We reported earlier this year, a fresh rash of online job scams continue to rope in plenty of victims. Now, those victims are taking to TikTok with a warning.
@thenamesamber #scams #scammeralert #workfromhomejobs #onlinejobs #linkedin ♬ original sound – Amber
Take the story thenamesamber told on TikTok. It starts out like many. Amber wanted a job that allowed remote work, and luckily enough, a recruiter reached out to her through an online recruiting site with an opportunity.
From there, the recruiter directed Amber to download a messaging app, which the company would use for the interview process. The interview went just fine, Amber got a job offer, and then the company asked Amber for a home address.
Here’s where the catch comes in.
Amber goes on to say that the company sent her a check by overnight mail, a check she should use to buy equipment. A check for nearly $5,000. For days, the check didn’t post. The company repeatedly asked for update. Had it posted yet? Had it posted yet?
At this point, Amber said she got suspicious. She contacted her bank. The check had a hold placed on it, and according to Amber, she was charged a fee and her account frozen for days. In speaking with her bank, Amber was told that the check was bad and that she was the victim of a scam. The bank has seen a lot of it lately, said Amber.
Yet based on what we’ve seen, Amber got lucky.
What do online job scams look like?
Victims and banks sometimes fail to spot the scam as it unfolds. In those cases, the check gets posted and the scammers tell the victim to forward the money to another person who’ll purchase equipment for them. Usually by way of an online payment app.
Days later, the check bounces for insufficient funds. Meanwhile, victims get burdened with the fraud reporting process — with their bank and with the payment app they used. Depending on the means and terms of payment, some or all of that money might be gone for good. And as a result, the scammers get a few thousand dollars richer.
@lolleavemyspamaloneIf anyone is hiring for a marketing position in Atlanta or remote please let me know. If anyone wants to bless a poor college graduate $jenncher @jenncher
If you spend some time on social media, you’ll stumble across plenty of videos that tell this exact story in one form or another. And with each story, you’ll find dozens of people sharing that the same thing happened, or almost happened, to them.
We’re glad people are taking to TikTok to share their stories, even as sharing those stories can get painful. You can avoid these scams. Part of it involves awareness. They’re still going strong. The next part counts on you and your sharp eye to spot sketchy behavior when you see it.
We’ll show you how, and that begins with a look at where these scams take place.
Online job scams — what’s going on out there?
Employment figures continue to surge. It’s a hot job market out there, and when things get hot, you’ll find scammers looking to turn a buck. It’s much like tax season and gift-giving holidays. Scammers will take advantage of trends and seasonal events where people go online and there’s money involved. Job scams are no different.
Where do these scams crop up?
As we reported earlier this year and as TikTok videos have shared, many appear to originate from trusted online recruiting platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed. Scammers will either set up a bogus company or pose as a representative of a legitimate company. In other cases, job scams take root on social media. Here, scammers play the same game—set up a bogus company or impersonate a legitimate one.
From there, stories like Amber’s unfold.
Without question, recruiting and social media platforms know what’s going on and take steps to quash scam accounts.
- Stopped at registration – 16.4 million accounts.
- Restricted proactively before members reported – 5.4 million accounts.
- Restricted after members reported – 190 thousand accounts.
Likewise, Facebook took action on 426 million fake accounts in Q1 of 2023 alone, with nearly 99% of them acted on before users reported them.
In its guidelines for a safe job search, Indeed mentions the global teams “dedicated to the safety and authenticity of the jobs posted on our platform.”
Still, some scammers make their way through to these platforms and others like them.
Online job scams — here’s what to look out for:
Our earlier advice on the topic still holds true. You can spot scams several ways, particularly when you know that scammers want your money and personal information as quickly as possible. The moment any so-called job offer asks for any of those, a red flag should immediately go up.
It’s possibly a scam if:
They ask for your Social Security or tax ID number.
In the hands of a scammer, your SSN or tax ID is the key to your identity. With it, they can open up bank cards, lines of credit, apply for insurance benefits, collect benefits and tax returns, or even commit crimes, all in your name. Needless to say, scammers will ask for it, perhaps under the guise of a background check or for payroll purposes. The only time you should provide your SSN or tax ID is when you know that you have accepted a legitimate job with a legitimate company. Only sent it through a secure document signing service, never via email, text, or over the phone.
They want your banking information.
Another trick scammers rely on is asking for bank account information so that they can wire a payment to you. As with the SSN above, closely guard this information and treat it in exactly the same way. Don’t give it out unless you have a legitimate job with a legitimate company.
They want you to pay before you get paid.
Some scammers will take a different route. They’ll promise employment, but first you’ll need to pay them for training, onboarding, or equipment before you can start work. Legitimate companies won’t make these kinds of requests. Amber’s check story provides a good example of this.
They tell you to download a specific messaging app to communicate with them.
Victims report that the scammers require a specific app to chat and, sometimes, to conduct the interview itself. Apps like Signal and Wire get mentioned, yet rest assured that these apps themselves are legitimate. The scammers are the problem, not the apps. Consider it a warning sign if someone asks you to largely communicate this way.
