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If you are applying to jobs online, constantly research before accepting an interview or employment offer. Job scammers have gotten very sophisticated, convincingly claiming to represent real employers, requiring interviews, and even providing phony offer letters. These cunning new twists on traditional job scams have increased in BBB’s Scam Tracker. In fact, according to BBB’s latest Scam Tracker Risk Report, employment scams climbed to the second most risky scam type – after online purchases.

How the Scam Works   

You apply online through a reputable, third-party job-seeking site. A few days or weeks later, you get a text message or email asking if you are still interested in the position or a similar one at the same company. Since you made your contact information available to your potential employer when applying, the message doesn’t strike you as unusual. 

For example, one person told BBB Scam Tracker about their partner’s experience with such a job scam. “He was contacted via text message by someone claiming to be with [Healthcare Company] about a position he did not apply to. He did apply to a different job, but not the one he was contacted about. He decided to reply in case there was some kind of confusion. The texter said their name was Tara and that they were reaching out because they wanted him to have an interview.”

If you reply to the message, the scammer will invite you to interview for the job. However, this is when red flags start to appear. Instead of doing a traditional interview, the “employer” asks you to download a messaging app and answer a few questions via text. Then, you’re offered the position on the spot, with great pay and benefits. Your new “employer” may even send you a convincing offer letter. After your “job offer,” the phony employer asks you to complete a form with your personal and banking information, claiming they need it for direct deposit. In other cases, the scammer may ask you to set up a home office, either with your funds or money they’ll send you in a (fake) check.

One job seeker recognized the scam by telling BBB Scam Tracker: “It seemed like a real interview, and they even sent me an employment offer letter that looked real. They were going to send equipment to me in order to set up my mini office. However, a day later, they were asking for money – $400 to fly in my office equipment to the airport nearest to my home.”

If you send money or share your personal details, it will now be in the hands of scammers. You’ll unlikely get your money back, and your shared personal information puts you at risk of identity theft.

How to avoid job scams

  • Research the person who contacted you. If you suspect the person contacting you could be a scammer, look them up. A quick online search should reveal if they work for the company they claim to represent.
  • Do more research on the company. You may have done this before you applied for the position. Still, if you get a surprise offer to interview, it’s worth doing more research to learn more about their hiring process, home office requirements, salaries, and benefits packages. If these don’t align with your offer, you could be dealing with a scammer.
  • Guard your personal information. Never give sensitive information to anyone you aren’t sure you can trust. Be especially wary if someone pressures you to divulge your information saying the job offer will only last if you fill out all the forms.
  • Watch out for overpayment scams. Many job scams involve sending fake checks with extra funds. Scammers ask their victims to deposit the check and send back the excess amount, hoping they’ll do so before they realize the check was fake and has bounced. Legitimate companies will only send you money after you’ve done work for them, so be wary of jobs that involve receiving and returning the money.
  • Don’t fall for jobs that seem too good to be true. They probably are. If you are offered a job – without a formal interview – that has excellent pay and benefits, it’s likely a scam.

For more information

Read more about employment scams in BBB’s 2022 Scam Tracker Risk Report. Learn to spot the signs of a scam by reviewing the BBB Tip: Employment Scams. Read more about job scams in this BBB study of job scams. If you spot a scam, report it to to help others avoid falling victim to similar tactics.