Trying to find work is difficult and frustrating enough already. But on top of tailoring your resume and working up the motivation to interview for a job, you also have to look out for fake job postings on sites like Indeed and Craigslist. These ads may look convincing, but if you spend your time applying for them, it’s wasted effort. That’s why it’s important that you learn how to spot them quickly.
At first glance, it’s difficult to understand why scammers would waste your time like that. But there are quite a few reasons why so many job ads are fake. Some are straight-up fraudsters. Others, believe it or not, are simply doing HR research.
That’s what this guide is all about. First, we’ll dive into the motivations of people who post fake job ads. Afterward, we’ll take a look at the warning signs that a job ad is fake. By the end, you’ll be able to easily tell the difference between real and fake job ads.
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Why do People Post Fake Jobs?
From where you’re sitting, fake job ads seem like the biggest waste of time. The vast majority of these ads, when you reply to them, never reply. No rejection—no offer of an interview—nothing.
So, what’s the point of them being posted in the first place? Believe it or not, but it’s a kind of research.
Do Recruitment Agencies Post Fake Jobs?
Some recruitment agencies and HR departments post fake jobs to perform research on the job market. The reason is this: during negotiation with real applicants, it gives them the upper hand. How? By finding out how much people are willing to work for a given position.
Let’s say you work for a recruitment agency, and you want to know how little a person will work for in a given position—teaching kindergarten, for example. How do you find out? You can’t ask people what they’d work for. Not only is that an odd question to ask, but the answer would only be an estimate. Instead, you can find out the exact figure through posting online job ads.
It’s easy. All you have to do is post three ads. One has a very low salary compared to what you would usually offer. One is a little lower, and one is the average. You can then see how many people apply to each.
Not only that, but you can gauge the quality of applicants to each ad as well. For very little expense, they’ve done some useful research. That’s why HR and recruitment agencies make fake job postings on Indeed and other sites.
Here are some tips to improve your online job search.
Scammers Stealing Information Through Job Ads
Next up, we have one of the more obvious reasons somebody would post a fake ad. Scammers use fake job ads to try and collect sensitive information on their applicants. Just think. There’s so much that employers can ask for before you start a job, including:
- Name, address, place of birth, work history and other personal details
- Scans of ID documents, or even the real thing (like a passport or driving license)
- Bank details (so that they know where to send your ‘salary’)
- Social security number
With all of these details to hand, it would be trivial for a scammer to steal your identity. Unfortunately, these scams are becoming more common. According to The Motley Fool, nobody’s even sure how much social security fraud costs the economy—it’s that much. Fortunately, being able to spot job scams with our tips below makes this much less likely to happen.
Advertising a Different Job
Last but not least, some job adverts are simply redirects. When you find them on Indeed or Craigslist, they advertise something that sounds great: say, teaching, or management. But when you click the link in the ad, it takes you something completely different. This could be anything from delivering takeout to working for Uber—something you might not have wanted to apply for.
This crude and simple tactic won’t work 99% of the time, but it may draw some people in. That’s why scammers use it to advertise jobs that aren’t necessarily appealing.
So, now that you understand why people post fake job ads let’s find out how to spot them.
Warning Signs That a Job is Fake
There are a number of ways to spot that a job ad is fake. It’s not always going to be obvious. Scammers aren’t upfront about what they want, unlike typical spam emails for example. They work harder to reel you in at first, and then ask for what they really want when they’ve built up your false sense of security.
But by following the signs below, you should be able to weed out some of the fake job adverts. None of these signs is definitive; sometimes a job isn’t too good to be true. Sometimes it’s an excellent opportunity. But if it ticks more than one of these boxes, it’s probably a fake.
The Job is Too Good to Be True
Do a quick job search and you’ll find a dozen of these within an hour. Jobs that seem too good to be true are a dime a dozen. That’s because they’re the easiest way to reel in unsuspecting applicants. Let’s say that you want to work a nice office job in a big city.
It varies depending on where you live, but let’s say that almost all the real openings require:
- 2 years’ experience
- A bachelor’s degree in XYZ
- A willingness to work set hours plus overtime (i.e. 9 to 5, plus staying late)
Let’s go on to say that you’ve been searching for an opening for the last three months to no avail. But during a normal online search, along comes something that looks like a way in.
