Do you think your job offer is a scam?

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If you’re reading this, you may be considering a job offer that’s a little bit off. If your gut is telling you that there’s something fishy about it, you should listen. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Follow these steps to evaluate the job offer:

  1. Check for the following signs:

    • Is it too good to be true? – Were you offered an unusually high salary (higher than industry standards)? Is it an easy job with minimal hours? Were you hired without an interview or even a review of your qualifications? Unless you are world-renowned in your field, this job offer has “scam” written all over it.
    • Vague job description – If the opening has a generic job title (i.e. personal assistant, consultant, associate) or worse, no job title and no mention of your job responsibilities, it is likely to be fake.
    • Unprofessional email – If the email is not addressed to you directly, there are formatting errors (different fonts, different sizes, varied spacing), grammatical errors, or if sentences are vague, it is likely a scam. If you receive an email like this, don’t click on links or download attachments. You can get a computer virus.
    • No company address, phone or contact person -They may only have a P.O. box and a sketchy email address.
    • Did they ask for your personal information? – Did they ask for your bank account number, SIN, address, birth date right away? It could be a phishing scam. As a rule, never give out personal information to just anybody who asks.
    • You need to pay or invest money before getting hired – If they require payment for training or materials, certification, background or credit score checks or a startup kit before you can be hired, you can be sure that they are just after your money. There’s no real job for you.
    • There is pressure to act immediately – The most obvious sign of a scam is when you are required to act fast. This is done to confuse and prevent you from evaluating the offer critically.
  2. See if the job falls into any of these types:

    Most job scams are after two things: getting your money or your personal information.

    • Mystery shopper – This job scam requires the hiree to cash a cheque to pay for a shopping assignment. Often the amount is bigger than what the shopper expects. They will be asked to wire the excess funds to a third party. Later, when the cheque is found to be fake, the victim is left to pay for the entire cost of the shopping assignment.
    • Work-from-home – You can tell that a work-from-home job offer is a scam when: 1) The job is not clear. The ad does not describe duties and responsibilities; 2)You’d have to attend a seminar or training (often requiring a fee) to know what the job is; and 3) You have to pay money upfront before you can start.
    • Pyramid schemes – These require victims to invest money to buy and sell products. They’ll be encouraged to recruit other sellers. They will be told that their success (or promotion to “levels”) will depend on how many people they recruit. This is illegal because the program will collapse when market saturation happens, meaning there are no more potential recruits. At this point, everyone, except for a few who are on top of the pyramid, loses money. A pyramid scheme is different from Multi-Level Marketing.
    • Phishing schemes – These are usually emails or texts (SMS) directly offering a job. These are sent to gather information which they can later use to steal money or commit identity theft. The email will include a link or attachment where the victim will need to write down personal information but there is no real job.
  3. Learn about the company

    • Do an online research. It is a major red flag if the company does not have a website. If it has a website, check if it is authentic. See if the job ad is on the website. Also check for contact details, an “About Us” page, description of services, etc. There have been instances when scammers use the name and website of legitimate organizations. Call or write an email to the company and ask about the job opening to make sure that it is real.
    • Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
    • Check scam lists from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
    • Ask other people on forums or social media.
  4. Get something in writing

    If you’re still unsure and you’re holding out hope that the job offer is legitimate, ask for something in writing before you provide them with any personal information or committing to the job. This can be a contract or a formal job offer. Seek the help of a lawyer to review the document to see if it’s legitimate before you commit and sign.

Have you been a victim of a job scam? Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. You can prevent someone from being a victim and help stop the proliferation of similar schemes.

Sources: Avoiding employment scams, Skilled Employment Infocentre; How to determine if a job offer is a scam, Varun Mehta, Toronto School of Management; Woman desperate for a job loses thousands to online job scam, Nathalie Sturgeon, CBC News; List of fake job scam samples, Alison Doyle, balance careers; Top 10 Job scam warning signs, Alison Doyle, balance careers; and 10 steps to avoid scams, Better Business Bureau. Accessed June 12, 2019.

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