10 Signs That a Job Offer Is Actually a Total Scam

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If you notice any of these 10 warning signs while you’re applying for a job, there’s a good chance you’re getting scammed.
Updated Dec. 1, 2023
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Searching for a job is undeniably exhausting, especially if you’re barely scraping by financially. Finally being offered a job after months of submitting applications is a huge relief, and it’s understandable if you want to accept a job as soon as possible without asking further questions.

But in a world where most job-hunting is done online, it’s easier than ever for bad actors to advertise “jobs” that are actually complete scams. Keep reading for 10 warning signs that a job offer is a scam.

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You didn’t apply for the job you’re being offered

Krakenimages.com/Adobe nervous man holding smartphone at work

Have you been cold-called out of the blue and offered a job you didn’t apply for?

Maybe a recruiter has been combing your LinkedIn page and thinks you’re the perfect candidate for an open position...but it’s much more likely you’re being scammed.

After all, at the very least, a recruiter will ask to schedule an interview with you rather than leap right into a job offer.

You got an offer much higher than you anticipated

SHOTPRIME STUDIO/Adobe male influencer using smartphone at home

Being offered fair compensation — including a number higher than what you asked for — isn’t always a sign you’re accepting a bogus job.

However, there’s a big difference between accepting a job at the high end of a pay band and being offered an amount that far exceeds your expectations.

If you receive an offer much higher than the one you asked for, take a step back and do a little more research before delivering your final yes or no.

The starting pay listed on the job posting seems outlandishly high

Graphicroyalty/Adobe annoyed woman using laptop for work

There’s nothing wrong with a company transparently listing its starting pay on its job posting. Disclosing details about pay can be a good way to attract qualified candidates, so don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that list their upfront compensation.

However, if you see a job posting where the compensation seems far too high for the job description, it’s probably not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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The job’s duties are extremely vague

Lune V A/peopleimages.com/Adobe mature buisnessman using laptop at work

Any online job postings should include clear information about which tasks you’d be expected to perform daily. If you don’t walk away from a job posting knowing exactly what the job entails, save yourself some trouble and don’t bother applying.

Either the job is a scam, or the company that posted the listing doesn’t know what it’s looking for either — which means there’s a good chance applying will just be a waste of your time.

You’re told to pay an application fee

fizkes/Adobe african american woman shocked at laptop

Application fees are part and parcel for things like college applications, but they’re not the norm for job applications.

If you apply for a job and get a follow-up request stating you must pay an application fee before you can schedule an interview, that’s a clear indication you’re being scammed.

The same is true of jobs that require you to pay a fee before submitting your resume. These types of jobs are rarely legitimate — and even if they are, you can find a workplace that doesn’t make you pay upfront to apply for a job you aren’t guaranteed to get.

You’re asked for personal details like your bank account

PheelingsMedia/Adobe worried woman using laptop at restaurant

Once you’ve been officially hired, you’ll likely set up direct deposit yourself using the company’s HR software, or you’ll provide a voided check so the company can set it up for you.

But there’s no legitimate reason for a company to ask for your bank details before you’ve been hired. The same is true of your Social Security number, birth date, or any other sensitive personal information.

You’re offered the job without an interview

Delcio Fernandes/peopleimages.com/Adobe confused buisness woman using laptop

No matter how great a resume is, most companies know it’s no substitute for a face-to-face interview. After all, reading a resume isn’t a good way to assess a candidate’s soft skills or determine whether they’ll be a good culture fit. An interview also allows a candidate to expand on the skills listed in their resume.

So if you send your resume to a company and get a job offer back within a day or two, proceed with extreme caution. At the very least, write back with a request for an interview so you can get a better understanding of what exactly you’re signing up for.

There’s an obvious typo in the company’s email or web address

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe worried buisnessman squinting eyes at laptop

URL hijacking, also known as typosquatting, is a type of fraud where a person or organization registers a URL that’s just a letter or two off from a real brand or website. The fake site might mimic the real site to such a degree that you can’t tell the two apart at first glance.

When you get an email from a company or recruiter, carefully read their email address for any obvious typos. Do the same for any company website you visit. And if the offer seems to be coming from a well-known company but the brand has been slightly misspelled, don’t assume it’s an accidental typo — it could be a sign of a scam rather than a harmless mistake.

The company’s job listing or emails are poorly written

Studio Romantic/Adobe frustrated buisnessman typing on laptop keyboard

A company’s job posting doesn’t have to be written perfectly for you to feel good about applying, but it does need to be written clearly and professionally. That goes double for any written communication you receive directly from the company, including from the recruiter, interviewer, or hiring team.

A few misplaced commas or a handful of typos probably aren’t anything to panic about (as long as they’re in the text of the email and not the URL or email address). But if the email doesn’t sound professional — or if it’s so poorly written that you’re having a hard time understanding the email’s meaning — you should proceed with extreme caution.

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You can’t find specific information about the company online

PheelingsMedia/Adobe suspicious woman using laptop late at night

Most legitimate companies have an online presence that includes Google reviews, a reference on the Better Business Bureau’s site, social media pages, employee reviews, and more. While having an online presence doesn’t prove a company is legit, not having an online presence often proves the opposite.

If you can’t find any online information about the company that’s contacted you, including its physical address and phone number, that’s a clear red flag.

Bottom line

None

As tempting as it is to jump at the first offer you get so you can make money again, it’s crucial to do your due diligence before signing on.

If you do come across a scan, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission to protect both yourself and your fellow job hunters.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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