Regardless of whether or not you are actively job-seeking, you may receive emails, phone calls or texts, or other notifications of potentially fraudulent opportunities. Below you'll find common scenarios. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of precautions, and you should always remove yourself from any situation or interaction that feels unsafe or uncertain.
If you think that you have received information about a job or internship opportunity that may be fraudulent, you can contact Eckerd Career Center to confirm its legitimacy.
If an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is
Fraudulent opportunities often make claims that sound like they could be the perfect opportunity, from very high hourly pay rates to the option to work entirely from home. While this type of opportunity may exist in the real world, you should question these kinds of benefits, especially if you have had no previous contact with the organization that is offering them.
Research the employer: are they legitimate?
Any employer should have an official website with a company address, employee names, email addresses affiliated with the organization, and detailed contact information. Tip: who.is is a good resource you can use to determine if a website is credible.
Next, locate the company address using Google Maps. Is it a commercial property that matches the employer description? Fraudulent employers will sometimes use real addresses that show up on a map, but those addresses will be associated with another business or organization.
Finally, not all organizations have a LinkedIn page, but it's worth investigating if they do. How many employees are listed, and do they have photos? Does the number of employees seem appropriate for this type of organization?
No application or interview process? Probably not a real job
If you are presented with a job or internship offer but haven't applied or interviewed for the position, you should question the legitimacy of the offer. Before responding to these types of offers, contact Eckerd Career Center. We can help you determine whether the opportunity is legitimate or a scam.
Keep an eye out for "spoofed" messages
Fraudulent job and internship opportunities are getting more sophisticated. Occasionally, scammers will disguise their communication source through a process called "spoofing," and the message may seem like it is from a known, trusted source. This can apply to emails, phone calls, and even websites. This means that even messages that look like they come from another individual at Eckerd, Career Center, or TritonTrack (Symplicity) may actually be spoofed.
It is very easy for spoofed messages to go undetected. Remember to carefully check the sender's email address for slight alterations, and don't be afraid to separately message the alleged sender at their known, trusted address in order to confirm the questionable email was indeed sent by them.
Know when to give out your information
In a standard application process, you will include your phone number, email, city, state, and zip code on your resume and cover letter. If you receive an email asking for you to simply respond back with your contact information, and you've had no previous contact with the organization, the email may be a scam.
You should never be asked to provide government identification information such as your Social Security Number as part of the application process (unless you are asked to disclose this information in a USAJobs application for a government position).
You may be asked to provide your Social Security Number or other government identification as part of a background check, but these are typically conducted late in the interview process as the organization selects its final candidate.
You should also never be asked to provide financial information such as a bank account number during an application process. The only time that you should give out your banking information is when setting up direct deposit as part of your on-boarding process after you have accepted an offer letter.
You should never have to give money to get a job or internship
If you are asked to send money to an organization or to use your own money to purchase supplies for a job, the opportunity is most likely a scam (this includes multi-level marketing, an industry which disproportionately recruits women). You should never have to give money to get a job, and only in very rare cases will you need to purchase your own supplies. If you are offered money in the form of a check or money order to purchase supplies, you should confirm with your bank whether it is legitimate before depositing it (see next section).
As colleges and universities continue to impress upon their students the experiential value of internships, some organizations capitalize on the anxiety that many students feel about losing out on a necessary career move; these organizations charge students exorbitant fees for internships experiences or promised “placements.” While these organizations and internships themselves may be legitimate, Eckerd Career Center believes that it is not worthwhile or beneficial to pay an organization in order to secure an internship. If you are considering such an opportunity, we encourage you to schedule an appointment on TritonTrack to discuss the opportunity with a Career Advisor.
Beware of fake check scams
Fake checks continue to be one of the most common instruments used to commit fraud against consumers. Before you deposit a check you weren’t expecting or wire funds to an unknown recipient, here is what you should know.
There are many variations of the fake check scam. It usually starts with someone offering to buy something you advertised for sale, pay you to work at home, give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes or you’ve won, or give you the first installment on the millions you’ll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.
