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6 Red Flags: How to Spot a Job Scam

7.5 Minute Read

There are a lot of attractive things about working from home: no commute, flexible hours and better work/life balance. The list goes on. But there are also a lot of scams out there targeting persons looking for work-from-home gigs and other employment opportunities.

Scammers often take advantage of remote jobseekers. They tend to be more open to outreach from unknown contacts and have a sense of urgency when working with potential employers. This sometimes leads to job applicants doing things they may not do under normal circumstances and being taken advantage of.

Luckily, most scams be can identified and avoided before it’s too late. Watch out for these six red flags that can enable you to spot common, job-search scams.

 

1. They Want to Pay You Before You Do Any Work

Some scammers say they will pay you or send you money before you do any actual work. Many require you to provide your bank-account number through chat or email so “we can provide you with money to buy equipment” or other expenses to get you started in a new job. Be especially cautious with any company or person that wants to send you a check to cover expenses, like equipment. These companies may be looking to exploit you by claiming they overpaid, then asking you to wire back the “overpayment.” The check is usually no good, and by the time you (or your bank) realize it, that money you sent back to them is gone.

 

2. You’re Asked to Send Money via Mobile App

Close up of female hands holding credit card and smartphone

Shutterstock; Photo by fizkes

Legitimate companies will not ask you to send them money, especially through apps such as Cash App or Venmo. In one common scam, jobseekers are asked to send money through apps like Cash App to purchase equipment for work use. The scammers then steal your money, and you never hear from them again. Don’t fall for it. Rarely, you may be asked to pay for a background check to be considered for some independent-contractor opportunities. Although, payment often is collected through websites of established background-check providers. (Note: There are no fees to contract with Working Solutions and you do not pay for any needed background checks). Check official company websites and reviews to see if this is normal practice and its application or hiring process.

 

3. The Job Seems Too Good to be True

It’s easy to be tempted by unrealistic job offers. Ones that promise a luxurious lifestyle with no experience required, pay that’s significantly higher than other similar jobs, or full-time pay for part-time work. We’ve all heard the adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Well, this applies to jobs, too. Most require some degree of experience and qualifications, and unrealistic pay rates are a sign of a potential scam. If an offer seems too fantastical to be true, research the job thoroughly and look for red flags. These include a lack of contact information, no established website or social media presence, or asking for financial information upfront. Being aware of these tell-tale signs can help you identify when that dreamy opportunity needs a much closer look.

 

4. You Receive an Unsolicited Job Offer Without Applying

Phone call from unknown number on a mobile smart phone

Shutterstock; Photo by Tero Vesalainen

Be wary of individuals who reach out directly to offer a job for which you have not applied. Some scammers may solicit directly through popular apps, including WhatsApp, Telegram or other social platforms. They often claim to work for reputable businesses, even using names of real company employees. They may offer a job that you have not applied for, and some will even go so far as to conduct interviews on Skype or Teams. Always be wary of job offers or interviews that don’t require applying to the job directly with the company. This should be a big red flag. If it seems fishy, try reaching out to the company’s human resources or hiring department to confirm. It’s also a good idea to take a look at where communications are coming from. Even if initial outreach is through social media or other platforms, most legitimate recruiters and hiring managers will communicate via official company channels and emails. Be wary of contacts who communicate solely through personal social media and chat, or use email addresses with common consumer email domains, such as @gmail.com and @outlook.com.

 

5. The Company Is Vague About What the Job Entails

It’s wise to be suspicious of companies that provide overly vague job details. Watch out if the expectations, responsibilities, or requirements seem to be atypical for work of that type. Unrealistic expectations or no expectations at all could mean the job or company is part of a larger employment-related scam. It’s important to investigate any potential opportunities thoroughly to avoid falling prey to sham operations. Read up on reviews and do proper research before investing time and energy, or worse—money—into an opportunity that may or may not exist.

 

6. Excessive Typos in Brand Communications

Mistakes happen, and even the best communications from the best companies may include typos from time to time. If you’re seeing excessive typos, misspellings or grammatical errors in communications from a potential employer, however, that could be a red flag for a fake business. Check out the corporate website for the position. Directly contact the company or hiring manager to confirm the legitimacy of the communication and opportunity.


Researching companies, asking questions, and double-checking to make sure what you’re seeing or hearing is legitimate is key to avoiding increasingly complex job scams. By looking out for common red flags and doing due diligence, you can avoid falling victim to these common rip-offs. It will save you a lot of heartache and headaches, and help you feel confident in applying to legitimate opportunities. And remember, a healthy dose of skepticism isn’t a bad thing and may help you outsmart a worse situation.

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