This job offers everything you want—plus a great salary—and even promises:
- Flexible hours
- No need for a degree, just a high school diploma
- No need for previous experience
It’s almost like a dream come true. Unfortunately, that’s probably all it is: a dream. Bear in mind that According to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, by 2020 65% of jobs will need education beyond high school. When jobs offer you the world on a platter like the one above, it’s far more likely to be a ploy to reel you in than a genuine job opportunity.
Work from Home Online Jobs Frauds
Next up are work from home online job frauds. These can be positions that would normally be on-site but are offered on an at-home basis. They also typically come with the same promises of a great salary and flexible hours as the example above. They’re a classic ‘get rich quick’ scheme.
Typical work-at-home frauds offer to pay people huge salaries for minimal effort. They send their fee in a self-addressed and stamped envelope to the address provided. Applicants pay a small fee for a ‘starter pack’, which is often little more than leaflets and pamphlets for the scheme. These frauds also encompass basic pyramid schemes and bogus ‘crafting’ jobs. These scams were more common before the internet, but can still be found, even on well-known job boards.
Fake Job Offer Emails
Here’s an example that comes straight out of nowhere. Telling between real and fake job ads on boards like Indeed can be difficult. But it’s a practical guarantee that if you get a job offer through email—from somebody you’ve never contacted before—that it’s going to be fake.
These offers are typically from ‘recruiters’ who claim that they found your resume somewhere online. Like always, they’re too good to be true. They’re often for positions that aren’t relevant to you at all. This is what often gives the game away.
The great thing about email for scammers is that they don’t have to reveal themselves. That’s why the Nigerian Prince scam became so successful. By talking over the phone, you might realize that the recruiter isn’t even talking to you from the U.S. The same goes, of course, for meeting in person. But through email, they can claim to be anybody they want to be.
Text Message for Job Interview
The exact same applies to offers of job interviews over text. One day, you’re going about your business, when your phone beeps or buzzes. It’s a recruiter trying to get in touch with you and offer you an amazing work-from-home job. Unfortunately, this is going to be yet another scam. Unsolicited contact is almost always a scam unless you work high up the ladder and you’re being ‘head hunted’.
How to Tell if a Job Ad is Fake or Real
So, it’s time for the all-important question. How can you tell if a job ad is real or fake? And better yet, is it possible to be able to tell instantly? It is—and the way to do it is with just a little research. Here’s how to spot any and all fakes, quickly and easily.
1) The Company Doesn’t Exist
Here’s something basic that you might not have thought of doing. If the job advert has the employer’s name listed, do a quick search for it online. Start by searching for the business’ name. If it you can’t find anything, that might be because their website isn’t well-built and Google doesn’t like it. However, it’s a bad sign.
You can also look for the company on well-known job boards and job sites. Glassdoor is a great example. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a site that allows employees to post anonymous ‘reviews’ of their place of work. It’s a great tool to tell if a workplace is everything it claims to be. It’s also a good tool to use when trying to pinpoint fake job ads. If the company isn’t listed there, that’s another bad sign.
Next, try and track down other details in the job ad, like the telephone number or email. Search for the term with quotes around it, as in “[email protected]”. This tells the search engine to search for that term precisely. Do the same with the phone number, if one’s listed. If nothing at all comes up, then there’s a chance that the company could be a fake one.
2) The Company Isn’t Hiring
If the company does exist, there are still a good few options open to you. First off, search for other job ads online from the same business. If the ad you found is the only one you can find, then there’s a chance that they aren’t really hiring. This tip only works for small businesses, though, because big companies need to hire people all the time.
3) The Address is Incorrect
If there’s an address listed with the ad or interview offer, check for it online. Does it match the business’ real address? Scammers pretending to be from a particular company have to meet you somewhere that isn’t the business’ real address, for obvious reasons. If the location is somewhere odd, that’s a sign that the ad is fake.
4) Job Ad with No Details
Let’s say you’re searching online for a teaching post. You come across an ad that offers a decent salary and benefits. The job description lists so many benefits that you don’t know where to start. Aside from that, though, there are no real details on the job—you have no idea who you’ll be teaching, or who you’ll be working for. There isn’t a phone number or address, just an email and the option to submit your resume.
When a job ad is deliberately vague, it’s for one of two reasons. First, it could be a scam. Fraudsters try and pack their ad with as many amazing benefits as possible rather than real ‘details’. Second, though, the job on offer might not be a very attractive opening. Recruitment agents have a habit of burying the worst details about a job, and only telling you them when you’re there for an interview. Either way, it’s probably an ad you should avoid.
