Have you ever had a feeling that a job description or company sounds just too good to be true – so good in fact, that it might even be a scam? Many of us have passed by light poles displaying ads for earning six figure incomes from home before you roll out of bed. In this difficult economic climate there are some disreputable “companies” that try to take advantage of unsuspecting job seekers. These companies are often after your money or personal information that will give them access to your identity or your contacts.
How can you determine if a job is real or a scam?
- Research the company and the position – Your first stop should be Google (or another search engine of your choice.) Search for the company’s website and see what other results come up. Evaluate whether their website is professional and is consistent the company’s stated mission/purpose. Identify contact information for the company on their website and any other pertinent information.
- Check the company’s references – Ask the company for a list of employees and/or customers you can speak with. You can also use the major social networks to find people currently working at the company. For example, you can use LinkedIn to see the profiles of current or past employees working at the company. Once you find some employees on a social network, reach out to them to see if they would be willing to speak to you about the company and their experiences with the company. If you reach out to former employees you might get a less biased perspective since they no longer are directly associated with the company.
- Protect your personal information – The people running a job scam can be after your personal information to carry out identity theft. Information such as your name, address, and telephone number are a standard part of all job applications. However, your social security number and bank account information are not. If a job application or website requests your social security number or bank information up front, your “scam radar” should be on high alert. Of course, there are legitimate companies that will ask for more personal information during the job application process. But if you are unsure, or are uncomfortable, you should question the hiring manager or the HR department about their policies for protecting applicants’ privacy. When it comes to your personal information, it pays to be extra cautious.
- Distinguish job phishing from legitimate postings – Job phishing scams that are focused on accessing your personal data or money are often posted on multiple websites. However, legitimate companies can also post on multiple sites. If you do come across copies of the same job on multiple sites, follow the steps above to help identify the real jobs and avoid the scams.
Sometimes, when you apply to a job, it’s difficult to determine whether it’s a scam, or not. Rather than giving up your job search, focus on educating yourself to spot fraudulent jobs.
If you ever feel that a company is asking you for inappropriate information, trust your instincts and proceed with caution. A second opinion from a friend or someone you trust never hurts.
In this economy, and in this day and age, trust your instincts. Protect yourself.
We’d love to hear how you protect yourself from scams. Please share your answers to the questions below and help other job seekers protect themselves:
- How do YOU tell if a company is a scam? What steps do you take?
- What did you do once you decided that a job was a scam?
This article was originally posted on the Ivy Exec Blog.