Other signs of a job scam — more red flags to look for:
Aside from the types of information they ask for, the way they ask for your information offers other clues that you might find yourself mixed up in a scam. Look out for the following as well:
1) The offer is big on promises but short on details.
You can sniff out many online scams with the “too good to be true” test. Scammers often make big promises during the holidays with low-priced offers for hard-to-get holiday gifts and then don’t deliver. It’s the same with job scams. The high pay, the low hours, and even the offer of things like a laptop and other perks, these are signs that a job offer might be a scam. Moreover, when pressed for details about this seemingly fantastic job opportunity, scammers might balk. Or they might come back with incomplete or inconsistent replies because the job doesn’t exist at all.
2) They communicate only through email or chat.
Job scammers hide behind their screens. They use the anonymity of the internet to their advantage. Job scammers likewise create phony profiles on networking and social media websites, which means they won’t agree to a video chat or call, which are commonly used in legitimate recruiting today. If your job offer doesn’t involve some sort of face-to-face communication, that indicates it might be a scam.
3) And the communications seem a little …off.
Scammers now have an additional tool to reel in their victims — AI chatbots like Chat GPT, which can generate email correspondence, chats, LinkedIn profiles, and other content in seconds so they can bilk victims on a huge scale. However, AI has its limits. Right now, it tends to use shorter sentences in a way that seems like it’s spitting out information. There’s little story or substance to the content it creates. That might be a sign of a scam. Likewise, even without AI, you might spot a recruiter using technical or job-related terms in unusual ways, as if they’re unfamiliar with the work they’re hiring for. That’s another potential sign.
4) Things move too quickly.
Scammers love quick conversion. Yet job seekers today know that interview processes are typically long and involved, often relying on several rounds of interviews and loops. If a job offer comes along without the usual rigor and the recruiter is asking for personal information practically right away, that’s another near-certain sign of a scam.
5) You get job offers on Facebook or other social media sites not associated with job searches.
This is another red flag. Legitimate businesses stick to platforms associated with networking for business purposes, typically not networking for families, friends, and interests. Why do scammers use sites like Facebook anyway? They’re a gold mine of information. By trolling public profiles, they have access to years of posts and armloads of personal information on thousands of people, which they can use to target their attacks. This is another good reason to set your social media profiles on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and other friend-oriented sites to private so that scammers of all kinds, not just job scammers, can’t use your information against you.
Further ways you can protect yourself from job scams.
As a job hunter you know that getting the right job requires some research. You look up the company, dig into their history—the work they do, how long they’ve been at it, where their locations are, and maybe even read some reviews provided by current or former employees. When it comes to job offers that come out of the blue, it calls for taking that research a step further.
After all, is that business really a business, or is it really a scam?
In the U.S., you have several resources that can help you answer that question. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers a searchable listing of businesses in the U.S., along with a brief profile, a rating, and even a list of complaints (and company responses) waged against them. Spending some time here can quickly shed light on the legitimacy of a company.
Also in the U.S., you can visit the website of your state’s Secretary of State and search for the business in question, where you can find when it was founded, if it’s still active, or if it exists at all. For businesses based in a state other than your own, you can visit that state’s Secretary of State website for information. For a state-by-state list of Secretaries of State, you can visit the Secretary of State Corporate Search page here.
For a listing of businesses with international locations, organizations like S&P Global Ratings and the Dun and Bradstreet Corporation can provide background information, which might require signing up for an account.
Lastly, protect yourself and your devices.
Given the way we rely so heavily on the internet to get things done and enjoy our day, comprehensive online protection software that looks out for your identity, privacy, and devices is a must. Specific to job scams, it can help you in several ways, these being just a few:
- Scammers still use links to malicious sites to trick people into providing their personal information. Web protection, included in our plans, can steer you clear of those links.
- Moreover, scammers gather your contact information and other details so they can target you through data broker sites, fueled by thousands of data points on billions of people. McAfee’s Personal Data Cleanup scans some of the riskiest data broker sites, shows you which ones are selling your personal info, and, depending on your plan, can help you remove it.
- Scammers might use any of your personal info that’s already out there on the dark web. McAfee’s Identity Monitoring scans the dark web for your personal info, including email, government IDs, credit card and bank account info, and more. It helps keep your personal info safe, with early alerts if your data is found on the dark web, an average of 10 months ahead of similar services.
You have what it takes to avoid job search scams.
Amber’s story, and stories like hers have racked up nearly a quarter-billion dollars in reported losses in the first half of this year here in the U.S. The median loss, somewhere around $2,000 per victim.
Job scams persist. In fact, they’ve increased by nearly 25% this year compared to this time last year. It’s no surprise that scam stories on TikTok keep racking up. Yet as you’ve seen, awareness and a sharp eye can help you avoid them.
Job scams are a crime. If you think that you or someone you know has fallen victim to one, report it to your authorities and appropriate government agencies. In the case of identity theft or loss of personal information, our knowledge base article on identity theft offers suggestions for the specific steps you can take in specific countries, along with helpful links for local authorities that you can turn to for reporting and assistance.