that others will not have the opportunity to fall for that same scam.
Here are some more statistics on job search scams in the U.S.:
- In 2020, 73% of those that reported losing money to employment scams were those who claimed they did not have enough income to pay monthly bills.
- 53% of those who reported employment scams were unemployed.
- Students are more susceptible to scams than non-students (students’ susceptibility is 18.1%, meanwhile non-students’ susceptibility is 15.1%).
- About 50% of those who come in contact with a job scammer will engage with them.
- Out of all the different types of scams in the United States (gift card fraud, offline scams, debt collection scams, etc.), employment scams are the most effective with 25% of those approached by job scammers losing money in the process.
Are You Ready to Swat Away the Scammers?
Now that you are well-versed in identifying, avoiding, and reporting job search scams on various platforms, you can rest easier knowing that your first real world job will be legit. Remember, scammers are actively targeting college students like yourself daily and it is your choice whether to fall for it or flee from it. However, with all that you just learned, you should be virtually unreachable! For more helpful tips and tricks related to your first job search, visit the Our First Job Search (OFJS) website at https://www.ourfirstjobsearch.com/. We have steps, tips, success stories, videos, and much more available at just the click of a button. Wherever you are in your journey, it starts here! Also be sure to sign up on our email subscription list for weekly updates and even more helpful blogs like this one. Now get off this page, go out there, and get that career started (but remember - always have your fly swatter ready)!