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Scam and Fraudulent Job Postings

Credit for content on this page goes to Clemson University's Center for Career and Professional Development, who graciously allowed us to share their excellent recommendations with University of Washington students. 

Job Seeker Scams

Alert!: Scam Emails and Postings

A number of fraudulent have been sent to University of Washington students under the guise of offering some form of employment. If you receive a suspicious email, please review the information below to see if the email fits any of the characteristics of a scam. If you're still unclear about the validity of an email after reviewing this information, please contact the career center and we will be happy to help: econeill@uw.edu

If you become aware of a scam or fraudulent job posting in HuskyJobs, please let us know as soon as possible: econeill@uw.edu . We appreciate your help in protecting UW students and alumni from fraudulent postings!

Job searching can be a very vulnerable time for an individual—both emotionally, as well as the fact that your personal information (including full name, address, phone number, etc.) is being repeatedly sent to others via e-mail or through applying for jobs on websites.  Scam artists can and have taken advantage of this.  That is why it is important to be very careful to avoid job seeker scams during your search for employment.  Most job postings are legitimate, but here is some information and tips to avoid job seeker scams.

There are six common types of job seeker scams, but new strategies are developed often. We encourage you to review the information below and in our 'Identifying Scam & Fraudulent Postings' handout:

Mystery Shopper

Want to earn some money while looking for a full-time job? If so, you might be tempted by an offer to be a mystery shopper. It sounds legitimate enough: make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, and then evaluate your experience. The retailer gets reliable feedback about its service, and you get to keep the product and perhaps a small payment.

You might get a phone call, email, letter or ad that claims you can make good money as a mystery shopper. These offers sound appealing, but according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, they are likely to be scams.

Some dishonest marketers ask you to pay a fee to get information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job. But there’s no need to pay to get into the mystery shopper business. Search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications, and know that legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee.

Click here for more Detailed information from the Federal Trade Commision.

Phishing:

  • Phishing scams are cleverly hidden attempts to get your account information. These e-mails appear legitimate—with professional-looking company logos and information—and often claim that there is an urgent need for you to log into your account and verify personal information. If you receive one of these e-mails, check the destination URL on the provided link before attempting to login or submit any information; the links could actually lead the recipient to a false Web site. The victim may be asked to update their banking information or other sensitive information, which the site owner (aka scammer) will use for any number of illegal purposes.
  • This job scammer sends mass e-mails to long lists of recipients. The e-mail claims to have seen your resume on the Internet, notes that your skills match the requirements for their job, and invites you to complete an online job application. Or the e-mail may state that it is in response to the resume you submitted for a job opening. Proceed with caution! Is this a cold-contact e-mail from a business or person that is not familiar to you? Did you apply for a job with this organization? Did you send a resume to this recruiter? Type the company’s Web site address into your browser and contact the company via telephone to check it out.

International Check Cashing Scam

The international check cashing scam involves transferring funds internationally. The scam artist attempts to reassure the victim by offering apparently legal contracts, forged or false documents bearing company letterhead, false letters of credit, payment schedules and bank drafts. Once the scammer has obtained the victim's trust, checks, money orders or wire deposits are sent to the victim for "processing." The victim is asked to cash the check or money order (wire deposits will send the money directly to the victim's account) and send a percentage of the funds back to its origination.

The need for the "middle man" is often explained as being a way around international fees or taxes. Once the funds are sent back to the scammers (usually the victim is told to keep a percentage for themselves, as payment for their services), the victim's bank or financial institution learns that the check/money order/wire transfer was fraudulent. The funds are then subtracted from the victim's account and he or she is made liable for the lost money.

Job Posting and Check Cashing Scam

The Job Posting and Check Cashing Scam is similar to the scam above but involves the posting of what appears to be a very legitimate job opportunity through a reputable web site like a Schools jobs board, monster.com, careerbuilder.com, and so forth. The postings appear to be legitimate job openings, but after submitting a resume, applicants are then asked to send checks or money orders to continue the application process.

In some cases, applicants are "hired" and then asked to handle a monetary transaction between the employer and a buyer or supplier as a "job task." To complete the transaction will involve the applicant sending money from his or her own checking account. The employer will instruct the applicant to expect a package, usually containing a check, that is to be deposited into the applicants account. The applicant is then instructed to wire transfer the money, minus an "administrative fee" as their compensation, to the employer.

Students should be aware of these types of scams and should know that no legitimate employer will ask for an applicant to send money or handle a monetary transaction as part of the application process or to use their personal accounts to conduct company business.

Reshipping

Reshipping scams often begin with an employment offer, usually via e-mail. As with the Nigerian scam, these "employers" offer bogus contracts and other documentation to make them appear legitimate. Once the victim's trust has been obtained, packages are shipped to the victim's residence with instructions to reship the packages to another address. Once the package has been reshipped, the victim is "guilty" of receiving and shipping stolen property. This often leads to a visit from police, as the return address or shipping receipts lead back to the victim.

Envelope Stuffing Scams

These scams usually incorporate a "registration fee" which must be paid before work begins. Once this fee has been paid, the "employee" is asked to post an ad -- often the exact same ad that the "employee" responded to -- using his or her own contact info. Once the "employee" receives a response to their ad, he or she will stuff an envelope with information/instructions on how to get started and mail it to the new applicant. The victim is "paid" based on the number of responses received from the advertisement.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Review our 'Identifying Scam & Fraudulent Postings' handout for tips and advice.
  • Carefully evaluate contact information in job ads or related e-mails, watching out for spelling errors, an e-mail address that does not feature the company's name, and inconsistencies with area or zip codes.
  • Enter Web site addresses (URLs) into your browser instead of using links when checking out job sources, and be mindful of a new form of deception similar to phishing called "pharming," which involves redirecting users from legitimate Web sites to phony replicas with the intention of stealing personal information.
  • Avoid job listings that use these descriptions: "package forwarding," "reshipping," "money transfers," "wiring funds" and "foreign agent agreements." These and similar phrases should raise a red flag.
  • Do not be fooled by official-sounding corporate names. Some scam artists operate under names that sound like those of long-standing, reputable firms.
  • Never forward or transfer money from any of your personal accounts on behalf of your employer. Also, be suspicious if you are asked to "wire" money to an employer. If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer's business account, not yours.
  • Do not give out your personal financial information. A potential legitimate employer will not request your bank account, credit card or Paypal account number. Only provide your banking information if you are hired by a legitimate company and you choose to have your paycheck direct deposited.
  • Do not fax copies of your ID or Social Security number to someone you have never met. Credit checks and fake IDs can be obtained with this information. Only give these documents to your employer when you are physically at the place of employment.
  • If you have questions about the legitimacy of a job listing, contact the Better Business Bureau, your state or local consumer agency or the Federal Trade Commission.

And, when in doubt, Google it.

If you have never heard of a web site before, and you are suspicious of it being a scam, Google the URL with the word scam next to it (e.g. “www.popupcareers.com scam”) and research the company.  If it is a scam, there will most likely be information out there from previous victims.

Remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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