Ask the Expert: How Do You Know if a Job Posting is Real?

A reader recently asked, "How do you know if a job posting is real?"

We'd like to think that everything we see posted online is legitimate, but unfortunately some people are preying on uninformed and sometimes desperate job seekers to illegitimately turn a buck and ruin people's credit or drain their bank accounts.

Jeremy Miller, identity theft expert and director of operations at Kroll Fraud Solutions, relates a typical example of a job search scam.

A victim in New York, (we will call her Ms. M), posted her resume on a job-related website and was contacted by a man supposedly from Tom Custom Computer Inc. who had a home business opportunity. The man told her to add his e-mail to her messenger buddy list so they could contact her. When she was contacted, she was asked where she banks, her age, and address. Ms. M. provided the information and was told that because the bank was not a branch in the Colorado area, she needed to set up a bank account in order to get the home business started. She set up an account, but became suspicious when he was asked how close she was to Colorado. She assumed that since they knew she was in New York, they should already know this. At this point she contacted Kroll.

According to Mlller, "Most likely the scammers would have been involved in a money laundering scheme or used the account opened in her name to commit other fraud." Ms. M. recognized warning signs before anything happened. But others are not as fortunate.

Susan P. Joyce, owner of Job-Hunt, an award winning employment portal, has been studying and writing about online job search since 1995. She personally vets every website she links on Job-Hunt to ensure legitimacy and value to the job seeker. I met with Joyce to learn more about job scams

How do job scams work?

The perpetrator solicits victims with fake job advertisements.The information they collect from job seekers can do significant damage and can be used for any of the following illegal purposes:

  • To collect private information from you, like your e-mail address and resume, to sell to marketers and advertisers who will use it to contact you to make a sale.
  • To collect enough private information from you (e.g. resume plus Social Security number) for identity theft.
  • To collect credit card information from you so they can charge "purchases" or money transfers to your credit card.
  • To collect bank account information from you so they can tap into your bank account and make a few withdrawals.
  • To get your willing (but unknowing) participation in a crime they perpetrate against someone else.

What does a job scam look like?

Joyce shared some typical examples of job search scams. These scams may appear on well-known job boards, not-so-well-known job boards, on fake job boards that promise "exclusive" job postings after you register (and give them a lot of personal information they shouldn't have), or via your e-mail inbox:

Job posting: Accept shipments of items from suppliers to be repackaged and reshipped to customers from the comfort of your own home. Scam: The suppliers are thieves and the material you receive is stolen property. If you repackage and ship it for your "employer," you are participating in theft.

Job Posting: Accept payment for international company that needs help transferring money from one country to another and receive a 10 percent commission on each transaction. Scam: After you send them their 90 percent, the original check to you turns bad.

Job Posting: Pay only X dollars for a starter kit and run your own business from the comfort of you home; begin making thousands of dollars a week in just a few days. Scam: This is often a way to get sensitive information out of you. You will be asked to first complete a form with your Social Security number (they will claim it is for the IRS and to check your credit rating), your bank account number (requested under the guise that it will be used to pay you via bank transfer), your credit card number for purchases on behalf of the company (claiming you will be reimbursed later), and/or your mother's maiden name (they will tell you it is needed to check your credit rating).

What can job seekers do to protect themselves?

"Make it a habit to verify before you trust" says Joyce. "Check to make sure that the recruiter's e-mail is coming from a company domain and not a general e-mail account. Look for verifiable contact information on the posting and cross-check this information via a search engine or a site such as Check the company domain registration using tools such as and note how long the domain name has been registered. Do not trust if the domain name is a couple of days to a couple of months old or if it is private, which means that there is no employer contact information to verify."

For more information on job scams, be sure to check out Joyce's Avoiding Job Search Scams Guide and the identity theft white papers from Kroll Fraud Solutions.

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