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5 clues that exciting job opportunity just might be a scam

Apr 16, 2012, 6 a.m.

When the unemployment rate dropped to a mere 8.3 percent in January of this year, job-seekers everywhere began to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Although job opportunities do seem to be steadily increasing, becoming too confident or excited about these opportunities may cause one to miss the signs of job scams. Knowing that the unemployed are in a vulnerable position, these predators will often reel victims in through advertisements on unemployment websites or through instant messaging services, offering a fake job to out-of-work people. These job scams are not only designed to take the victim's money, but his or her identity as well. To avoid this dangerous scenario, consider the following tips to protect yourself from job scams.

  1. Sounds too good to be true. There's an old saying that reads "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Many job scams will try to lure in victims by making lofty promises about a job that only occurs in their dreams. If a job claims to offer "easy money," "no experience necessary," or a plethora of "guarantees," it is likely trying to cloud your natural instinct to be skeptical with the promise of riches and relaxation. Never trust a job that requires an upfront purchase of "kits," books, or any other materials that promise the key to success. According to AARP, these purchases can often exceed $100 and lead to hard-to-cancel monthly memberships that can cause an even greater setback.
  2. Fees for formalities. One of the most common signs of a job scam is being asked to pay fees to go toward background checks, credit checks, drug tests and other formalities that some employers require for full evaluation of a potential employee. This is not only a sign of a scam, but is actually against the law as well. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a company recently received a settlement for not only requesting payment for these services, but for charging a surplus of 60 dollars more than the figure requested from the victim. A legitimate job will never ask a potential employee to pay these fees, so be prepared to walk out immediately if this situation arises with a supposed job opportunity.
  3. Skyrocketing salary. Any job that promises an impressive salary for the job at hand should be seen as a red flag for those seeking work. These high numbers are intended to entice job-seekers to expose personal information in an "application," which will ultimately be used to steal the victim's identity. To verify the legitimacy of the salary offered, AARP recommends visiting websites like www.salary.com or www.paywizard.org. If the salary offered appears substantially higher, this is a major sign of a job scam.
  4. Mistaken company identity. Job scammers have certainly gotten clever in the past few years. One of the latest tricks of the trade is to steal brand names and logos associated with reputable companies to create a false sense of legitimacy for the victim. These job scams can often be highly convincing, so it's important to verify any job offered to prevent getting caught up in the ruse. To determine if a website provided actually belongs to the corporation name it boasts, visit www.whois.net to check the address and name it's registered under. It would also be prudent to verify the authenticity of supposed recruiters by speaking with a legitimate representative of the company mentioned.
  5. Federal job listings fraud. Another popular job scam attempts to trick the victim into paying for "previously undisclosed" job listings at various federal agencies. Although the claimed association with the federal government may initially seem legitimate, these listings are actually available for free at www.usajobs.gov. Scammers are essentially just ripping off these lists from this website and selling them to unsuspecting victims for profit.

Searching for a job can be stressful enough as it is, but the potential for scams can often heighten this stress. Guarding yourself with the facts is one of the most effective ways to stay focused on legitimate job opportunities and ultimately reap the rewards of stable employment.

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