Spotting Job Post Scams – Revisited

With the recent surge in more sophisticated fraudulent job announcements, it seemed appropriate to update this post.

By this point, everyone is familiar with the scam emails featuring a prince in Nigeria who doesn’t have access to his bank account but if you just send a $500 he will reward you with a much higher sum out of gratitude. Sadly, there are increasingly similar scams in the form of fake job posts which can sometimes be harder to spot, particularly since they often appear on reputable job boards (we even occasionally find them on PennLink!). A new scarier trend involves  the use of real company names and seemingly legitimate recruiter email addresses. Here are some tips to help you identify and avoid these doozies:

1. First and foremost, trust your gut. Chances are good that if something appears “sketchy” or too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Be wary of individual emails you receive that are not from a recognized source. While you may be on a number of list servs from which you receive regular emails, it’s unlikely that a real job announcement would come to you in an unsolicited email from an unknown source. Especially in an economy like this, where competition for jobs is great, there is no reason for employers to target potential hires via mass individual emails.

3. Does it pass the “Google” test? While there are some instances where a company may be so new as to not yet have much of a presence online, you should be able to find out something about the organization or the person who posted the position using a Google (or whichever search tool you prefer) search. If you’re not able to find out much information, that should give you pause to reconsider.



There is bizarre language or phrasing in the job posting. If there are a lot of grammatical errors or phrasing that does not seem like something a native English speaker would use, beware.

The contact email for the employer is a personal account like gmail or Hotmail.        

The job requirements seem overly easy or there aren’t any. Ask yourself, why would an employer want to hire someone without skills related to the position?

You get offered a job without interviewing first. An employer would never hire someone based solely on their resume.

Anything that requires you to transfer money. You should never be asked for your bank account or checking information as part of a job application.

The company has a generic name like “Insurance Company” or “Finance Corporation International.” More recently, sophisticated scammers will use the name of a real company and just make up the job announcement or use a slightly altered version of a legitimate company name. Clearly, these are much harder to spot but ultimately, if any part of the process involves them wanting to send you a check or exchange banking information, you know it’s fraudulent.

Phone calls from Google Voice. While some companies may use this service to do work between employees, it’s unlikely they will use it to contact you for an interview.

“One doth protest too much.” Are there statements (such as  “We do not need access to your bank accounts” or “Actions depicted below, are authorized by Our Company, and therefore sustain legitimacy status”), which seem to go out of the way to try to assure you that they are above board? Ask yourself, why are they trying so hard?

The contact name is a little too familiar. A newer trend in fraudulent postings is using celebrity names (we saw one recently where Samuel Jackson was listed) as the recruiter contact.

If you see you a posting that you think is questionable, particularly if you find it on PennLink, please let us know immediately.

Here are some other resources to educate yourself on job scams, including information on a number of international programs that can be questionable:

▪   PA’s Attorney General’s warning about job scams (includes information on how to report these to the government)

▪   How to Avoid Job Post Scams

▪   The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – How to avoid a terrible work experience as an English teacher abroad

▪   Things to Watch Out for Before Taking a TEFL Job Overseas

▪   The TEFL Blacklist

Author: Claire Klieger

Claire Klieger is an Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates. She earned her Ed.D. from Penn and did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. Fun Fact: Claire spent 11 years in the Middle East and North Africa.