How to Identify an Employment Scam and Protect Yourself During Your Job Hunt

May 8, 2023 | By | Reply More
job scams information

Job scams have sky rocketed in the past few years, thanks to the growth of remote work and recent mass layoffs.


Sophisticated employment scams are on the rise, and scammers are now targeting experienced, educated professionals in the prime of their careers. By posing as recruiters, scammers use elaborate methods, including fake job postings and emails that appear to be from reputable job search websites to lure in their victims. Here’s what you need to know.


Every week, 50 million people look for jobs on LinkedIn. Perhaps you’re one of them. If so, you’re in the right place. LinkedIn is the world’s most reputable platform for job seekers to network with other professionals and successfully connect with hiring companies. Eight people are hired on LinkedIn every minute.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of remote work job searches on LinkedIn had a 300% increased surge in searches. And since that time, disruptions in the job market like the “great resignation” and, more recently, mass layoffs, have resulted in job seekers flocking to LinkedIn. Today, 61 million job seekers search for jobs on LinkedIn every week.

As if by design, during these same periods, employment related scams skyrocketed, including scams aided by newly accessible AI tools, such as ChatGPT.

“Job scams are a global nightmare, with victim losses in the U.S. and Canada estimated at more than $2 billion annually,” writes Marie Rohde for “People 25 to 54 years old most often were the victims, with individual losses of between $1,000 and $1,600. People 65 and older on average lost $1,550.”




A new breed of employment scams

Today’s job scams are not as elementary as they were ten years ago. Nor do their targets lack job searching savvy. Instead of targeting the elderly, stay-at-home parents, or individuals in dead-end jobs, scammers today are targeting professionals in the prime of their careers, who are educated and in well-respected fields. Today’s employment scams are sophisticated and, with the help of AI, cause job seekers at even the highest career levels to fall prey.


job scams industries

Job scammers are now targeting professionals in respected fields.


The goals of a job scam haven’t changed over the years. As in earlier days, the purpose of today’s employment scams are:

  • To steal a victim’s identity (to use for a variety of devious reasons)
  • To steal a victim’s money (either through tricking the victim into giving it to them, or by getting enough information to gain access to their money themselves.)
  • To access a victim’s computer and/or smart phone to commit further crimes
  • To get a victim to commit crimes unknowingly (such as money laundering)
  • To access proprietary or sensitive information from a victim’s computer.


How are these scammers getting intelligent, savvy, professionals to fall for these job scams? By offering to solve their biggest problem:  unemployment.

“You may be duped even before you have applied for a job,” says Marijus Briedis, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN. “Emails which appear to come from reputable websites such as Indeed or Glassdoor may not be what they seem, and last year LinkedIn revealed they had identified over 21 million fake accounts in six months, suggesting 1 in 40 users were bots.”


The job scam process

While scammers use many methods to take advantage of professionals who are having low periods in their lives, below, I summarize one of the more common scam methods they use on LinkedIn.

The scammers begin with fake LinkedIn profiles, posing as a recruiter. “Under the guise of a recruiter, these fake LinkedIn accounts have an easy entry point into the networks of real business professionals. Real recruiters already use the service as a way to find potential candidates. LinkedIn users expect to be contacted by recruiters, so this ruse works out in the scammers’ favor,” writes a user on

To add instant credibility, scammers often set up profiles that show they work for reputable companies, many of them household names.

“Cybercriminals often find success when impersonating popular consumer and technology brands,” according to Zscaler ThreatLabz research. “Microsoft was once again the most imitated brand of the year, accounting for nearly 31% of attacks as the attackers phished for access to various Microsoft corporate applications of the victim organizations. Cryptocurrency exchange Binance accounted for 17% of imitated brand attacks, with phishers posing as fake customer representatives from banks or P2P companies. Big brands like Netflix, Facebook, and Adobe rounded out the top 20 most imitated and phished brands.”


Top companies job scammers use

According to Zscaler, these are the 20 most imitated brands used in job scams.


Once scammers create their profiles, they connect with as many OpenToWork green banner profiles as possible to help them look legitimate, and, more important, to build their potential victim pipeline. They study these profiles, looking for vulnerabilities in each one. The more desperate a job seeker appears, the better they look for a scammer.


desperate sounding job seeker

Scammers look for post like these. They hope the person’s “desperation” will make them fall for their job scams.


After careful deliberation, a scammer sends out DMs (direct messages), telling job seekers they have a position in which they may be interested. If the job seeker responds with interest, the scammer may ask for their resume or CV, which provides the scammer with the person’s email, phone number, often a home address, and an abundance of other personal information.


The method

Depending on the individual scammer’s goal, the process that follows may vary. If they want to steal your identity, they will direct you to fill out “job forms” that need you to divulge your social security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, or bank account number (for “direct deposit” purposes). Once they have this vital information, you’ll never hear from them again.

