12 Warning Signs To Spot a Fake Job

hands on a blue laptop keyboard with a dark screen with lines of code on a baige desk.

Everyone is vulnerable, even sophisticated job seekers. These red flags can help you conduct a safer job search and protect your sensitive information.

Written by Career Engagement Office, Information Technology Services, and Public Safety
Photography by Photography by Yosef Kalinko
June 10, 2021

While the pandemic has redefined the way we experience work, the digital workplace has opened limitless opportunities for sophisticated scammers and opportunists. And as graduating students prepare to enter the workforce and the number of job seekers rises, it is important to tell the difference between a fake job post from a real one.

Everyone is vulnerable, even sophisticated job seekers. In 2020, the Better Business Bureau reported that employment scams cost victims an estimated $2 billion. Seattle University is not immune - SU accounts are sometimes compromised and turned into fake senders.

Two major motives of employment fraud are phishing attempts to steal sensitive information and the other is swindling for financial gain.

The Career Engagement Office, in collaboration with Information Technology Services and Public Safety, has put together these red flags to help you conduct a safer job search and to help you protect your identity. Please always use your own discretion when applying to a position or interacting with a potential employer.

  1. Vague job descriptions: Be wary of job descriptions that do not have responsibilities and/or relevant skills required to do the job.
  2. Poor communication: Poor grammar, syntax, misspellings, and inappropriate or unprofessional communication can indicate an illegitimate job.
  3. Spam/Phishing Emails: Many fraudulent jobs are cleverly disguised to make them seem legitimate. In general, be suspicious of jobs that are advertised directly via email, especially if they ask you to reply to a different email address or click an embedded link
  4. Vague/Missing Company and Contact Information: If the company does not have a presence online, or if the website link ONLY takes you to the job and there is no other company information, that is a red flag. Beware of fake company websites as well—be sure to verify details about any company via trusted third-party sources.
  5. High-pressure and/or Emotional Tactics: Aggressive tactics are usually manipulative and meant to create a false sense of urgency or hope or fear of missing out.
  6. Requests for Sensitive Personal Information: Don’t divulge personal information such as social security number, driver’s license, or a photo prior to being hired.
  7. Requests for Personal Financial Information: Never share your bank account information or agree to a direct deposit before checking out the company and the job to make sure they are legitimate, accepting a job offer and completing new hire paperwork. Additionally, do not share access to your mobile payment apps such as Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, CashApp, etc.
  8. Requests for Payment or Requests to Deposit a Check and Return Some of the Money: Scammers will often mail you a fake check, ask you to deposit it into your own account, and then ask you to send some of the money back to them. Once your bank discovers that the check is fraudulent, you will be liable for the full amount. Exercise extreme caution for anyone asking you for any money as part of the hiring process.
  9. Gift Cards, Cash Transfers, and Personal Assistant Positions: Jobs that require you to purchase gift cards or transfer money using your own accounts are always fraudulent. “Personal Assistant” jobs advertised via email are also always a scam.
  10. Quick Payoff and/or Extremely High Salaries: Job postings promising fast money or extremely high pay that is not commensurate with the job are most likely a scam.
  11. Instant Job Offers or Jobs Offers Out of The Blue: Be aware of anyone who wants to hire you on the spot without getting to know you first.
  12. Set Up Shop/Office for New/ Start-Up Business: Sounds exciting, right?! BUT - These postings want is access to your financial institution and your identity.

These signs in no way cover all instances of fraud or all the possible red flags. A good rule of thumb is to go with your gut feeling - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Career Engagement Office works hard to vet the organizations on Handshake and each one is reviewed before being approved. However, some opportunities may turn out to be different than what was described. Painfully, it takes just one to harm you with lost time, money, or personal identity.

What to do if you discover you have been scammed:

If you have encountered a fraudulent job posting on Handshake, please contact the Career Engagement Office so the posting can be removed, and other students can be notified.

Regardless of where or how you found the job posting, report to Public Safety (206) 296-5992 and we encourage you to contact your local police.  A documented police report can help your financial institution fight fraudulent charges.

If you have sent money to a fraudulent company, you should contact your bank and/or credit card company immediately to close the account and dispute the charges.

Depending on what personal information was disclosed, monitor or close your affected accounts. Depending on the situation, you may need to notify the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. You are entitled to an annual free credit report: www.annualcreditreport.com

If the incident occurred completely over the Internet, you should file an incident report at this site: www.cybercrime.gov, or by calling the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

The list of red flags, comments, and suggestions in this article are not necessarily comprehensive and definitive; they are provided to assist you with a safer job search and to help you be more aware of fraudulent job postings. The bottom line is that the perfect job may not be so perfect - research, research, research!