Schemes & scams targeting job seekers

May 20, 2011 11:19am


By Jeremy Gin, CEO, SiteJabber

While finding a job today is hard, job-related scams and schemes seem to be all around us. To prevent job seekers from going through the pain of dealing with some of the more common online job scams, the SiteJabber community has flagged some common types of sites that are best avoided.

Job Sites That Require *You* to Pay

At first blush, paying for work or access to jobs seems counterintuitive. But for the growing ranks of long-term unemployed who badly need money and work, it is not outside the realm of possibilities to pay for hope. Unfortunately, a series of sites appear to be extracting money from these job seekers without offering much in return. These sites sell access for jobs, often with an upfront fee of $29.95. SiteJabber reviewers have given poor marks to several of these job sites that charge job seekers. While individual experiences vary greatly, there have been reports which range from theft of personal information, to charging for “free trials” and even posting fake jobs.

 Our advice: avoid paying upfront for work or access to job listings. Also, never give out personal information unless you have complete confidence in the recipient. Many free online job boards exist such as the US Government job siteCraigslist (although be wary of Craigslist scams), Universe.jobs, and professional social networking site LinkedIn. State governments also have considerable resources like this job site for California residents.  

Resume Writing 'Services'

Recently a number of paid résumé writing services have materialized, claiming to improve the résumés of job seekers to help them get work. While it might sound like a useful service, most of these businesses collect money from job seekers without providing material benefit. Résumé writing sites often lure job seekers in with free templates. Once job seekers have invested significant time entering their résumés, they find they cannot download or print their résumés without paying.  

Our advice: rather than using an unfamiliar resume writing service, ask a trusted family member or friend for help. If you need additional assistance, there are free and reliable sources of resume advice online such as this one from the California state government.

MLMs, Work-at-Home and Easy Money

We covered some work-at-home scams last year, but they are worth mentioning again because new work-at-home and easy money schemes are always appearing. These schemes often fall into one of three categories – multi-level marketing schemes (MLMs), work-at-home jobs that boast high pay without requiring specific skills or experience, and jobs that purport to pay for very easy tasks such as surfing the web or clicking advertisements. Although not all “jobs” that fall into these categories are scams, job seekers should use extreme caution.

Our advice: if a job seems too good to be true, it probably is. We have found that it’s best to avoid work from home and easy money jobs and instead look to find more traditional jobs or acquire skills to help you get a job. An excellent resource is the website of the US Department of Labor. Also, if you need experience but cannot find a job, internships can be helpful stepping stones. And once you’ve picked up some skills (many of which can be learned for free online) such as web development, computer programming, or graphic design, it could be possible to work from home using freelancing marketplaces like eLance.com and Guru.com.

Job Scam Red Flags

Although job scams come and go, they typically follow certain patterns which make them effective:

  • Outrageous claims and demand for immediate action: “You’ll miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime if you don’t sign up NOW!” This discourages research and encourages hasty decisions.
  • Too-good-to-be-true refund policies: e.g., “100% risk-free!” or “money-back guarantee!” which they will later not honor.
  • Little to no details about the work involved: real jobs usually have real details
  • Money up-front: this does not mean that all businesses that ask for money up-front are scams, but if you can otherwise get information for free, then you shouldn’t need to pay.
  • Hard-to-find addresses and phone numbers: real businesses typically have phone numbers and offices, and it’s worth it to check all street addresses on Google Street View to see what the physical office looks like.

Our advice: In addition to remembering the Red Flags above, if you’re unsure how to evaluate a business opportunity, the Federal Trade Commission offers a short quiz on the appropriate steps to validating a legitimate business prospect. And if you’re unsure about a particular website, be sure to research it. 

Jeremy Gin is the chief executive officer and co-founder of SiteJabber a consumer protection service which helps the public avoid fraudulent websites and find good sites. Consumers use SiteJabber to research unfamiliar websites, as well as read and write reviews of online businesses. SiteJabber is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and was named one of the top 100 websites of 2010 by PC Magazine.