Working online has become increasingly common as the pandemic-induced economy pushed millions to relocate to the digital world.
The landscape of online remote work has become a promising solution for many college students, stay-at-home parents, and employees looking to make a shift in their careers. Today, it's easier than ever to find a remote position that offers flexibility and a better work-life balance.
As a result, the rise of online job scams has also increased. Cybercrime is become a critical issue for many job seekers looking to jump back into the workforce, and the frustrations that go along with it are endless.
How do you protect yourself and your identity with so much uncertainty about falling victim to a potential job scam? We've dug deep to find the six easiest ways to spot a possible job scam and what you should do to avoid them.
Ambiguous Job Listings and Requirements
The best way to spot a potential job scam is by reading the job description. Requirements will usually include the necessary years of work experience, a certain level of education, language abilities, and other relevant information. Meanwhile, job scammers can easily brush off any crucial questions regarding the job. If you feel as if there is not much information available, do some research on the company's website to see what they have posted on their careers board.
During the recruitment process, you'll be sharing a lot of information about the yourself. If the recruiter or perhaps even the employer can't share the position or what you will be doing, you might be being scammed. If you feel something might be a bit off, you can verify the company URL with sites like Who.is.
Work-related duties and responsibilities are among the main attractions for hiring new staff, so companies take a lot of effort to indicate what the job is and what the role is about. A potential employer wants to attract the right talent to apply, especially for remote work. Vague descriptions should be your first indication of whether the job you're interested in is a scam.
Minimal Information Available on the Company or Employer
Before you apply for any job, it's always good to do some online research about a company or business. Look for relevant information about your new potential employer. The internet is a vast chasm of information, and businesses spend thousands of dollars each month to have their brand seen and heard online. There are dozens of ways companies ensure they are being noticed, from social media platforms, ads, popup banners, and newsletters, not just their company website.
If there is not a lot of information available on the internet for your prospective employer, that can be a red flag. If a Google search brings up few results, start digging deeper by looking at online forums such as Reddit to see if any previous employees have posted comments on the company. Glassdoor and Indeed both offer employees insight and information about companies with job roles available.
You can also see whether a job listing is posted on both a job site and the company website. Usually, companies try to publish the listing on as many sites as possible to grow the pool of potential hires. Is your employer on LinkedIn? Do they have a social profile or perhaps an online portfolio of their work? Any recent news articles or press releases about the employer and the organization? These are all questions you should consider throughout the application process.
If you become convinced that a potential job opportunity or posting is a scam, report it to platform administration or online authorities, offering any evidence you've collected to prove that a job post is a potential scam and threat to the online community.
Unprofessional Email Addresses and Minimal Contact Information
Companies generally strive to keep a level of professionalism, not just online but also during the hiring process. Contact information could either be directed to a hiring manager or the head of human resources. For smaller companies, you could be asked to contact the owner. Whether companies are hiring via their website or third-party platforms, they tend to include a lot of information to help you get in touch.
Most emails sent between a company and the outside world are conducted via company-related email addresses. These will usually include the company name or an abbreviation thereof. This would likely contain additional contact information at the bottom and perhaps a header image of the company.
Furthermore, you can look on their website and social media outlets if they have any contact information or a posted email address. Does it match up with the one posted on the job offer? Some companies will have separate email accounts for information and career opportunities, but these will typically include specific indicators such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com.”
A good deal of effort ensures that new hires and potential employees will easily contact the right people through the right channels. If this isn't a priority for the company or job you're applying to, perhaps reconsider your application.
It's Looking Too Good To Be True
Trusting your instinct is the best way to spot a potential scam. For example, if a job offers perks that seem too good to be true, you may want to take some time before applying. Don't ignore any red flags that may indicate that the company or employer does not offer what they advertised – it's likely a scam.
If minimal skills or experience are required, but the position is a high-paying job that offers you a relocation package, or other perks without you having to be in the office physically, beware. It can look very promising, but if the hiring manager brushes off any important information regarding the position? Another red flag.
A company looking to hire a highly-skilled individual will usually have a few interview rounds with various potential hires before making a final decision. Therefore, hiring someone from the value of their online job profile is not seen. According to Indeed, there is more than one type of interview process you will need to go through before being hired, and these can take as long as four weeks, sometimes even longer.
Companies want to make sure that the person they're hiring is the right fit for the company. If you feel that a job role is too good to be true, you can research the basic salary for the job or how many hours you're looking to work.