Fraudsters issue you a check or money order worth more than the amount owed to you and instruct you to wire the excess funds back to them before receiving your lump sum payment. After you’ve sent the money, you find out that the check or money order is fraudulent.
Here are tips to prevent fake check scams (more info on these points can be found here):
Even if the check has “cleared,” you may not be in the clear
Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the check
Never "pay to play"
Do not respond to online solicitations for “easy money”
Verify the requester before you wire or issue a check
Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately
What to do if you have responded to a scam job posting
If you have received a scam job posting but have not responded to it, you can safely ignore the message and mark it as spam.
Remember to trust your instincts and use your best judgement when evaluating job or internship opportunities. If you have any questions or concerns about an employer or position, please contact the Career Center for guidance.
Types of remote work to avoid
“Click farm” work: you may be tempted to take an independent contractor role that entails filling out surveys for payment. Most past employees describe this as “click farm” work that comes out to pay in pennies—and you don’t get to utilize or gain any useful skills in the process.
Work that collects your personal data without compensating you: this may arise in the previously-mentioned “click farm” work, but also in more legitimate looking companies, such as those that have you test websites for user feedback. If you find yourself having to volunteer personal or demographic data in order to “qualify” for a survey-taking or user-testing role, be wary: it’s likely these organizations are using the information you’ve volunteered to make their real profit.
Online tutoring services that lack a two-way rating system: a two-way rating system—in which the student rates the tutor and the tutor rates the student—helps ensure that tutors are protected from abusive clients. Tutoring services that don’t have a two-way rating system have been described by former tutors as “homework farms:” when tutors’ jobs are dependent on student ratings, students hound and harass tutors to do the assignment for them. In these types of companies, the management more often sides with the client rather than the tutor, meaning the tutors have no support system to deal with these students.
Transcription companies: even if you are an experienced transcriber (and it is an acquired skill!), many of the projects assigned by transcription companies feature speakers for whom English is not a first language and/or who have strong accents; these same projects are often recorded with low audio quality. All of this combined makes the transcription service very work-intensive, and as a result, the hourly pay comes out to be very low. Some also have inconsistent stylistic standards for transcribers to follow, making it difficult to do one’s job.
Certain English-language instruction companies: one popular type of remote work is virtually teaching English to young students in east Asia. Many companies that facilitate this type of instruction exist, but they are not all created equal. Because of the time difference between the U.S. and east Asia, all of these opportunities will require you to work at odd hours (very early in the morning or very late at night). The questions listed above will help you determine if these companies will be worth an altered sleep schedule. Be attentive to reports of mismanagement, class cancellations, and delayed pay.
Marketing platforms for freelance services: these platforms (or “mills,” as they’re more derisively called) will connect two different types of users—contractors and clients—with the idea being that building your own client base as a freelancer is too time-consuming and work intensive. While it’s true that building a client base without the help of a marketing platform can take a great deal of time, strategy, and skill, most freelancers agree that building your own client base beats using a “mill” every time, citing mill experiences such as working at an abysmal pay just to get your reputation established on the platform, endless client requests for unpaid revisions, and management that sides with the client—not to mention that many of these platforms take a large percentage of each freelancer’s pay as a service fee for connecting the freelancer with the client.
Multi-level marketing (MLM): these opportunities are designed to be especially lucrative and appealing, advertising remote work, flexible hours, and the ability to “be your own boss” and “work from home” or “work from your phone.” Many of these brands have also become familiar to many, either through longevity or high-powered social media campaigns, making them seem trustworthy to potential new employees. MLMs primarily involve buying products that are then sold at a mark-up to family and friends, all while recruiting others to sell the same product in one’s “downline” to increase one’s earnings. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission states that very few people who join MLMs actually make money: some that do join make very little, and most make nothing at all or lose money. You should never have to give money to get a job—and in the case of MLM, buying product for one’s own inventory constitutes “giving money.” You can check here to see if a prospective employer is an MLM on this simple search engine created by a Reddit user, which uses crowd-sourced information to keep track of old, new, and rebranded MLMs. There are many well-documented accounts of financial troubles arising from MLMs, but this investigative journalism piece from Quartz provides a good introductory overview.