Using the same methods as real employers, employment scammers trick job seekers through job ads online, in newspapers and even on TV and radio. In some cases, they may even contact individuals directly via email, phone, or social media. In these scams, scammers promise you a job, but in reality, they want your money or personal information.

Most job scams contain warning signs that they aren’t legitimate. Here are some tips on how to spot employment scams.

1. The Employer or Recruiter Initiates First Contact

If you are contacted directly by the recruiter or employer, that may be a warning sign that the job is fake. A recruiter can, and does, contact qualified candidates directly to fill real positions – but it’s also a tactic used by job scammers.

You should do your homework if you receive communications about a job you didn’t apply for and verify that the company and recruiter are legitimate before moving forward.

2. You Receive an Immediate Job Offer

An immediate job offer is a huge red flag before going through the official hiring process. Most legitimate employers require you to meet with a hiring manager and review your qualifications. If you receive an immediate job offer without doing anything, it’s probably a scam.

3. The Employer Requests Payment

Companies or recruiters who ask for payment for an application fee, training, supplies or other expenses should be avoided. You should be prepared to pay for normal expenses such as traveling to interviews and professional clothing, but you should never have to pay a fee to apply for or accept a job.

4. The Offer Sounds Too Good to Be True

You should be wary of employers making pie-in-the-sky promises. Any employer who claims you will make a lot of money without working too hard, offers an unusually flexible schedule, promises rapid financial success, or offers an unusually high salary is probably lying.

5. The Communications are Unprofessional

A job offer or email with the employer that contains grammar, syntax or spelling errors could be a scam. Obviously, this isn’t a disqualifier – not every industry requires impeccable grammar – but it might be worth researching the employer to be sure they’re legitimate.

6. Basic Information is Missing

Is the job description unclear about the actual duties of the job or the candidate qualifications? Is it possible to find basic information about the employer on a professional website, such as their history, location, contact information, and other details? If not, consider moving on.

7. The Employer Requests Personal Information

In order to receive direct deposit, you have to provide certain information to your new employer, such as your Social Security number (SSN) for tax purposes. However, this information is only required after you are hired. This could be a scam if a recruiter or employer requests more personal information than your name, location, and contact information before hiring you.

How to Avoid an Employment Scam

Take these steps to avoid employment scams before you accept a job offer or respond to a recruiter inquiry:

  • Research the employer. Look up the organization’s website. Verify contact information, address, and other credentials. If you have any suspicions, search for the name of the employer or recruiter along with the words “scam” or “complaint”.
  • Don’t pay anything. Reputable employers won’t ask you to pay anything during the hiring process.
  • Don’t share personal information. Legitimate employers need basic information like your name and how to reach you, but not your social security number, date of birth, bank account info, or any other personally identifiable information.
  • Don’t respond to suspicious jobs. Do not reply to a job posting or communication if it sounds too good to be true, you spot lots of errors and mistakes, or you can’t verify information about the employer.
  • Report scams. Report scams to the FTC and the Attorney General’s office in your state if you see them or become a victim.

Is your personal information on the dark web? Make sure your identity isn’t at risk!