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. Stop and think things over before you say yes. Better 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 a high salary, easy job and minimal hours? Plus, you’re hired without an interview or even a review of your qualifications? Unless you are world-renowned in your field, being hired on the spot seems suspicious.
    • Vague job description – If the opening has a generic job title (i.e. personal assistant, consultant, or worse, no job title) and no mention of your job responsibilities, the job offer 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.
    • You need to pay or invest money before getting hired – If they require payment for training or training materials, certification, background or credit score checks, or a startup kit and you have to pay them 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 you and to 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 the 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 fake, the victim is left to pay the bank and shoulder 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 job ad will not tell you right away what kind of duties you will have; 2)You will need 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 schemes require victims to invest a certain amount of money to buy and sell products. They will also be asked to recruit sellers from which they can earn a fee. Often they will be told that their success (they are promoted to “levels”) will depend on how many people they recruit. A pyramid scheme is different from Multi-Level Marketing.
    • Phishing schemes – These are usually emails or 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 also 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. Ask for a contract and seek the help of a lawyer to review it 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 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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