Do you think your job offer is a scam?

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Are you considering a job offer that’s a little off?

If your gut is telling you that there’s something wrong, you should listen. Follow these steps to see if a job offer is real or a scam:

  1. Check for the following signs:

    • Is it too good to be true? – Were you offered a salary that is unusually higher than industry standards? Is it an easy job with minimal hours? Were you hired without an interview? Unless you are world-renowned in your field, this job offer is a scam.
    • Unclear job description – Is the job title fuzzy like assistant, consultant, or associate? No list of job responsibilities? The job is likely to be fake.
    • Unprofessional email  – If the email is not addressed to you, there are 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 an unusual email address.
    • Did they ask for personal information? – Did they ask for your bank account number, SIN, address, or 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 send 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.
    • Pressure to act immediately – The most obvious sign of a scam is when you are required to act fast. This is done to prevent you from looking at the offer critically.
  2. See if the job falls into any of these types

    Most job scams want two things: your money or your personal information (or both).

    • Mystery shopper – This recruiter will ask the employee cash a cheque to pay for a shopping assignment. The amount on the check will be bigger than what was agreed upon. The employee will be asked to send the extra money back by wire transfer. Later, when the cheque is found to be fake, the employee will be left to pay for the entire cost of the shopping assignment, plus the wired funds.
    • Work-from-home – To be clear, there are real remote jobs out there. But you can tell that a work-from-home job offer is a scam when: 1) The job is not clear. There is no list of duties and responsibilities; 2)You’d have to attend a paid seminar or training; and 3) You have to pay before you can start.
    • Pyramid schemes  – These require victims to invest money to buy and sell products. They’ll also be asked to recruit other sellers. Their success (or promotion) will depend on how many people they recruit. This is illegal. The program collapses when there are no more available recruits. At this point, everyone loses money. A pyramid scheme is different from Multi-Level Marketing.
    • Phishing schemes – These come as emails or texts (SMS) directly offering a job. These are sent to gather information which may be used later for 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 suspicious when 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. Be warned that there are scams where the name and website of legitimate organizations are used. Call the company to ask about the particular job opening you’re interested in to make sure that it is real.

  4. Get something in writing

    If the job offer did not fall into any of the categories mentioned above but you’re still unsure, ask for a contract or formal job offer before committing to the job. Ask a lawyer to review the document to see if it’s legitimate before you 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 scams from spreading.
Article updated September 26, 2023.
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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