Published on Jul 17, 2023
Generative AI such as ChatGPT is revolutionizing digital scams across the world. For job scammers, these programs make it substantially easier to craft detailed and compelling job descriptions in very little time. Previous red flags, such as poor spelling and vague descriptions, may be less recognizable now that more sophisticated technology is available.
Job scams can be anywhere, including on reputable job listing sites like LinkedIn, Handshake and Indeed. You might find them online or be contacted directly by a scammer posing as an employer.
It’s a lucrative business, since under the guise of a job offer, scammers can reasonably request information such as addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and bank account numbers, which can be used to steal your money and identity. A study by the Better Business Bureau concluded that 14 million people are exposed to job scams each year, with $2 billion in direct losses annually.
When job searching, it’s important to be alert and critical, and to educate yourself about tell-tale signs of potential scams.
Here are steps to take when considering whether a job is legitimate.
1. Research the company
Start by finding out more about the potential employer. Check its website, social media and company profile on job searching sites. If it looks flimsy, vague or cobbled together, approach it with caution. You can also look up current employees on networking sites like LinkedIn and check whether their profiles look genuine.
When in doubt, Google the company followed by the word ‘scam.’ You may discover records of complaints or find others who have been victimized by the scammers in the past.
If the company looks legitimate, next check for signs that the job listing is truly from that company. If contacted by an employer, check that their phone number and email is from a company domain, and that the name of the company is spelled correctly. Contacting from a personal email can be a red flag. If you’re unsure about a listing or the person contacting you, look for an HR number and call the company to clarify.
2. Ask questions
Job scams are known for having very fast hiring processes that bring you on board very quickly with very little questions. Some scammers will contact you solely through text or email and offer you a position immediately without even offering an interview. If they do offer an interview, most likely they’ll hire you after asking only a few generic questions, if any at all.
If you notice this happen, make sure to ask questions throughout the hiring process. Press for details about the job, such as the history of the company, other functions and departments you might work with, day-to-day life and activities, opportunities for promotion and more. If you notice that the recruiter is dodging questions, or offering vague or contradictory answers, it may be a scam.
3. Know the red flags
Job scammers may ask for information like bank information, social security number or credit card number, either before you’re hired or immediately after. Never offer this information during the application process, and after being hired, only do so via a valid tax form like a W-4. They may also ask you to pay money to the company through cryptocurrency, a wire transfer service or gift cards. Or they may send you a fake check to buy equipment, which the bank will later catch and invalidate after you’ve already sent the money.
Be wary of any attempt to make you send money early on in the job process, and always wait at least two weeks after receiving a check before sending a company money.
Additionally, research common job scams, such as processing packages (generally involving stolen goods), stuffing envelopes or “mystery shopping.” These are often tricks used by scammers, so approach them with greater caution than you otherwise would.
If a job offer seems too promising, such as offering large sums of money for very little labor or qualifications, it’s likely a scam.
4. Act immediately if anything suspicious happens
If you suspect that you’ve been scammed, stop any correspondence with the supposed employer and contact your bank immediately. If you report it as soon as possible, the bank will be able to determine you weren’t intentionally engaging in illegal activity, so it won’t take action against you. If you’ve lost money or suspect you unintentionally participated in an illegal activity, it’s also critical to contact your local police. If it turns out to be a scam, report it to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. If you found it through a job listing, notify the site as well. Most platforms have an option to report a job as a scam.
Please be sure to also reach out to Career Services so we can assist you and be on the lookout for similar activity in the future. Our goal is to protect students from predatory scammers and sharing this information is critical to helping your peers.
With the sophisticated technology available to scammers today, job searching can be scary. Even though AI makes scams much harder to spot, there are still numerous red flags that can tip you off to when a position isn’t legitimate. Approach your search with caution and thoughtfulness, and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends for advice or drop into the MU Career Center if anything looks suspicious.