Once, it almost happened to me.
I applied to a receptionist job on Craigslist that sounded legit. “Great small but growing downtown office needs assistant to run errands, perform clerical duties, etc.” I assumed I would just be going on coffee runs, answering phones, and maybe filing the occasional bit of paperwork. If you’re cringing right now, it’s with good reason–the job was totally a scam.
Craigslist is a great resource for job hunters and employers alike. It’s free, it’s easy to use, it’s just about everywhere, and it’s somewhat reliable. Unfortunately in this case, after I submitted my carefully written cover letter and resume, I was asked for a social security number and bank information to do a credit check. Red flag. BIG red flag.
Of course I didn’t send them any information, and neither should you if you’re asked while job searching. DO read the disclaimer offering advice on how to recognize scams that Craigslist and similar sites offer. An employer can’t ask you your birth date, social security number, or bank information before offering you an actual job. It’s unethical and just plain wrong.
Job hunting can be bad enough–don’t make it worse by making yourself a victim of identity theft. Here are some more tips to avoid getting ripped off while you’re on the hunt:
1. Don’t give out too much personal information. Scarily enough, I’ve seen resumes where applicants proudly display social security numbers and birth dates. DON’T GIVE INFORMATION LIKE THAT OUT WITH OR WITHOUT BEING ASKED BEFORE A JOB OFFER IS MADE!! Nobody needs to know what your mother’s maiden name was to decide if you’re hireable or not.
2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A golden rule for just about everything in life. If you see an advertisement with testaments that you’ll “Make $100 an hour….just by sitting at home!” with a photo of a dude in a Lamborghini in front of a mansion…be wary. Is it possible such a job exists? Yes. Probable? No.
3. Speaking of things being too good to be true…. DO question “Work at Home” opportunities. They’re EVERYWHERE but are they legit…? Maybe. Again, if you’re interested in trying them out, just use some common sense. Follow rules one and two–if it sounds too good to be true (“I made more than $100,000 in one month!!”) or they’re asking for more personal information than your GP does, chances are your prospective employer is trying to steal your identity. If you still want to check it out, be extremely careful. Do some online research and ask around.
4. If they ask for money up front, it’s not a good sign. Some jobs might ask you to pay money up front for a training class. Again, is it possible it’s legit? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just trying to take advantage of 9% unemployment.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A legit employer welcomes real interest in their job postings from promising candidates. Shoot off an email and ask specifics about the location of the job, the type of work environment, etc. If they’re hedging your questions or just plain old don’t respond–take a hint. It’s not that they don’t want to hire you, it’s that they’re probably trying to pull a fast one. Or just jerks.
Basically, it all comes down to using your noggin and trusting your instincts. This article is not meant to bash free listing sites like Craigslist at all–I think they’re fabulous and use them myself quite frequently–it’s simply meant as a warning to be careful. The job market out there is still struggling to recover and I understand how easy it is to get desperate, but don’t let these morons kick you when you’re down and make things worse.
Interested in learning more about job scams? Check out some of these other online articles and resources:
What are your tips for avoiding getting ripped off in a job scam? Have you had experience with these fiends? Share your stories and hints!