How to Avoid Job Scams

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Too many of us trust what we find online as real and true, from politics to product reviews and much more. When we trust that a job posting is real -- as most people do -- and provide significant and important personal information, like a resume, many people see opportunity. For themselves. Not for us.

Why Do Job Scams Exist -- What's the Benefit to the Scammer?

The scams exist for a number of reasons, all related to making money for someone else. Sometimes, the goal is to collect information to sell to other scammers. Other times, the information is used by people who want to sell you things or services.

Worst, the information is also used for identity fraud -- stealing your identity to get credit cards and other loans (they buy things, and you get the bill), accessing your bank account (they remove the money directly), and even to commit crimes in your name. In all cases, the scammer receives the benefit, and you may pay a high cost in a lower bank balance, bad credit rating, hassles with credit card companies, or some other associated cost.

What Do Scammers Want?

To steal your identity, a thief needs at a minimum your name, home address and/or phone number, and the name of your current or former employer -- exactly the information usually provided on a resume or job application. With that information, they can often discover your birthdate since Facebook and LinkedIn collect and share your birthday on your profiles, visible to anyone who can see your profile.

How to Make Things Harder for the Scammers

Be very careful about the information your share online, particularly in your job search and social media. Your resume or job application are gold mines of extremely useful information for scammers and identity thieves. Without spending much time, you can make yourself safer by taking these steps.

Verify Before You Trust!

Take a few minutes to evaluate the source which is asking for your resume and your Social Security Number, before complying with the request.

Simply because the email says it's from an employer, a job board like Monster or CareerBuilder, a recruiter, or even a bank or government agency, don't assume that is the truth. And, apply the same skepticism to websites. Just because the website LOOKS like it is Monster.com or CareerBuilder, don't assume that it is the site it claims to be without verifying what it is.

To determine what web page you are viewing when you click on a link in the email or view a job posting, pay attention to what you see in your browser's location bar at the top of the browser. The page may look legitimate, but, using Google as an example (it could be any legitimate site), check to see what website you are actually viewing, even if it contains Google's logo and looks like a page on Google. The URL (web page address) in the location bar tells you the website you are really seeing. I've bolded the true domain name in the URL's below. The domain name shows you the name of the true website being viewed.

Pretending to be Google:
  • google.example.com - this domain name is example.com
  • www.google.com.example.com - again, example.com, not Google
  • www.google.example.com - example.com, not Google
  • www.example.com/google.com - example.com, again, not Google
  • www.google-com-example.com - still not Google. This domain name is google-com-example.com
Basically, anything can go in front of the domain name, where we usually see "www." And anything can go after the slash at the end of the domain name (google.com/...). So pay attention to what is to the left of the slash or the right end of the URL if there is no slash. Those locations tell you what the real domain name is.

If Example, Inc. was an employer with a great job for you posted on the example.com website, do some checking before you complete the application or provide your resume, especially if Example, Inc. is a new company to you. Use a search engine to learn more about the company.

In the search engine's search bar, type the company name inside a set of double quotation marks, like this - "Example, Inc." - and check what the search engine shows you.
  • If all you find are job postings, don't apply for a job because a real company does more than just hire people. They also market their products and services so information about those products and services should be visible, especially on the company's website.
  • Also search on the company name and the term "scam" in a search that looks like this - "Example, Inc." scam. If you find many results describing the company as a scam, don't apply.
Unfortunately, today being suspicious of all email and web pages is a smart idea. You don't want to hand your personal identity over to a scammer who will make your life miserable, so verify before you trust to be safest.
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