5) The Ad is Poor Quality
When you open a scam email, the first thing you normally notice is the poor quality English. This is due to the fact that most scammers live and ‘work’ abroad. There are often tell-tale grammatical mistakes, like no capitalization or the wrong words used at the wrong points in a sentence. If a job ad reads like it was written by a scammer, then it probably was written by a scammer.
6) You Receive an Odd Reply
Let’s say you applied for a job that seems perfectly normal. The ad wasn’t too good to be true, your searches checked out, and it seemed well-written. However, when they replied, you got a feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
There are a few ways that this can happen:
- The business replied instantly to your application, asking you to go to a site and fill in an online form.
- The tone and grammar of the email were completely different from that of the job ad. So, the job advert was in perfect English, but the email you received wasn’t.
- The reply doesn’t take into account anything from your resume or email.
This is often a case of the scammer showing their true colors, especially if you get an instant reply. That’s a sign that they’re not interested in you: they’re interested in your personal details.
7) You Were Accepted Immediately
An even bigger sign is if your application is immediately accepted. Within the day, or even within the hour of you sending your application, you’re told that you were accepted for an interview. Congratulations are normally in order—but in this case, it might be a scam.
There are a few signs to watch out for after being invited for an interview which can suggest it might be a fraudulent ad:
- The speed with which you were asked to come in for an interview is too fast. It might not even have been long enough for them to read and consider your resume.
- The invitation makes no mention of anything you put in your resume or cover letter.
- The invitation is for an interview at an odd location.
In terms of recruitment, it’s unusual for an interview to take place anywhere but at the company’s offices. If your interview is held elsewhere, this might be because they’re not a real employee. Speaking of odd locations for interviews…
8) The Interview Isn’t in Person
Let’s say that after you applied for a position to work at an insurance company’s offices. For well-paid or highly sought-after jobs, it’s common these days to go through phone interviews. These are exactly what they sound like: basic interviews over the phone rather than in person. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re successful, you’ll be offered an in-person interview: one step closer to the job.
However, a sure sign of a scammer is that they’re happy simply to conduct all interviews over the phone or online. A particularly common method is to ‘interview’ through a chat service like Facebook Messenger. Then, in the end, they’re happy to offer you the position without even meeting you.
9) You’re Asked for Money
This is one of the surest signs of a scam. Let’s say you applied for a job, and you were accepted. However, there’s a caveat. The recruiter asks you for money before you can take the job. Now, this isn’t entirely unprecedented. For example, sometimes an applicant might have to pay for a background check or drug test.
According to BackgroundChecks.com, the law varies by state. But paying for your own check isn’t unusual. However, scammers often ask for payments for more than just background checks.
They might ask for the following:
- Money to cover on the job training once you’ve started
- A fee to ‘process your application’
- A fee for unspecified costs
In general, be very wary of any employer who asks for payment for something upfront.
10) Asked for Personal Details Before You’re Hired
Last but not least, you should also look out for any businesses that ask for personal details before you’re hired. This might not be something you appreciate if you’ve not applied for many jobs in your lifetime. However, businesses don’t ask for these details until you’ve interviewed in person and been accepted for the job.
This includes both bank details and your social security number. All employers will need these details eventually or they won’t be able to pay you. However, they don’t need them at any point before you’re hired.
Can I Complain About Fake Job Ads?
Most online job boards allow you to report ads that you believe to be fake. However, this is of limited effect, and only infrequently results in the removal of the ad. If you believe you’ve replied to fake ads by accident, there’s little you can do. Your best bet is to simply move on, and be more careful in future. Spend your time applying for real jobs instead—it’s a far better use of your time.
How to Identify Fake Job Ads
In closing, it’s easy to identify fake jobs by using the checklist below. This list takes each of the points above into account. Keep them in mind whenever you’re searching for positions.
- Immediately weed out any ad that asks for money or personal details upfront.
- Next, research the ad before you start to apply. Search online for the business, the phone number, the email address and the physical address listed in the ad. This will stop most scams in their tracks.
- Finally, use your gut instinct to find any remaining scams. Avoid any jobs that seem to offer too much, or which are written poorly.
And that’s all there is to it. If you’re still not sure how to know if a job is legit, you can always take one final step: call the company and ask to speak with them about their opening. You may need a job fast, but you still need to exercise great care due to the number of scammers.