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BBB: How to spot a job scam — no matter how sophisticated

Research the person that contacted you, as well as the company, is one of several tips the Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests to avoid a job scam.
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The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers advice on avoiding detailed job scams.

If you are applying for jobs online, do your 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 were identified as the number one riskiest scam for people ages 18-44 in 2023.

How the scam works   

You apply for a job online through a reputable, third-party job-seeking site, or you see a posting for a remote job on social media and message the poster. 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. 

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 a traditional interview over the phone or on a video call, the "employer" asks you to download a messaging app to conduct the interview over text messaging.

For example, one person told BBB Scam Tracker about their experience with a job scam: "I saw someone post on Facebook about a work from home opportunity with [company name redacted]. I expressed interest and she messaged me telling me to download the signal messenger app, and then I would have a text interview...they asked me some interview questions then proceeded to tell me I was a perfect fit for the job and asked for personal information...At this point, I felt like the entire situation was [a] scam."

After a few questions, you're offered the position on the spot, with great pay and benefits. Your new "employer" may even send you a convincing offer letter. Before or after you receive your "job offer," the phony employer may also ask 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: "[They] Attempted to hire me, but there were multiple red flags such as would not video chat...Once I received the check in the mail to purchase my "equipment" (ex. printer, computer, etc.) it didn't seem real. The check was made out for $4,982.47."

If you send money or share your personal details, it will now be in the hands of scammers. You're unlikely to 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. If you're still not sure after doing some research, find the company's contact information on their official website (check the URL) and reach out to them directly to ask if they are indeed hiring for the position you're applying for.

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 and banking 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 get fooled by reshipping scams

  • If you're on the hunt for a remote position, you may come across a job at a "shipping" or "logistics" business that asks you to receive packages, inspect them for damages, and then ship the items back out to other addresses. These jobs promise easy money but are cons and help scammers move potentially illegally obtained goods. In most cases, you won't get paid. Learn more about reshipping scams and how to avoid them.

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.