As a new graduate, you’re eager to land a job and start making good money. But in your rush to launch your career, it’s easy to overlook red flags that suggest a job posting is a scam.
Unfortunately, scammers are out there posing as legitimate employers in an effort to steal your money or private information. If you see a job posting with any of the seven warning signs below, then watch out: It could very well be a fraud:
1. It sounds too good to be true
If you’ve scoured the internet looking for jobs, you’ve probably seen postings promising huge earnings for little work. But as much as you want to believe you’ll get a big paycheck for a part-time job, this offer probably isn’t real.
“[If] you’re worried that an offer might be too good to be true — it probably is,” said Laura Spawn, CEO and co-founder of remote job board Virtual Vocations. “Trust your gut. If something sounds fishy, don’t be afraid to ask questions — and if they aren’t willing to give you an answer, steer clear!”
Even if someone answers your questions, do extra research to verify the legitimacy of a company. Sometimes a simple Google search with the name of the employer and the word “scam” will be enough to pull up horror stories from other job seekers.
2. No experience required
As a new grad, you might feel like you’re in a Catch-22. You need a job to gain experience, but many employers don’t want to bet on someone with so little on their resume.
So when a would-be employer promises no experience is required, you might jump at the opportunity. But make sure to vet the job posting before accepting it.
Most employers want to see some related education or experience on your resume, even if it’s just a degree in a certain field or a relevant internship. If someone wants to hire you without even seeing a resume or cover letter, they may be trying to scam you.
3. It came out of nowhere
Another time to be wary is if a company reaches out to you with a job offer, especially if you’re not sure how they tracked you down. When asked about common warning signs, talent recruiter Andrew Jones said to be careful if you don’t know how they found your information.
“Do you remember putting your resume on that job board? Do you remember reaching out to this organization? A common tactic for scammers is to frame an unsolicited email as a follow-up,” he said.
If you’ve been sending out dozens of resumes and cover letters, you might forget where you’ve applied. Before responding to a so-called follow-up email, make sure to track down your initial application.
4. You have to pay money upfront
Anyone claiming to be an employer and asking you to pay money upfront is probably a scammer trying to steal from you. Some con artists will say you need to pay a fee for a background check or to buy some work-at-home equipment.
Legitimate employers will cover start-up costs, so you shouldn’t have to pay anything to begin working. Be especially careful if someone is asking you to wire money, as it’s often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover wired money after you’ve sent it.
The one exception involves multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, which ask you to invest in products before selling them. But MLM companies are risky, and some are outright disreputable, with many people finding themselves spending far more money than they’ve earned.
Remember, the employer should be paying you for your work, not the other way around.
5. No interview required
Did you get a job offer with little to no interview process? If so, your alarm bells should start ringing.
“Beware of online interviews that immediately hire you and rush into asking for information for their payroll department, such as your employment ID information or bank account number,” said Joe Flanagan, senior career advisor at MintResume, a site that provides resume services. “These scams are designed to get you excited about a new job opportunity so you won’t notice you’re being asked for information that makes identity theft possible.”
Although remote companies might conduct online interviews, you should typically at least meet with someone over video chat. If you get a job offer after only emailing back and forth, you should probably ask to Skype with an actual hiring manager before you share any private data.
“Bottom Line: Never give out your financial information during an online job interview,” Flanagan said.
6. Contains vague and generic language
Legitimate hiring managers spend time crafting job postings that outline the skills and experiences they’re looking for in a candidate. They also provide substantial details in the job description, so you know exactly what you’re applying for.
But if you’re reading a job posting with vague language and unclear specifications, it might not be a legitimate opportunity. Take a look at vetted job postings on reputable sites such as Indeed and CareerBuilder so you have a good idea what a real job posting is supposed to look like — and avoid the ones that fall short.
7. No contact person or website
Before applying to a job, do your due diligence by researching the company and heading to its official website. If you’re having trouble tracking down a point of contact or even a website, you might have a scam on your hands.
“Can you see who the organization is that is actually advertising the role?” asked Simon Royston, founder and managing director of recruitment agency The Recruitment Lab. “It should be clear, and they will hopefully have an online presence such as a website or social media activities that demonstrate they are reputable.”
If you can’t find an internet presence, the company might not exist. You should also be on the lookout for a copycat URL — using “.co” where the real website has “.com,” for example — and any other spelling irregularities that could point to a scam.
“Legitimate job postings will contain company info, no noticeable typos or grammar errors, and information about how to apply beyond a telephone number,” said Emily Frank, career counselor and founder of Denver Career Catalyst. “There will also be things people can find in multiple places, including the company’s own job board.”
If the company has little internet presence to speak of, you should probably keep hunting for a more secure opportunity.
Protect yourself from job scams
Thanks to online job boards, it’s easy to search for work from the comfort of your computer. But you have to be careful to use legitimate sites that carefully screen job postings, or you could end up falling victim to a job scam.
And remember that even on reputable job boards, fake postings can fall through the cracks. So it’s up to you to recognize the red flags and protect yourself from scammers.
Listen to your instincts, and don’t let desperation for a job make you vulnerable to fake ads. Otherwise, you won’t just be disappointed by the false promise of work — you could also end up losing money or becoming a victim of identity theft.