13 Sneaky Online Job Scams That Are Easy to Fall For

Find out how to avoid devious schemes that can part you from your money.
Updated Oct. 27, 2023
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Searching for jobs has never been easier, thanks to the internet. Unfortunately, scammers lurk online, just waiting to dip into the wallets of those looking for work.

As our job hunts increasingly take place online, the risk of encountering deceptive employment offers and rip-offs has grown.

Here are 13 sneaky online job scams that are all too easy to fall for — and tips to avoid them so you can keep cash in your wallet, where it belongs.

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Bogus career consultants

Malik/peopleimages.com/Adobe person consulting on online conference

This scam often starts with someone posing as a consultant. Maybe they praise your resume, but suggest it can be improved. Then, they offer to refine it for a fee or refer you to some alleged expert.

These fraudsters also target job seekers who want to further their education or certifications.

The best way to avoid this scam is to be cautious about any unsolicited offers.

Fraudulent chat interviews

oatawa/Adobe online communication concept

Fraudsters like to use messaging platforms such as Telegram and WhatsApp for phony job interviews because those can provide a level of anonymity. 

While these messaging tools are convenient for many purposes, genuine job offers rarely come through social media or chat apps.

If you get pinged through a chat platform, ask for a phone call and research the company before you agree to anything.

Data entry gigs that promise to pay a ton

peopleimages.com/Adobe person on laptop internet upgrade

Scammers frequently target the data entry industry, luring victims with promises of high-paying, low-skill jobs. They may even demand upfront fees for training or ask for sensitive banking information. 

Real, legitimate data entry jobs won’t do that. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for an information clerk is $38,710 per year. If you see a salary well beyond that, be wary.

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Email job scams

insta_photos/Adobe goals achievement good online results

It’s not unusual to get emails from recruiters who found you on a job board. But that comes with a caveat: Some emails are designed to deceive you, asking for sensitive information.

Never share personal or financial information with unexpected contacts. Don’t click any links or call numbers. Instead, try to independently verify the information about the company and the job offer.

And don't rush: Scammers try to pressure you into quick decisions. Always research thoroughly.

Promises of big money for envelope stuffing

Kimberly Reinick/Adobe set of envelope mailers

There is an odd scam promising a work-from-home job that pays big money if you stuff envelopes. The caveat is that you must pay an upfront fee for supplies and processing.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, just 10% of people who respond to this scam ever receive any type of payment.

Offers such as this are nothing more than nonsense that dupes people into parting with their money. Stay away.

Fake jobs

PheelingsMedia/Adobe worried woman checking laptop content

Scammers love posting fake jobs. The approach can vary, but the offers usually appear on social media, where fraudsters can avoid the scrutiny that a legitimate job site will give them.

If you are asked to pay a fee to apply or to start the job, it’s a safe bet that the offer is a scam.

Sham URLs

Twenty-nine/Adobe laptop with search bar icon

Scammers sometimes set up websites that mimic those of legitimate companies, only with slight alterations in the web address. That can make it tough to distinguish between real and fake sites.

Always look at the URL carefully. Hover over any link to closely examine the URL before clicking it.

If the company name is one you recognize as legitimate, Google the name and make sure you are going to the legitimate website. Once there, find the contact information and call the company directly to inquire about the job posting.

Imaginary government gigs

Jacob Lund/Adobe receiving consultation at government office

Local, state, and federal government jobs do not ask applicants for money.

Authentic federal government positions are accessible through official platforms such as USAJobs.gov website, although they may also be posted on broader job boards.

Imposters who pose as recruiters

insta_photos/Adobe recruit in professional recruitment agency

In this scam, the person you’re talking to may not be who they say they are.

Imposters are excellent at assuming false identities in the context of job scams. They may impersonate agency affiliates, government officials, or recruiters. The goal is to get you to share personal information.

So, keep personal details to yourself unless you’re sure you can trust the person on the other end of the conversation.

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Job placement swindles

Irshaad Majal/peopleimages.com/Adobe planning and strategy discussion

Plenty of legitimate staffing agencies exist. However, others could be scammer organizations out to get you.

Some promote outdated or fake job opportunities and request upfront fees. Legitimate agencies don’t charge candidates.

If you're asked for a fee, it's a scam. Just turn around and explore other job-search avenues.

Pyramid schemes

Alex/Adobe financial pyramid banner concept

Pyramid schemes are operations that masquerade as legitimate businesses. Their focus is on getting people to recruit more members into the scheme rather than on maximizing sales of an actual product.

Pyramid marketing is illegal and unsustainable, functioning on the premise that a few people at the top of the “pyramid” make money and everyone else loses cash. 

As always, you can avoid these by doing your homework and being suspicious of unrealistic promises of easy riches.

Phony reshipping jobs

NanSan/Adobe prepare sales packs to customers

In a reshipping scam, you receive and reship packages through a fraudulent company. The packages are usually pricey pieces purchased fraudulently with stolen credit cards.

If you participate in a reshipping scam, you might be subject to financial losses and even identity theft. Worse, you usually don’t even get paid. Just say “no” to these jobs.

Illegitimate work-from-home positions

Seventyfour/Adobe man wearing glasses while working

The demand for work-from-home opportunities has surged since the pandemic. And that means scammers have found a new opportunity.

Be on the lookout for jobs that demand fees or purchases on your part to land the job. While providing your own home office equipment isn't unusual, legitimate employers usually don't ask for upfront payments for these items, promising to reimburse you in your first paycheck.

Bottom line

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe holding cup with using laptop

Online job scams are a very real, very persistent threat to anyone looking for a job

Shedding light on the telltale signs of those scams will help you keep more money in your bank account and secure genuine employment opportunities.

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Author Details

Will Vitka Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.

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