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11 types of job scams threatening job seekers

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  • 11 min read

With layoffs on the rise and many trying to find remote opportunities, the job market has become a lucrative place for scammers. Several job scams are floating about, especially concerning remote, work-from-home and freelance opportunities.

While I looked through LinkedIn for content writing opportunities, I applied to the International Association of Professional Writers & Editors, which promised freelance writing opportunities for its members. I heard back from them a month later, saying I had been selected and could start immediately by registering to their platform for free and creating an account through Freelancer, where I would receive assignments and the payment.

Suspicious as to why there was no interview or an offer letter, I searched the organisation online only to find many articles speculating whether the setup was a scam. More than a few people complained that they were charged a membership fee despite having opted for the free version and could not cancel the membership once they had activated it.

I have experienced many potential job scams and want to highlight some common ones. This article details 11 types of job scams and warning signs to identify job-related scams.

Also read: Are there scams on Linkedin?

Money Transferring Scam

Also known as a Money Mule scam, it is often marketed as a money management job, where the ‘employer’ asks the employee to transfer or move funds they receive into their account to various other specified accounts.

Seems like a simple task, but the catch is that it could be a potential money laundering front or a front for other illegal activities like stolen assets.

Crypto Job Scams

With the increasing popularity of cryptocurrency and related technology like trading platforms, wallet apps, blockchains and more, scammers take advantage of the novelty of the tech to lure people into applying for crypto-related jobs and scam them.

In some instances, people have lost thousands having accepted a job offer to manage cryptocurrency, where they were sent money in their personal bank account and asked to buy cryptocurrency on behalf of a client. Once they processed such transfers, they were informed by the bank that these transfers were fraudulent and that they now owed the bank that money.

FBI has warned job seekers of another type of job scam concerning crypto-related job listings that require relocation. This is a highly organised scam and involves human trafficking and forced labour. Once victims travel to the area or country described in the job, they are forced to work long hours to deliver crypto-related romance and pig-butchering scams.

Also read: What are Military Romance scams? How to identify them?

Upfront Payments

Any job that asks for payment in the form of registration, application, or training fees could be a scam. Companies do not require you to pay any fee to apply for a job. Moreover, companies pay for training required once you have received the job offer rather than asking you to pay for them.

Unless you are sure the job is not a scam, do not pay any fees before or after receiving a job.

As a recent graduate, I was looking for a quick gig before I could start my job. I found a call centre job through Indeed’s job-hunting site and thought it paid well. I went in for an interview at a small consultancy.

A short telephone conversation was conducted, and I was called and told that I was selected but would be required to pay a fee to secure my position, which would be refunded once I completed 2 months. In addition to that, they asked for a payment for training. I didn’t know any better back then, so I paid the fee, losing that money.

Fake Job Listings and Impersonated Jobs

Scammers take advantage of popular job-hunting and networking websites to list jobs that appear legitimate. They may create fake company and employee profiles, social media pages, and websites to make the company and the job posting appear legit.

In reality, the fake job listing can be the start of scams such as the aforementioned money transferring, crypto-related job scams, or upfront payments. It could also be an attempt to steal your personal information like your email address, government ID, and passport photo. Once the scammer has their hands on your sensitive personal information, they can misuse the information for identity theft, phishing and more.

Another variation involves scammers impersonating a popular company to post jobs. People apply thinking they are applying for a job at the impersonated company. Scammers then take advantage of the jobseeker’s trust and steal their information or ask for upfront charges for applying, securing their position, training or purchasing equipment.

Pyramid Scheme / Multi-level Marketing

Schemes that involve you to ‘invest’ an amount at the start to become a distributor by purchasing items to sell or promise a profit or remuneration when you bring in new members to the scheme are classified as pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing.

Large organisations operating on this model, like Herbalife, have faced lawsuits. These organisations or companies work on a model where the founders of the scheme and a few early investors benefit from the money invested by later members. Sadly, most investors or distributors lose money rather than making profits.

Also read: Is Temu a scam?

Shipping Scams

A job may hire you to receive packages and reship them. The problem with this is that the items are often stolen goods or items purchased from stolen credit cards. The United States Postal Inspection Service published an article warning people about such reshipping schemes in 2022.

Envelope Stuffing

Once considered a legitimate job, inserting letters or cards into an envelope has long been automated. Presently, very few companies pay people to stuff envelopes; even when they do, the pay is minuscule.

