The workplace is in transition, with people considering career changes or dealing with layoffs. But as the FTC has warned for years, scammers find a way to exploit every trend – and this time they have job seekers in their sights. Have you come across one of these placement pretenders? The FTC wants to hear about your experience.
We’ll say this much about the new breed of crook: They can be very convincing. Sometimes they cast a wide net, advertising dream jobs online or on employment sites. Other times they tailor their pitch, trolling social media for people looking for work. For example, if your profile identifies you as a member of a particular industry – say, the tech sector – or as a former employee of a company that has announced layoffs, you may be at risk.
Scammers may go to elaborate lengths to carry out their ruse, conducting fake online job interviews and even establishing phony onboarding portals where they ask “new hires” for Social Security numbers and bank account information, supposedly for direct deposit of paychecks. Sometimes they stop there, satisfied they’ve stolen enough personal data to commit identity theft. Others take it in a different direction, asking the “new hire” to send money for equipment necessary for remote work – expenses they promise to reimburse.
What can you do to protect yourself during your job search?
- Keep your guard up if a prospective “employer” or “recruiter” contacts you out of the blue. If you haven’t applied for a particular job, we’re not saying that every unsolicited approach is fraudulent, but some of them certainly are. To verify that the person is genuine, reach out to the company directly using contact information you know to be legit – in other words, not an email or phone number you got from the person who contacted you. If you’re approached by a purported start-up or a business with which you’re not familiar, search the company name with the word “scam” or “fraud.” You may find stories from others who have been targeted. By the way, don’t rely just on the existence of a website. Scammers have been known to set up a phony online presence.
- Watch for telltale signs of a possible scam. There’s no sure-fire way to detect a job scam, but there are indicators that should raise your suspicions – for example, email from personal accounts not affiliated with a company, poor spelling and grammar, interviews conducted solely via email or online chat, salaries out of line with industry norms, and requests for account numbers or other personal data.
- Did a “new employer” send you a check? Not so fast. Asking for payment up front for equipment or expenses is just one ploy scammers use to worm their way into job seekers’ wallets. Other fraudsters may send the “new hire” what appears to be a company check. Yay? Nay. The “check” usually comes with instructions to send some of the money to someone else, often in the form of a wire transfer, crypto, or gift cards (or gift card PIN numbers). The enthusiastic new hire will deposit the check and front the forwarded funds out of their own pocket, assuming the deposited check will cover the costs. By the time the bank tells the person the check is a phony, the “employer” is long gone – with untraceable cash or cards in hand. It’s a fake check scam dressed up as a job opportunity.
- The bottom line: Don’t pay for a job or the promise of employment. Employers that are on the level will never ask you to pay to get a job. Furthermore, legitimate placement firms and head hunters typically don’t charge prospective employees. Instead, they’re paid by the company looking for qualified candidates. If you’re asked for money, walk away. You could be dealing with a scam.
The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.
- We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
- We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
- We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
- We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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I encountered this scam once but did not fall for it, but I all most failed for the one that asks you to pay for delivery when it has already been paid
Consumers should be protected.
Dear ftc.gov administrator, Thanks for the informative and well-written post!
Dear ftc.gov owner, Thanks for the valuable information!
Thank you for posting this. I received an email stating they were with NextGen, and Donna Greene sent me an email with an offer letter, after conversing with a person through Teams. Brian McHugh. They went as far as to send me a check from Safeway Medical Trans. out of Ohio, and a quick Google search showed the address as a personal residence. Once I questioned them on it, they deleted all contact and tried to recall the email with the check. I declined the recall. There is no reason for the VP of a company to send you an offer letter, without speaking to anyone on the phone.