Spot the Red Flags: How to Know If A Job Is A Scam

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Spot the Red Flags: How to Know...
Learn how to spot the difference between a legitimate job offer and one that seems a little off, and discover common scams and ways to protect yourself.
Jul 10, 2023 10 min read

In this day and age, it's easy to come across a job posting that seems a little off.

Whether you're being asked to provide uncomfortable personal information upfront or being asked to give the company money, you can feel pressured to follow through with their demands in order to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Sometimes, when it seems too good to be true, that usually means it is. If you've ever found yourself caught up in a job scam, you should know that you are not alone. Millions of people worldwide have fallen victim to job scams.

Knowledge is power, and knowing the signs of a scam and being able to spot the difference between a real job posting and a fake one can save you time and money.

In this article, we're going to be looking at:

  • What is an employment scam?
  • How do employment scams work?
  • 7 red flags of employment scams.
  • How can you protect yourself?
  • What to do if you think you've been scammed.

Having a trained career counselor in your corner can help you to differentiate between a legitimate company and a scam. At Enhancv, we've got a team of career counselors that can give you great advice on how to land your dream job and grow in your career.

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What Is an Employment Scam?

Employment scams are a widespread issue that plagues the job market. According to the Better Business Bureau, 14 million Americans in 2020 dealt with job scams, and the average person who fell victim to a job scam lost $1000.

Job scams work primarily by finding people who are eager to work and exploiting them. For example, if you're being asked to pay before or after signing an employment contract, it's more than likely a job scam.

Some of the most common job scams involve fake checks and unpaid work. This can involve companies exploiting workers by deliberately choosing not to pay them for hours that they've worked.

How Do Employment Scams Work?

There are many employment scams out there, but most fall into three specific categories:

  • Identity theft: This type of scam occurs when a hiring manager asks for confidential information, including information about your bank accounts, driver's license, or your Social Security Number. According to the Better Business Bureau, 34% of new job applicants were willing to share their driver's license information.
  • Fake checks: This is when an employer sends a fake check to pay their employee, which they cannot cash at their bank. Some fake job offers with fake checks involve mystery shopping or secret shopper jobs, babysitting, and small business jobs like photography.
  • Reshipping scams: this type of scam involves scammers hiring eager job applicants, and offering to pay them to ship packages to another address. Those who are shipping the packages aren't paid. Scammers usually purchase goods, like cell phones and laptops, with stolen credit cards and then ship them to a new address.

It's important to be able to spot the signs to figure out whether or not a hiring company is legitimate.

7 Red Flags of Employment Scams

The most important thing to do when you feel that you're being scammed is to identify the signs and decide to walk away.

The Pay Seems Too Good To Be True

When you're looking for a job within the same career that you've worked in for years, you'll know exactly what a typical salary would be. However, if you see a job posting that lists a similar job but with a salary more than two times what a normal one would be, then you may want to be wary.

It's not good for a business to offer employees double what they typically could get paid at other companies. This red flag is easy to spot, but it may be difficult for you to walk away from the job's spectacular pay. Just remember, if something looks too good to be true it likely isn't.

You Never Applied For The Position

Out of the blue, a recruiter calls you and shares with you that they've spotted your resume online and would like to offer you a job. Your initial impression is that this is your lucky day.

But it should strike you as odd, as most companies have lots of different applicants for each specific position. Unless you previously worked at the company, or are pretty well-known in your field, this should strike you as a red flag. It's more likely that you'll need to reach out directly to a recruiter.

Your Online Search Comes Up as Empty

Nowadays, it's common to scour the web to find out more about companies. In fact, viewing a company's website and online presence can be a good decision when applying for a position as it can help you prepare yourself for an interview. By going online and searching through review websites, you can also gain a good understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of a company.

However, if you can't find any hint of the company online, then it might be a scam. If you're unable to find a company website, email, or company address, then there's a good chance it's not a real company.

The same level of research applies to a recruiter or hiring manager. Sometimes, people pretend to work for large Fortune 500 companies and post job postings online to scam people. If you can't find any presence of them on LinkedIn or a company's website, then you might be getting scammed.

The Job Posting Seems Off

Another major red flag is if there are glaring spelling and grammar issues in the job posting. Professional companies posting a job ad on a job board will make sure that it is free from any major glaring grammar and spelling issues. This is more than just catching someone using 'then' when they should've used 'than', but we're talking something that affects the professionalism of a job post.