If their goal is quick cash, they may need you to wire them money for a background check, onboarding, office equipment, or “proprietary” software. Or, they may require you to pay a fee for them to reformat your resume to their company’s standards, a new scam that’s popped up, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Sometimes, scammers send candidates large company checks to buy home office equipment. In this common bank fraud scam, a scammer will send a check with hundreds or thousands of dollars more than necessary for your required purchases, and tell you to Western Union the difference back to them. Of course, the check they send you is fake, not only costing you the money you send back to them, but unwittingly involving you in a crime for cashing a false check.

“Recruitment scams on LinkedIn and other job recruiting sites are also on the rise. Unfortunately, in 2022, many big businesses in Silicon Valley made the tough decision to downsize,” says Help Net Security. “As a result, cybercriminals leveraged fake job postings, sites, portals, and forms to attract job seekers. Victims would often undergo an entire interview process, with some even being asked to purchase supplies to be reimbursed later.”


employment scam victim's true story

This post from LinkedIn shares a person’s experience with a job scam. [Click to enlarge.]


How savvy professionals fall for employment scams

If you haven’t been affected by the tactics described above, it’s hard to believe that millions of people at the height of their professions could fall for such job scams. Even those who were victims of scams never imagined they would fall for something that might later seem so obvious. But it’s important to keep this in mind: the victims aren’t naïve or stupid; the scammers are just very cunning. They use timing, life’s difficulties, emotions, and job seekers’ desire to work to launch their attacks with precision.

Further, by nature, people are curious, courteous, and helpful. When contacted, it’s instinctual to respond. Top that with fear of losing their homes, having to pull their kids out of college, or having a vehicle repossessed, and it seems foolish to not at least look at a message mentioning a job. When viewed, if initially everything looks good, hope grows. And the job scam takes off from there.

It could happen to anyone.



Why astute people fall prey to job scams

  • They’re overconfident. Highly educated folks might think that they’re too smart to fall for an employment scam. But scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated, and it’s important to stay vigilant.
  • They’re busy. People often have demanding jobs or other responsibilities, which can make them more vulnerable to scams. They may not have the time or energy to research a job opportunity thoroughly.
  • They’re desperate. Even highly experienced people can struggle to find work in a tough job market. Scammers know this and they target job seekers who are feeling desperate.
  • They trust too easily. People are often taught to assume the best in people. This can be a great trait in many situations, but it can also make them more susceptible to employment scams.
  • They want to believe. Job scams can be very convincing, and scammers know how to appeal to people’s hopes and dreams. Job seekers may be more likely to fall for a scam if it promises a great salary or career advancement.
  • They’re not tech-savvy. While highly educated people may be experts in their field, they may not be as knowledgeable about technology. This can make them more vulnerable to online job scams.
  • They’re not familiar with the industry. If someone is looking for a job in a new industry or field, they may not be aware of common employment scams or warning signs.
  • They’re not aware of their rights. Even educated people may not be aware of their rights, such as not being required to give certain personal information prior to being hired. Scammers take advantage of this lack of knowledge.
  • They don’t want to miss out. Scammer may create a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure people into making quick decisions. Job seekers feeling desperate may fear missing out on a great opportunity and rush into an employment scam.
  • They don’t ask for help. Even the most experienced professionals don’t know everything about job hunting. It’s important to ask for advice and support from friends, family, or a professional career counselor to avoid employment scams.


Spotting the signs of a job scam

Job scams often look like legitimate job offers. Scammers are skilled at creating job listings that appear to be legitimate. They might use the name and logo of a well-known company, and the job description may sound reasonable and appropriate for the industry.

They are adept in the art of persuasive language. Scammers use language that is designed to appeal to job seekers’ emotions and desires, such as promising high salaries, flexible working hours, and easy workloads.

So before responding to any job you did not directly seek out, check out the following possible red flags.


job scams warning sign

If contacted about a job you were unaware of, don’t immediately respond. And don’t click on any links in the message!

If someone’s profile shows they work for Facebook, yet they are using a Proton, Gmail, or Yahoo! email or other non-official company email, be suspicious.

If you get several connection or message requests from people with very similar headlines, be wary. For example, a few months ago, I received at least four connection requests from different people, all using attractive Asian male profile photos, all with taglines stating they were airline pilots. What are the chances of that? Big red flag!

If someone contacts you about a terrific sounding position, but the same job opening isn’t posted on the real company’s website, double check with the company itself, or ignore the message and report it.

When you are given details about a job, look at the job requirements and qualifications and see if they seem reasonable for that position.

If the job description is overly vague, and the “recruiter” can’t answer your questions—especially about day-to-day activities of the position—be leery.

If they use Google Forms or JotForm as a job “application,” rather than a company application software, question it. If they claim to be from a well-known company and want you to apply this way, walk away.

If the “recruiter” or company agent can’t be reached by phone, or they offer very little contact information, see this as a red flag.

