Don’t Get Fooled by Employment Scams: How They Work

Georgina Torbet 10-04-2019

Searching for a job is stressful and demanding, and it can seem like a blessing when you finally see an advert for a job you can do with great pay. But you need to be careful, as employment scams are on the rise.


Scammers post fake job adverts and take advantage of their victim’s desire for employment. Learn about how these scams work so you won’t fall victim to them.

How Much of a Problem Are Employment Scams?

You might think it would be easy to spot employment scams. If someone is offering to pay you large amounts of money for little to no work, that’s an obvious red flag.

But these scams have become much more complex and involved than you might imagine. Scammers come up with all sorts of clever tricks to fool people into thinking they’re getting a real job.

According to a recent report by the Better Business Bureau, employment scams are the riskiest scams in terms of exposure, susceptibility, and monetary loss. The average amount a person lost in an employment scam in 2018 was $1,204, and young people just out of school or college are particularly vulnerable.

And scammers are now using sophisticated technological approaches to fool their victims.


How Does an Employment Scam Work?

Employment scams job listing
Image Credit: zimmytws/DepositPhotos

Employment scams typically start with a scammer placing an advert on a job board website. Often this is on a site with minimal oversight which is free to post on like Craigslist but sometimes it can happen on job sites like Indeed or Monster as well.

These ads can look just like legitimate job adverts, often stating that they are looking for someone to fill a personal assistant or administrative assistant role. Sometimes it may be for a data entry job. Usually it will be advertised as work from home or remote work.

One thing almost all employment scams have in common is that the adverts offer high rates of pay for easy work and short, flexible hours. Usually minimal experience is required.


If you reply to such an advert then the scammer may attempt to steal your identity, to extort money from you, or to get you to inadvertently commit money laundering.

Tricks Employment Scammers Use to Appear Legit

It used to be the case that employment scams were easier to spot. Adverts would offer thousands of dollars for easy work from home, would not say anything about the company, and would often contain spelling mistakes.

But now scammers are more sophisticated. They may go to great lengths to appear legitimate, like holding fake interviews or making fake recruiter calls. If you are drawn into a scam, the scammer may send employment forms or an employee handbook which can appear convincing.

The scammer may also use email spoofing to forge fake emails What Is Email Spoofing? How Scammers Forge Fake Emails It looks like your email account has been hacked, but those weird messages you didn't send are actually due to email spoofing. Read More . It is easy to make it appear as if an email came from a different email address, so you could get an email from a scammer which appears to come from


Another trick scammers use to appear legitimate is to show off how much money they have to spend. They may send screenshots of bank balances or Google AdSense incomes which make it appear as if they are earning thousands of dollars per month. But these screenshots are easy to fake in Photoshop and shouldn’t be trusted.

How Do Scammers Make Money From Employment Scams?

Once you have replied to a scam employment ad and the scammer has convinced you that the job is real, the extraction of money or personal information begins.

One common trick is to steal your identity. You may be asked to provide your name, address, social security number, and other personal information that is used for identity theft 10 Pieces of Information That Are Used to Steal Your Identity Identity theft can be costly. Here are the 10 pieces of information you need to protect so your identity isn't stolen. Read More as part of the “job application” process. This information can then be used to open credit cards or take out a loan in your name.

Another typical scam is to say that before you can begin the job, you need to be trained. You will then be asked to pay “starter fees” for training materials like a training manual, a week-long course, or a piece of software. There may even be a real training course which you must attend online or in person, but you won’t learn anything useful.


You may perform work for a few days or a week. But once the scammer has extracted money from you for these starter fees, they will say that your work is not up to scratch and decline to pay you. They keep the starter fee money and disappear.

In a particularly sophisticated version of the starter fees scam, the company will send you a check to cover the costs of the training materials. When you deposit the check in your bank it appears to have been accepted, so you willingly spend your own money to cover the costs.

Then, a week or so later, your bank discovers that the check is forged or cancelled, and the money disappears from your account.

How Do Employment Scams Result in Money Laundering?

Employment scams money laundering

There’s a different sort of employment scam that you ought to be aware of as well: money laundering. Sometimes the scammers will advertise for a personal assistant, and sometimes for someone to help transfer funds for them. These adverts may be posted on job boards or be sent directly to you by email.

The scammer will say that they are in a foreign country and need someone from your country to transfer money for them. You will be offered a portion of the money as the cut for your work. If you are employed as a “PA”, they will say that arranging money transfers is part of your job.

The scammer will send money to the you, usually in the form of a fake or stolen check. Then you deposit this check into a nearby bank or send the money to another person associated with the scammer.

This unwittingly involves  you in money laundering or check fraud, as the checks being deposited are not legitimate. This can cause serious legal troubles.

Keep Yourself Safe From Employment Scams

Now that you know how employment scams work and the tricks that scammers use to con people, you can stay safe. Be sure to check into a job thoroughly before you send any personal information. Be suspicious of job adverts which offer great pay for minimal work with no experience required.

And remember that you should never pay money for training before you begin a job.

For more tips on weeding out the scam employment ads when you’re job hunting, see our tips on how to spot and avoid fake job scams on the internet 8 Ways To Spot & Avoid Fake Job Scams On The Internet Read More . Above all else, remember that if a job advert seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Image Credit: mikkolem/Depositphotos

Related topics: Job Searching, Scams.

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