Not only that, it could also involve your email correspondence with a recruiter. If it's filled with mistakes, or awkward or formal language, you may be dealing with somebody who's not telling you the whole truth.

Also, if the job description seems vague or doesn't seem to make sense this may be a red flag.

Seeking Sensitive Personal and Financial Information

If any company asks for your personal bank account information upfront, even if they're trying to provide you with a direct deposit, you should see that as a red flag. Legitimate companies usually only ask for financial information during the onboarding process.

Getting An Immediate Job Offer

Even before starting the interview process, you receive an email from a recruiter that tells you that you have already received the job. This should strike you as a red flag, as most companies go through a lengthy hiring process to find the right person.

It's uncommon that a company would just offer a job to somebody out of the blue, and it's something that will make you think twice.

Being Asked for an Interview through a Messaging App

Most of the recruiting process has moved online, and online video services like Zoom and Microsoft teams are becoming the norm when it comes to conducting interviews. However, it goes without saying that there are some applications and websites which recruiters would likely not used to find an applicant.

For example, if you've applied for a position and a recruiter is messaging you through social media platforms, like Facebook messenger, this might be a red flag. Most hiring managers at a reputable company would see using those apps as unprofessional during a job search.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself

Always Remain Skeptical

Never get sucked into the hype behind a job, especially if you've spotted a red flag. It's a good idea to remain skeptical about any job and to keep an eye out for anything that may seem 'off'.

Remember, you can always walk away from any job opportunity. Even if you're most of the way through the interview process but some of the warning signs start popping up, then you owe that company nothing and you can walk away.

Never Skip The Interview Process

If you've spotted a red flag but are still interested in the job, then it might be in your interest to head to the interview. During the interview, you will get to see a little bit more of the inner workings of the company and what the work/compensation will look like.

When you're speaking with a human resources representative, you'll gain more insights into the role than before. You can even learn things through online video interviews, and you should prepare some questions as well.

Take Time To Think About It

If you're anything like me, you hate being pressured to do something. You get all sweaty and anxious, and you're bound to make a silly mistake when you feel like you need to do something.

It's always good advice to take a night and think about a decision that you're making. If, at all during the application process, you feel you're being pressured to make a quick decision or you'll lose the job offer, you can make it clear that you need time or you can walk away.

It's a sales tactic to make people feel like they're going to miss out on something if they don't buy that product right then and there. And sometimes the scammers can try to force you into doing something that you feel uncomfortable doing because there is a time constraint.

Refuse to Deposit Suspicious Checks

One of the most popular types of employment scams is for a company to send a new hire a large fake check, telling the new employee to keep some of the money for compensation for work and then pay someone else with it. What usually happens is that the check bounces and any money that you sent out to that other person will be lost to you.

If you're ever offered large sums of money and being asked to transfer money to someone else, immediately refuse. You should not be using your personal financial accounts for financial transactions.

Never Click Links on Emails

Lastly, avoid clicking links on emails. Suspicious links could carry viruses that could ruin your computer and put your personal information at risk of being stolen.

What to Do if You Think You've Been Scammed

  • Close your bank account: If a scammer has sensitive information like your bank account, you should close the account and contact your bank as soon as possible. You may also be able to reverse any transactions that have been made on your account.
  • Report it to the authorities: Next, be sure to report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and also the Better Business Bureau. You may also want to report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and if you're using a job board, then share that the job was a scam.
  • Protect your identity: if you're worried that your identity has been stolen, reach out to professionals who can help to protect your identity.


In the shifting landscape of the new digital age, it's not always easy to discover legitimate companies from scams. During your job search, be sure to keep an eye out for any red flags. If you find a red flag, continue to be skeptical and be willing to walk away at any moment if the job doesn't seem to live up to the expectations. No matter what, you know what you want, and always trust your gut when something seems to good to be true.

While setting off on your job search, you don't have to go it alone, and in fact, having a professional career counselor can actually increase your chances of finding your dream job. At Enhancv we have a team of career counselors who can offer professional advice to help you know your worth and be confident to stand up for yourself to get it.

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Dave Van Kooten
Is a human resource expert that helps passionate jobseekers to put their best foot forward to prepare for an interview. He believes that success can be achieved through going out of your comfort zone.
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