If things appear legitimate, but they ask you to take part in a nonstandard interview such as through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Google Chat, or your interviewer doesn’t appear on screen in a Zoom interview, be suspicious.

If they apply pressure for you to act quickly or lose the opportunity, take a big step back and step up your research.

If they offer to hire you on the spot, without a formal interview, this is a huge red flag.

If they ask you for personally identifiable information, such as your Social Security number, birth date, or bank information—no matter what the reason—report them.

If the grammar and spelling in their job ads, messages, and/or websites is poor, assume they are not legitimate. (NOTE: Because of programs like ChatGPT, incorrect grammar is something they can now easily avoid.)

If they ask you to buy equipment, pay for a background screening, deposit a check, or to share credit card information, report them.


Protecting yourself from an employment scam

When you’re on the job hunt, it can be tempting to jump at any opportunity that comes your way. But taking the time to verify job openings that you’re approached about is crucial for your own safety and wellbeing. By doing your due diligence and researching the company and job listing, you can avoid falling victim to a job scam that could cost you time, money, and even your personal information. Plus, taking the time to verify job openings can also help you make sure that the job is a good fit for your skills, experience, and career goals.


job scams self defense

The best self defense against job scams is doing your due diligence.


Use only trusted sites, like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or Indeed. Yes, job scams abound on LinkedIn and other places, but if you do your due diligence, you are much safer in those places than on other social platforms.

Change the settings on your OpenToWork banner. That green banner makes it easier for the wrong people to see you’re looking for work. Unless you need your entire network to see it, change the settings so that only registered recruiters can see that you’re open to work viewable only to registered recruiters.



“Verify job openings before you apply. Reach out to the company directly using contact information you know to be legit — not an email or phone number you got from the person who contacted you,” advises Colleen Tressler of the FTC. “If you’re not familiar with the company, search its name with the word  ‘scam’ or ‘fraud.’ You may find stories from others who have been targeted.”

Thoroughly check the profile of the “recruiter” trying to reach out to you:

  • Check profile photo legitimacy. Visit and do a reverse image search to see if their profile picture is being used elsewhere under another name.
  • Look for inconsistencies in dates, such as their education and jobs.
  • Check for incompleteness of important parts of their LinkedIn profile, such as the About and Experience sections.
  • See if they post consistently. Real recruiters are active on LinkedIn. They not only post their job openings on their main page, but they share posts and make comments to engage their network. A dead Activity section may indicate the person uses LinkedIn strictly to DM people for job scams.
  • Note any unusual wording in their communication to you, such as, “Hello my dear,” or “Dear sir,” or “Dear ma’am.”
  • Note their connections count. Personally, I don’t connect with anyone with less than 500+ connections. Reaching the 500+ mark tells me the person has been around for a while, and has built a network.
  • Look for recommendations. While a lack of recommendations isn’t proof of being a spoof, it’s better when a person has them. It means they have real working relationships with people both online and offline.

Do not click on any links in the “recruiter’s” DM, or download any software they say is required to complete an application.

If the “recruiter” says they’re from a company you’ve never heard of, ask for the company address, and Google the company’s street address to see if it’s an actual business.

If a “recruiter” claims to be from a well-known company, verify this yourself. Check the company’s LinkedIn profile employee section, as well as the company’s website. Call the company to confirm the person’s identity.

Search Google for articles and press releases that mention the company.

Seek and search. Start with a web search for the name of the company or person contacting you, plus the word “scam” or “complaint.”

Verify website security. “You can avoid illegitimate jobs by verifying websites and their security measures. Make sure the web address includes ‘https://’ at the beginning, not ‘http://,’  suggests “This verifies that the site is both authentic and secure. You can also determine how long the site has been active and to whom it’s registered by inputting its URL into a domain age and website registry tool.”


Wrap up

Sophisticated employment scams are on the rise, and scammers are now targeting experienced, educated professionals in well-respected fields. By posing as recruiters on LinkedIn and other job recruiting sites, scammers use elaborate methods, including fake job postings and emails that appear to be from reputable companies or  job search websites to lure in their victims.

The goal of a job scam is to steal your identity or money, gain access to your computer and/or smartphone, or get you to commit crimes unknowingly, such as money laundering. It is important for you to be aware of these scams and take steps to protect yourself, such as verifying the authenticity of job postings and being cautious when sharing personal information.


Resources An authority website on all things scams. Reporting scams on LinkedIn scams Research and report scams here.  Internet Crime Complaint Center Reverse image search to see if their profile picture is being used elsewhere under another name.


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Category: Featured, Job Scams, Job Search, LinkedIn

About the Author ()

Pamela La Gioia is a resume writer and LinkedIn profile expert. She is also a pioneer in remote work, and has been researching and writing about remote work since the early 1990's. You can follow her on LinkedIn, for resume tips, LinkedIn insight, and general career help.

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