Use Caution When Seeking Employment Online


Online job searches can be an efficient and productive way to pursue employment. The Better Business Bureau cautions job seekers, however, to avoid becoming targets for scam artists eager to take advantage of their inexperience. Following is a description of some of the more common online job scams.

  • The payment-forwarding or payment-transfer scams:
    In this scenario, the con artist pretends to be an employer He uses a job ad or information from a resume posted online to convince the job seeker that he is a legitimate employer. Once he gains the victim’s trust, he uses one of several ploys to request the job seeker’s bank account number. He may tell the job seeker he needs it to deliver his/her paycheck by "direct deposit." Or the scammer may promise high wages for a job that involves forwarding, transferring or wiring money from a personal bank account, a PayPal account, or from Western Union to another account. The job seeker, as part of their pay, is instructed to keep a small percentage of the money (which can total hundreds of thousands of dollars) as payment. The money the victim transfers has invariably been stolen, so the job candidate ends up committing theft and wire fraud.

  • The "personal" invitation:
    This job scammer sends mass e-mails to long lists of recipients. The e-mail claims to have seen your resume on the Internet, notes that your skills match the requirements for their job, and invites you to complete an online job application. Or the e-mail may state that it is in response to the resume you submitted for a job opening. Proceed with caution! Is this a cold-contact e-mail from a business or person that is not familiar to you? Did you apply for a job with this organization? Did you send a resume to this recruiter? Type the company’s Web site address into your browser and contact the company via telephone to check it out.

  • The ID verification scenario:
    During the job application process, or prior to promising to schedule a personal interview, the scam artist will say the business needs to scan your driver’s license, passport of other means of identification to "verify" your identity. Or, the scammer claims to need your bank account or credit card numbers to run a "credit check" before proceeding with the job application process. Other red flags are requests for your Mother’s maiden name, your date of birth or your Social Security number. These are not legitimate requests and can be used to commit identity theft!

  • The inside scoop on federal jobs:
    Avoid Web sites that promise, for a fee, to give you the inside scoop on how to get a Federal or Postal Service job. They are likely to use a government-like name, such as the "U.S. Agency for Career Advancement" or the "Postal Employment Service." Know that they are probably lying about the availability of federal jobs in your area and making other false claims about "undisclosed" opportunities in the federal government, "guaranteed" entry to a particular position, or assurance that you will receive a high score on a postal entrance examination. All federal government positions are publicly announced and federal agencies never charge application fees or guarantee that an applicant will be hired.

  • Opportunities abroad:
    Who does not dream of being paid high wages to work in an exotic locale? Remember, high-paid job opportunities overseas for people who lack significant experience in a particular field, are virtually nonexistent. Legitimate businesses seeking to fill jobs at locations outside the U.S. will not ask for money up front; use post office boxes, instead of office addresses; make promises of employment and guarantees of refunds; or charge fees for giving you a job lead.

Before you send any money or personal information when responding to job ads or completing job placement contracts, the BBB, along with the Federal Trade Commission, suggest that you:

  • Be aware that legitimate employers do not need your bank account number for "direct deposit" before you have even reported for work.

  • Check on the firm’s reliability and complaint record with outside sources like the BBB or local consumer protection offices.

  • Never divulge personal information over the Internet unless you have checked on the company’s reputation and marketplace record, you are using a secure means of transmitting the data and you are comfortable with the business’s privacy protection policies.

There are a variety of free and low-cost resources available to help you in your job search, including local and state government job service offices, the Internet, local libraries and universities and community colleges.