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Scammers are preying on desperate job seekers.  Are you conducting a safe job search?

1. Protect Your Information

One of the common tricks is to direct job seekers to an online application.  While many legitimate companies use online applications, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), look out for ones that require too much personal information.

If the application asks for any of this information, do NOT fill it in:

  • Social Security number
  • Birth Date (they should only ask if you are over 18)
  • Bank account information (often disguised as trying to set up your direct deposit)
  • Mother’s maiden name (often needed to establish credit)
  • Previous names used
  • Insistence on full salary history when you apply

If you are still interested in the job after running into these requests, call the company first. Sometimes legitimate companies will ask for these details, especially the salary history.  For example, the private service industry will frequently ask for some of these details, especially since they are recruiting people to work in private homes. 

However, if you are suspicious about any opportunity, look for ways to talk to an actual person at the company, even if it is only the receptionist to verify that the job listing is real.  If the company’s name is not listed on the website, definitely run the other way

2. Cloned Job Postings

A client asked if I would verify a “too good to be true” job listing on Indeed.com with a stated salary range much higher than the typical rate.  I quickly discovered it was a clone that led to a dummy application system. 

What the scammers did was find a legitimate job in another state, copied it, and pasted into the Denver job listings.  The website with the application used the original company’s logo and descriptions, but it didn’t have the supporting pages built around the rest of the site. 

I figured this out by going to the real company’s main website, which I found through Google, and saw that this job was only available in Ohio and Tennessee, not in Denver.  Had my client filled out the fake application, I’m sure they would be dealing with identity theft today.

3. Post Your Resume Privately

Generally speaking, do NOT post your resume online unless you can do so in a completely private manner. Scammers are contacting people who place their resumes online. 

When you load up your resume on Indeed.com, for example, you have the option to list it as “Private.”  This means that your resume will not show up in a general search of the data base – only jobs that you actually apply to will receive your information. You won’t be missing many great opportunities by posting your resume privately.

Recruiters pay money to search the data bases, which is also known as data mining.  However, these jobs tend to be high-turnover jobs, such as 100% commission sales jobs. 

A private setting not only protects you from thieves that pay to search resumes, it will also decrease the amount of spam job listings that are targeting you. In cases that offers no privacy settings on resume posting, do not post your resume at all. 

Personally, I see a lot of job scams on ZipRecruiter.com. Employers like to use this site because it can post their position on 100’s of websites at once for little to no cost but it is this type of low-level marketing structure that attracts 100’s and 100’s of scam jobs.

4. LinkedIn is Different

You want to be visible on LinkedIn. 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates, which means you want your profile to be found so double check to make sure your privacy settings are set to “Public.” Remember, if you choose to upload a Word or PDF version of your resume onto your LinkedIn profile, make sure to remove your contact information!

5. Be Wary of Work-From-Home

While there are many legitimate work-at-home opportunities, you do need to be careful.  Here are two of the most common work-at-home scams:

  • Bogus direct deposit forms. If a company asks for your banking information, look for the following: unknown email domain, use of inconsistent/unfamiliar fonts, poor grammar and implied urgency. If you give your banking information to a bogus source, they can attempt to divert funds from your account.
  • Asking you to fill out a W-9. If a company is asking you to fill out a W-9, make sure you verify the source since you’ll be giving them your Social Security number. Having your SS# fall into the wrong hands can lead to identity theft.

If you are serious about a work-from-home opportunity, check out Flexjobs.com.  While you do have to pay to see the full jobs listings, Flexjobs.com researches each and every job to make sure they are a legitimate offering from a real company.

6. Check Their Reputation

Before you apply for any job, you should research the company.  In particular, resources like Colorado’s Better Business Bureau, local Chambers of Commerce (including the Internet Chambers of Commerce) and local news sources like the Denver Business Journal all carry information on local businesses.  In the case of the Better Business Bureau, they have free information on most of the businesses, whether they are members or not.  Seeing the number of complaints – or a lack of records – are all indications that a potential employer is not on the level.

One of my favorite tools for checking out companies is a simple Google search.  Try “company name scam,” or “company name reputation,” or “company name reviews.”  What I like about this tactic is that it will also reveal real companies that have a negative reputation or bad company culture.  After all, the job may be real, but you may not want it.

7. Use Common Sense

While the job search may be driving you crazy, don’t let desperation override your common sense.  If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Trust, but verify!


If you are looking for additional resources on how to safely conduct a job search online, among many other helpful topics, order, “Get a Job Without Going Crazy” (3rd Edition) for helpful tips, lists and best practices for your job search.

If you’ve been targeted by a job scam, file a complaint with the FTC. For additional resources, check out the 10 Ways to Recognize a Job Scam by the Better Business Bureau.

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