The semester is winding down, which means many students are on the hunt for a new internship or job. Online job search websites have made this process easier than ever! Unfortunately, these sites are also a target for scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting applicants to gain access to personal information or bank details. Some of these illegitimate listings are easy to spot – but others can be very convincing. Read on for our top guidelines on how to protect yourself and spot fake job listings!

Do Your Research

If you are looking for a job or internship, doing your research on your desired position and the companies you are applying for is essential in any case, and is also a great starting point to spot scams. You don’t have to know every detail about the position you are looking for, but knowing some key factors like typical responsibilities and an average salary range could save you from falling victim to a scam. 

Before sending in your resume and cover letter, do your research on that company by checking out its website, doing a Google search of its name, and reading any available reviews. Sites like Glassdoor are a great resource to see average pay ranges and check what others are saying. 

Watch Out For Red Flags

There is no set formula for a fake job listing, but there are certainly some common characteristics! Every listing is unique, so keep an eye out for these common red flags that could indicate that a posting isn’t what it claims to be.

Vague, Short, or Poorly Constructed Listing

Any job description that is very short, doesn’t seem to say much, and is poorly formatted or full of errors is an immediate indicator that something isn’t right. Companies looking to hire new talent want to put their best foot forward to attract great candidates, which begins with a polished and professional listing for the position.

Unusually High Pay Range

A popular tactic for these scams is to attract applicants by advertising a very high pay range for the position. There is always some variety in pay range depending on company size and location, but if one listing advertises a salary $30,000 higher than any others for the same type of position? It is almost certain that it is a fake listing.

Little/No Information About the Company Online

Knowing about the company you are applying to work for is important in any case, but if you can’t find any information about it or the information that you do find seems “off,” that company may not actually exist. 

Being Contacted Directly Instead of Through a Provided Messaging Feature

If you apply for a position through websites like Indeed or LinkedIn, the platform offers a messaging feature for companies/recruiters and applicants to communicate without having to provide personal contact information. This feature is available both for the ease of communication and to protect the privacy of both parties, so be cautious of anyone who avoids using it and skips directly to contacting you on your personal email or phone number. It is important to note that this may not be a red flag if you have applied through a website that does not have a messaging feature, or directly through a company website. In these cases, check to make sure that whoever is contacting you is doing so through an official company email address.

Requests for Sensitive Information

Be wary of requests for personal information such as personal contact information, address, social security number, credit card information, or photo ID. While these may be necessary to provide when onboarding for a new position, there is no reason for a company to need this information before an official offer of employment is made and accepted. If you are asked for any information you are not comfortable with sharing, run! 

A Job Offer Without an Interview 

If you submit an application and get an employment offer right away without much communication or an interview process, do not trust it! While it may seem flattering that the company seemed to like your application enough to hire you on the spot, these scams are relying on this flattery and appealing to applicants that are seeking employment as quickly as possible in hopes that they will accept the offer and hand over their information without having time to question anything. Most of us don’t consider job interviews to be fun, but they are necessary to assess if it is a legitimate opportunity and a good fit for both parties, particularly with online or remote job searches.

Trust Your Gut

The online job listing looks legitimate, the salary range seems right, and the company has an online presence, but something still feels off? Don’t be afraid to walk away! Some scams are elaborate, and can come across as very real. Job searching is a big endeavor and getting hired often requires sharing personal information, but never do or share anything that you are uncomfortable with. Whether your instincts are telling you it’s a scam or there is simply something about the company that doesn’t sit right with you, that feeling is a perfectly legitimate reason to not move forward with an application process. 

Searching for a new job or internship can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be scary! Fake listings are by no means the majority, so don’t let it dissuade you from exploring the amazing (legitimate) opportunities available online. Being aware of common signs of a fake listing and being cautious with your personal information will go a long way in protecting yourself against job or internship scams so you can confidently search for the perfect opportunity for you. Just remember: do your research, keep your eyes open for red flags, and if it seems too good to be true… it probably is.
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