If you find a work-from-home envelope stuffing job that is high paying, it is bound to be a scam. The scam often involves paying a fee to buy a start-up kit. The company then asks you to promote the scheme via online ads to advertise the same scam you fell for.

Career Consulting / Recruitment Scam

Scammers posing as career consultants contact you to tell you they are impressed with your profile or resume and offer to ‘help’ improve it. They then demand a fee for their work without discussing it before taking up the task of helping you out.

Similarly, people posing as recruiters offer information about a company, claiming it will better your chances of landing the job and ask for a fee in return. The information provided is often basic and easily available online.

Misrepresentation or Mismatched Job Role

The job advertised could say that the role requires you to perform certain tasks. Still, upon hiring, your manager or employer could assign you tasks irrelevant or not mentioned in the roles and responsibilities you were hired for. Sometimes, the job listings or the offer letters have a vague job description, so the interested candidates cannot verify the job role.

In certain cases, employers could promise, either verbally or in writing, high pay, bonuses and benefits to persuade the candidate to take up the job but not follow the promises. These types of misrepresentations are considered fraudulent.

Freelance Job Scams

More and more people are seeking freelancing jobs either as a side hustle or a full-time job, mainly because of the flexibility of time it allows. Scammers take advantage of this growing interest to plot scams targeting freelancers. Freelance scams involve paying for simple tasks like the money mule or envelope stuffing scam, paying a deposit or a fee for a product or software necessary for the project, and sharing a common freelance platform account like Upwork.

Much like the situation I mentioned earlier, where I applied for a freelance job as a content writer and was asked to register on the company’s platform supposedly for free, but claims made by other people who did so make it clear that it is difficult to cancel the membership once applied for.

Screenshot of Sign up page for iapwe

Also read: How to identify WhatsApp scams?

Job Phishing

If you receive a message from a known or unknown company claiming that you have been selected for a job, it sounds like a scam. The hint is that you cannot get a job you never applied for.

Screenshot of a job phishing email.

Scammers can also pose as recruiters from popular companies and send job offers, offer letters or application links. When you click the link or download the job offer file, you will have fallen for a phishing scam.

Also read: Google Chat scams explained

Tips to stay away from job scams

While some job scams are obvious, it can be difficult for seasoned job seekers to differentiate between a legitimate job opening and a fraudulent one. Here are some ways to stay away from common job scams.

Avoid simple jobs for high payments

Scammers use this tactic to lure people into jobs like envelope stuffing, crypto-scamming or money mulling.

Avoid opting for jobs that offer high payment but do not mention what the job entails upfront. This could be a trick to get you to click on a phishing link to entrap you into a job of an illegal nature without your knowledge.

Research the Company

Before applying to any job, thoroughly research the company. Go through the company website by typing in the URL rather than using the link provided on job hunting or networking platforms. Check their social media pages and try reaching out to employees there.

To further check the company’s legitimacy, you can check on BBB or Glassdoor to verify the business.

Beware of rushed job offers

It could be a scam if a company selects you for a job without conducting a proper interview or without sending an official offer letter and accompanying legal documents.

Read through the documents

If you have gone through rounds of interviews after checking the legitimacy of the company and have been offered the job, go over the offer letter, the job contract or any other documents provided by the company. Look for any signs of suspicion and notify the company to have the document’s details changed if you find anything suspicious. For example, if the job role finalised upon discussion does not match the job role mentioned in the documents or if any additional payments are asked of you.

Refrain from making payments

Ideally, a company should not ask you to pay for equipment, training or any other fees before or immediately after joining the company. While some companies do work on the reimbursement model for job-related purchases such as travel, ensure that you completely trust the company and its policies before agreeing to any such payments.

Don’t engage in job offers you didn’t apply for

Phishers use fake job offer emails, messages and phone calls to lure people into clicking on phishing links or downloading malicious files onto their devices.

Screenshot of a job phishing SMS.

The links can lead to a website impersonating a login page or a payment gateway designed to steal your sensitive personal information when entered. It could also lead to a drive-by download attack where a malicious code will automatically download on your device after visiting the website through the phishing link.

Scammers can also use job offer file attachments to get people to download a malicious file.

Also read: 8 common Crypto scams explained

Vanashree Chowdhury

Being a tech enthusiast, Vanashree enjoys writing about technology and cybersecurity. She is a designer and marketer by profession and is deeply passionate about working on campaigns for social issues. You can contact her here:

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