Applications Require You To Share A lot of Personal Information
An employer may request your full name and last name, email address, and emergency contact details. However, it's doubtful that they will require additional personal information such as your physical address, postal address, or even banking details before you have received a contract or indication that you may land the job.
Additionally, some companies may need you to submit a consent form that allows them to use your personal information for company-related activities, but this is only done well after all interviews have been handled. You should never share banking details, social security information, or similar information with an employer or company before reading through an employment contract and understanding the terms and conditions of the role.
It may seem vague, but companies will usually not require a lot of personal details or information if they're considering hiring you. For online jobs, this is the same and wouldn't usually be any different. Companies take great care in archiving all external communication to protect themselves against potential lawsuits and threats. When sharing any form of information, double-check to see whether emails are protected or encrypted. Additionally, consider the format in which they require your details. Is it over the phone or a video conference call?
Consider how much effort a potential employee is making to ensure your safety and security during the application process. If an employer requests information via a text message or over the phone, rethink why this is not being done on a job application portal or via email. Various platforms exist whereby you can securely share credentials and complete any necessary compliance checks.
Payment Requirements and Money Transfers
The final indication that an online job might be a potential scam is how a company or employer deals with wiring weekly or monthly payments.
In a recent BBC documentary, dozens of employees were recruited to work for a glamorous design agency that never existed. While the company may have seemed legit, offering great pay, regular job hours, and an opportunity to help the firm grow, it all seemed a bit unreal at first for the more than 40 recruits. When they were paid or receiving their wages, the company was reluctant to make immediate payments or had issues with wire transfers. The company was a major scam, and the recruits were victims of a “job fishing” scam.
Applying for a job, you should always consider how the company or employer handles their payments and what the process would look like. If the employer requires you to transfer the money from one account to another after receiving payment, you should start asking why? Having an employee transfer money from one account to another looks like money laundering, which is considered a federal crime.
Working in a highly digital world of online payment and remittances options, companies will usually have more than a way to pay their remote employees. Bank wiring could be the most common, but these can come at higher costs for the company itself. Platforms such as PayPal, Xoom, Money Gram, or other e-wallets all exist for the convenience of having more access to foreign currencies and global payment options.
Large companies would usually make use of one or another, and while this may only be important during your time of work, it should be clearly stated during the interview process how you would like to receive your payments. Companies take great care of tracking expenses and where their money is being sent. If you encounter any suspicious activities during the interview process, or perhaps during your time as an employee in terms of financial remuneration, there should be clear signs that the job you've applied for could be fake.
Before sharing personal banking information with any potential employer, make sure they use trusted and authorized payment structures accepted in your country of residence. Additionally, look at ways to verify account information with your bank beforehand to ensure that the payments you receive are not coming from any accounts linked to fraud.
Helpful Tips To Spot Job Scams
Those mentioned above are just some essential ways to spot a job scam. There are, of course, various others which we included below.
- Companies require you to pay for an application, whether a government or private institution, which is highly unlikely.
- The company requires you to purchase any equipment or work-related material before starting.
- The recruiter or employer does not have a profile on any popular job board or job site available.
- The interview process is not conducted via a secure video conference call but rather through a phone call or text message.
- Company communication efforts are unprofessional, and personal email addresses are used throughout the recruitment and interview process.
- The job role offers more money for not many hours of work.
- Minimal or no experience verification via previous employers.
- Recruiters or employers do not take your experience or education into consideration.
- Job descriptions are vague, mention little about the job, and promise you a life-changing experience.
Online job scams saw an 8% increase, with more than 8,000 job listing scams being reported in March 2020, and this statistic only accounts for those listings that have been reported. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, further investigation indicated that more than 16,012 people had reported employment scams throughout 2020, totaling a loss of more than $59 million.
While the world is now more capable than ever of working online or remotely, issues regarding cyber security and increased online job scams have suddenly become second nature. With a plethora of incredible online job opportunities available, finding something with your skill set is becoming easier.
However, there are ways in which you can spot a potential job scam, as these are now more prevalent with the advent of online work. Always verify the company's credibility, its recruiters, and its employer. It's advised to be extremely vigilant during the application process and consider various factors that may raise some red flags.
Finally, be smart when applying for any online job. Use trusted job sites to verify the job you're applying for and consider how recruiters are handling the seriousness of the interview and onboarding process. Trusting your gut will help curtail any online job scams, creating a better and safer employee community.
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