Finding the Right Job: There’s Plenty of Phish in the Sea


My husband and I are no strangers to the job hunt scene. Before he was even out of college, we were scouring the newspapers, searching the online databases, and handing out resumes to colleagues in hopes of helping him land that killer job. And while it was very frustrating that the rate of return on most job inquiries was very low, it wasn’t nearly as annoying as the slew of phony job emails that began infiltrating my husband’s email inbox.


Scammy job emails have taken several forms in my experience:


Phishing – This is usually disguised as an inquiry from a reputable company looking to get more information before scheduling an interview. They may ask for your social security number, bank account information, credit card numbers, or the name of your first junior high crush (this last one is doubtful, but equally damning.) While you may not get excited from seeing a message from Coca-Cola (since you obviously didn’t apply there), you may initially get overjoyed from seeing a supposed email from a place you did apply to. Upon finding out it is a scam, it can tick you off. Just be sure to ignore these emails. No potential employer wants to know you bank account info; trust me.


Nigerian Scam or Spoofing – Yeah, we know that not all of these actually come from Nigeria. In fact, a large portion of these emails are now originating in other parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. The premise is still the same, however. The phony company has determined that you are a perfect fit for their job as a payment processor. All you have to do is cash their phony check and wire back a percentage of the money. In addition to this tired scheme, similar emails may ask that job-seekers participate in certain forms of money-laundering or the shipment of stolen goods outside of the country. (What is especially frustrating about these emails is that they are more appropriate for some job-hunters than others. My husband, for example, was seeking to use his International Business degree in a new career. Upon first glance, some of these scams would appear to be a potential job opportunity. I would expect that someone looking for a career in Cosmetology wouldn’t even take the time to read through most of these emails, however.)


Franchise Opportunities – If you know someone that really makes thousands a week with little to no start up or effort, give me their number. Otherwise, I’ll just assume that it can’t usually be done. The Federal Trade Commission has taken measures to ensure that such arrogant claims be accompanied with certain disclosure statements if the purchase price of such a “start-up opportunity” is more than $500. This FTC Franchise Rule requires that all “opportunities” include a franchise disclosure document that includes basic information about the promoter's company, including any lawsuits from purchasers or lawsuits alleging fraud. In addition, the promoter must give potential purchasers the names, addresses and phone numbers of at least 10 previous purchasers closest to the potential buyer. If this info isn’t included, or the company refuses to provide it -- RUN!


Home Business Opportunities – Why would any company pay you $1 per stuffed envelope when they could hire out a mailing company to do it for pennies? They wouldn’t. And you can just forget about that medical billing and transcription opportunity you just found out about. With the new HIPAA laws and the sanctity of medical privacy, a real doctor isn’t about to just send anyone a load of confidential medical info without any background or training. Get more info before paying anything. Most real employers pay their employees; not the other way around.


Take heart in knowing that you eventually will find employment. It may take awhile (just remember how long we waited ). If you keep your head and take time in responding to job-related emails, however, you can save yourself from horrors far worse than unemployment.

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Andrea Karim's picture

There was one email that I would receive every few months from a resume writing service. They either spoofed their email address or made up a fake business name. It went something like this:

"Hi, this is Lois Smith, Human Resources manager from XYZCompany. I want to apologize for not having responded to your job application, which I realize my company received several months ago. We have since filled the position that you applied to, but as I was sorting through resumes to keep in our database, I happened upon yours.

I'm just passing on a little advice, as a former hiring manager and now HR lead: your resume is a little hard to read. I have trouble determining what your exact skill set is, and it's not entirely clear what job positions you've held in the past.

Writing a resume can be hard. Many of our current employees confessed to me that they used Resume HelpNow; it seems to be a reasonable service that helps people perfect their resumes. Just thought I'd pass that along! Good luck in your search!"

I freaked out, because I figured that my resume was already pretty good, and emailed several friends for help. The funny thing was, when I told them what the "hiring manager" had said, they all agreed "Wow, yeah, you really need to rework this", but not a single person had more than one or two superifical changes. The power of suggestion is amazing.

Anyway, I later learned that this service would troll through resumes on, and then email people with the above fake HR advice (I was clued in when I received the second round of "advice" from another "company" with the EXACT wording and name as the first one). The key to the scam was mentioning that you had applied to the position months ago, so that you wouldn't even necessarily remember doing so.

Linsey Knerl's picture

This is a great story, Andrea.  Thanks for alerting us to yet another way job-seekers can fall victim to those with less than upstanding methods of getting business.

Andrea Karim's picture

I should mention that I made up the name Resume HelpNow - I hope there isn't a real business with that name. Anyway, I actually recall the name of the company that was being marketed in the email, but I'm afraid to post it since I no longer have the emails that I was sent.