Jun 23, 2023 - News

How to protect yourself against job scams

Photo of a "Help wanted" sign displayed in a window

Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Employment scams are on the rise as industries grapple with the latest round of layoffs, experts warn.

Why it matters: Tech companies cut more jobs in the Bay Area during the first five months of 2023 than in all of 2022, leaving over 16,000 people unemployed, per a Mercury News analysis. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued several alerts in recent months warning job seekers against scams amid the sector's widespread layoffs.

State of play: Employment scams have become the second biggest online scams in the nation, according to the Better Business Bureau. The FTC reported that victims of business and job opportunity scams lost $367 million in 2022, almost 76% more than in 2021.

  • A recent survey by SurveyMonkey and PasswordManager.com found that 1 in 3 job seekers say they were tricked into applying and/or interviewing for a fake job.
  • Almost 40% say they've come across scam job postings, and 8 in 10 who reported encountering a fake job scam said they applied and/or interviewed for the job without realizing it.
  • 15% had their personal information stolen, while 9% said scammers stole money from them.
  • Low-income and immigrant communities are particularly vulnerable, according to San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu.

How it works: Employment fraud can take many forms, but it often looks like imposing a fee to apply for a job or a background screening, requiring your Social Security number or financial information and conducting interviews via messaging.

  • A 22-year-old college graduate went viral on TikTok last fall after sharing how she fell victim to what's known as a fake check scam. Believing she'd secured a job with Waymo after applying on LinkedIn, she was told she'd have to buy her own laptop and work phone upfront and get reimbursed for it later.
  • "If you're asked for money, walk away," the FTC said in a January notice.

What they're saying: "Scammers have gone so far as to conduct phone or video interviews with applicants ... Those fake interviews, of course, go amazingly well, leaving the candidate excited about landing a coveted job," Daniel Farber Huang, cybersecurity consultant with PasswordManager.com, said in a written statement.

  • Chiu, who has filed lawsuits against several businesses for allegedly perpetrating scams, encourages people who fall victim to contact his office — even if they feel embarrassed or think it's their fault.
  • Scammers will go to great lengths to get what they want and that's not on you, he noted.

To avoid falling victim, make sure to confirm the legitimacy of a prospective employer by looking up the company online and calling its HR department using the number on its website.

  • Check that the job posting is on the company's website, not just on job boards.
  • Verify that the potential employer's email domain is registered with the company.
  • Search the company's name with the word "scam" or "fraud" to see if others have been targeted.

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