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Job searching is hard enough as it is—but it becomes much worse when you run into scammers who prey on job seekers. They can cost you money, time, and confidence. And new scams pop up all the time that go way beyond too-good-to-be-true work from home schemes. Learn how to recognize cons when you see them and know how to avoid job search scams.

Common Job Search Scams

They want you to shell out cash

Any time a recruiter or employer wants you to pay for training, placement fees, credit reports, and so on—run. Legitimate recruiters and employers don’t need you to pay for anything. Recruiters get paid by the company that hires you. Employers pay for background checks and any training they want you to have.

They ask for sensitive information

If you receive an email from a prospective employer or recruiter that says they need sensitive personal or financial information, don’t give it to them. For instance, they may ask for your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or driver’s license number. These are all paths to financial theft and/or identity theft.

For instance, they may ask for your Social Security number for some kind of pre-screening, or your bank account number to set up direct deposits for your paycheck. (No company will ask about your bank account numbers until after you start working for them. Then, they’ll ask you if you want to set up a direct deposit through Human Resources.) Or, they may want your bank account number so they can "give" you money to pay for “training” or whatever. But as a result, you end up having money stolen from your account. Scammers have lots of sneaky tricks. The point is: just like in other areas of your life, don’t give up sensitive personal information to people you don’t KNOW are legitimate.

They say they want to hire you without any kind of interview or conversation

One example of this is getting an email saying they’ve seen your resume, you’re perfect for the job, and they want to hire you now. Beware. What follows that is typically going to be a request for sensitive personal or financial information you shouldn’t be giving out.

For employers, hiring is a risk. No legitimate employer will offer you a job without at least speaking with you first. Typically, the more senior or higher-paying the job, the more times they want to speak with you and check your references.

Best Ways to Avoid Job Search Scams

Check out the Recruiter

If a recruiter contacts you (typically because they’ve seen you on LinkedIn), find them online. Recruiters need to have a strong online presence. So, find their LinkedIn profile and their website. Ask people you know if they’ve heard of them. Once you’ve verified they’re a real, legitimate person, send them your resume (hopefully, all they’ve asked for). A solid recruiter will want to speak with you on the phone to get to know you before they set you up in an interview with a potential employer. At no time should they ask you for money. Find out more about how recruiters work in this article or in my ebook available on Amazon.

Research the Company

It’s always a good idea to research a company before you interview with them. The more information you have, the better you perform in the interview.

It’s also a good idea to research a company if you have any doubts at all about their authenticity. Always do a separate search for any company that contacts you. Look up their website. Find them on LinkedIn. Even try to find other employees on LinkedIn (you can do a people search). Ask people in your network what they know about the company. All of these things will help you verify that the company is legitimate.

Contact Potential Employers and Hiring Managers Yourself

Many scams happen as a result of fake employers contacting you. One of the best ways to avoid that all together is to stop posting your resume on job boards and use your time to directly contact hiring managers (the person who would be your boss). You research companies as you find the hiring manager, so you know the company is legitimate.

Contacting the hiring manager not only helps you avoid scams—it helps you uncover hidden jobs and put yourself first in line for interviews because most other job seekers don’t know about them yet. (Hidden jobs are those jobs that aren’t currently posted, for a host of reasons. Read more about the hidden job market. See more about how to find hidden jobs.)

*The more you know, the better off you'll be. I invite you to build your job search and interview skills at my free job search training sessions I hold every week. See topics and times here.