11 Signs the Job Is Too Good to Be True


You've no doubt seen the emails, the web banners, or the ads posted on public noticeboards. They may vary greatly in content, but the general idea is the same — a great job, offering the pay you want, the hours you will love, and the freedom you have always wanted. But how many of these jobs are actually legit? As it turns out, not a lot.

Industry experts from sites like FlexJobs.com, RatRaceRebellion.com, and Global Workplace Analytics estimate that for every real job advertised, 60 are scams. Those aren't good odds. And although you may think you could easily spot a scam, don't be too sure. FlexJobs.com recently polled 2,600 job seekers, and 17% off them had been taken in by a scam at least once. So, what can you do? How do you protect yourself? Here are 11 signs that the dream job could be a complete scam. (See also: 8 Vile Craigslist Scams to Watch Out For)

1. They Offer Big Bucks for Minimal Hours

There are very few legitimate professions that can guarantee a huge salary for a few hours of work every day, or every week. Those that do are usually in the medical profession, Wall Street, or adult entertainment. So when you see an ad offering a six or seven figure salary for just a few hours of work a day, it's almost certainly a scam. And if this is a work-at-home job, it's definitely bogus. Unless you already have a specific skillset that is in high demand, no one is going to pay you big money for such little effort. When you see an ad like this, ignore it and move on.

2. They Want You to "Pay to Play"

There are so many sad stories about this. In particular, NPR's Planet Money did a great podcast called "Anatomy of a Scam" that highlighted the case of a woman who was taken for many thousands of dollars. The basic premise of this one is that you can build a fantastic home business that brings in big money. All you need to do is buy something to kickstart it. What that something is depends on the type of scam being operated.

In the case of Planet Money, it was a website building service that required an upfront fee of almost $5,000, and a monthly subscription of around $50. And for what? Basically, very little. The tools offered were available online or in libraries for almost no money. In fact, right now you can build an ecommerce website quickly and easily for as little as $10-$20 a month and no upfront fees. There may be legitimate businesses asking for an upfront fee, but they are rare. Those that are legitimate are often referred to as "pyramid schemes," or "multi-level marketing" operations. While they may be completely legal, making money in them if you are not at the top of the organization is almost impossible.

3. They Ask for ALL of Your Personal Information

You see a job that looks amazing. It even looks like it's coming from a big name company, like Google, Apple, or Amazon. They offer flexible hours, a fabulous salary, great benefits, they will even pay to relocate you. All you need to do in return is fill out an application form. This is the scam.

No legitimate business is going to ask you to give details like your social security number, bank account details, or credit card information. This is simply an exercise in "phishing," and it can leave the applicant's life in a complete mess. And this is not just something that happens online. As a UK series called The Real Hustle showed, it can be done very easily in a physical location. The scammers rent office space, wear suits, and pretend to be recruiters. All they're really doing is collecting personal information. Once they've got everything they need, they shut up shop and start stealing identities.

4. They Want Money for Government or Federal Jobs

People are very attracted to government jobs because they offer great benefits, good pay, there are locations everywhere, and there are tremendous opportunities for advancement. Scammers know this, and will use this to take advantage. There is this myth that government job openings are kept secret, or are hard to come by. While the latter may be true for some types of jobs, there is no secret database that you have to pay to access. Every job available is posted at USAJOBS.gov, and you can search by skill, job title, agency, and location.

A quick search of the database revealed over 341 openings right now, in Colorado alone. The scammers will use sites and email addresses with official-sounding names, like "US Agency For Employment Opportunities" or "Postal Service Career Services" but it's all bogus. What they want is money for access to lists that are available free, or worse, for entrance exams and tests that mean absolutely nothing. They cannot guarantee you a job in any government agency, but they will happily collect your money. You can read more about government job scams at the FTC.

5. They Are Impossible to Research

In this day and age, every legitimate company has a web presence. It would be bad for business not to have an online identity. So when you start researching the company offering the job (and you should always do that to prepare for the interview anyway), you should be concerned if there is very little information available about the company.

If, after searching the company name, you get a handful of articles, stories, references, or reviews, think carefully about applying for the job. Sure, they may have a website, but look at it closely. Does it seem cheaply made or rushed? Does it have legitimate ways to contact real people, or is it just an email address? Real companies will also have established a strong social presence online, and quite often have Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you are coming up empty, it's almost certainly a scam. Now, the big exception to this is a start-up company. Obviously, they are just getting their foot in the door, and may not have anything like this in place yet. In that instance, use the other tips on this list to sniff out the legitimacy of the job.

6. They Are Fuzzy With the Specifics

Your future employer, if legitimate, will have a lot of details about the position for which you're applying. Even if it's a real work-from-home job, like medical transcription, you will be given very specific information about hours, pay, benefits, and expectations. When a job is a scam, these details are in short supply. They will talk in generalities, using phrases like "flexible hours" or "great earning potential." But if nailing them down is like nailing jello to a wall, run and hide.

7. They Contact You First

This is not a job-hunter's market. Statistics show that three out of four employed workers are open to, or actively looking for, new jobs. Combine that with people looking for jobs who are out of work and you quickly realize, this is an employers market. Or, as an HR person recently told me, "if you post it, they will come." So when you get sent emails, texts, letters, or receive phone-calls offering a new job, it's almost certainly a scam. Scammers want your money or your identity, and they're the ones on the chase for new people to con. The exception to this rule — headhunters. If you're in an industry that uses headhunters, such as advertising, you may get a call or email. But a quick Internet search should easily reveal if the headhunter is legit, or a scammer.

8. They Use Poor Grammar

Legitimate companies are aware of the importance of good grammar in all communications. This is not to say the postings will be literary works of art, but they will be spelled correctly, and avoid lots of exclamation marks, underlined words, and hyped-up language. These companies often use a proofreader to ensure this kind of professionalism. Scammers couldn't care less. They're not going through every text and email with a fine-toothed comb, looking for spelling errors and poor grammar. They want to get your attention quickly, and know that most people won't really care about the occasional slip up. But, you should. If it's unprofessional, it's almost certainly a scam.

9. They Have a Rotten Reputation

This is where the Internet, and Google, can really be your friend. The second you see a job offer that interests you, research the company. If possible, find online forums devoted to job-hunting and work-at-home careers, and ask questions about the company. If the company is legitimate, you will find out soon enough. If it's a scam, you will be inundated with information about their deceptive practices. The Better Business Bureau is also a great place to look up companies in your area. Look at the grade, and the reasons why it received them. An "F" grade is definitely a big red flag.

10. They Keep Unusual Hours

Legitimate businesses keep legitimate hours. Namely, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is when you will receive phone calls, emails, or even LinkedIn messages. Scammers work around the clock, and often do it outside of regular business hours. So, while an email received at 6 p.m. should not ring any alarm bells, one that you get at midnight should. Hiring managers do not work into the wee hours of the morning, and if they're contacting you at this time, they're most likely a scammer.

11. They Aren't Looking for Experience

"No experience necessary" is a huge warning sign in a job offer; especially if the job is offering to pay you a big salary. It's just a complete fantasy to think that you can get a huge income without having any kind of education or training. If this is in the job ad, avoid it like the plague.

Have you ever been scammed on a job? Let us know in the comments below!

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Guest's picture

If you are in an industry, such as tech or project management, some recruiters may try to contact you in the early evening hours.

Some recruiters also hire Indian or Asian staffers to phone screen before involving the company's account manager to be involved in the submission process to clients.

Again, all of the hints in this article can weed out illegitimate scams.

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