Looking for a business opportunity? Before you get into any money-making program, read Multi-Level Marketing Businesses and Pyramid Schemes and When a Business Offer or Coaching Program Is a Scam to make sure you’re not getting into a bogus business opportunity or a scam.
Examples of Job Scams
Work-from-home job scams
Many people would like to make money working from home. Scammers know this, so they place ads, often online, claiming that they have jobs where you can make thousands of dollars a month working from home with little time and effort. The job could be anything from reshipping products to selling things to people you know. Sometimes the scammers try to get you interested by saying that you can be your own boss, start your own business, or set your own schedule.
But instead of making money, you end up paying for starter kits, so-called training, or certifications that are useless. You might also find that your credit card is charged without your permission, or you get caught up in a fake check scam, where you deposit a check from your new employer, the employer then asks you to send some money back due to “overpayment,” but the check will ultimately bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the full amount of the fake check, while the scammers keep the real money you sent them.
If someone offers you a job and claims that you can make a lot of money in a short period of time with little work, that’s almost certainly a scam.
Reshipping scams. If you’re searching for a job online, you might see positions advertised for quality control managers or virtual personal assistants that have been placed by scammers. But here’s how you can tell it’s a reshipping scam: once you’re “hired,” the company says that your “job” is to receive packages at home, throw away the original packaging and receipts, repackage the products, and then reship them to an address they give you.
Sometimes the address is overseas. The products are often high-priced goods, like name-brand electronics, bought using stolen credit cards. Reshipping goods is never a real job. That’s simply being part of a scam. Sometimes the company tells you it will send your first paycheck after you work for a month, but the paycheck never arrives. And when you try to contact the company, you’ll find that the phone number is often no longer connected and the website is deactivated. This “job” is a scam, and if you gave your personal information thinking it was for payroll, you may now have an identity theft problem.
- Reselling merchandise scams. In this scam, you may get a call out of the blue from a stranger offering you a job opportunity. Or you may see an ad online or in your local newspaper. They say you can make money buying brand-name luxury products for less than retail prices, and resell those products for a profit. But after you pay for the products, the package never arrives or, if it does, it’s usually junk.
Nanny, caregiver, and virtual personal assistant job scams
Scammers post fake job ads for nannies, caregivers, and virtual assistants on job sites. Or they may send emails that look like they’re from someone in your community. The message might also seem to come from someone who is part of an organization you know, like your college or university. If you apply, the person who hires you might send you a check. They’ll tell you to deposit the check, keep part of the money for your services, and send the rest to someone else. That’s a scam. A legitimate employer will never ask you to do that. The check is fake and will bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the full amount of the fake check, while the scammer keeps the real money you sent them. So: if you get an offer that includes depositing a check and then using some of the money for any reason, that’s a scam. Walk away.
Mystery shopper scams
Getting paid to shop sounds like a dream job — especially if you’re going to school full-time or looking for a side job. But while some mystery shopping jobs are honest, many are scams. Honest mystery shopping companies won’t ask you to pay for certifications, directories of jobs, or job guarantees. If someone asks you to pay to get a job, that’s a scam. And if they want you to deposit a check and send money back, stop. That’s a sign of a fake check scam. Read Mystery Shopping Scams to learn more.
Job placement service scams
While many staffing agencies, temporary agencies, headhunters, and other placement firms may deliver honest job search services, others lie about what they will do for you, promote outdated or fake job openings, and charge fees for so-called services. Honest placement firms do not typically charge a fee to job candidates. Instead, the hiring company pays them a fee to find qualified candidates. If a placement firm asks you for a fee — especially one you have to pay in advance — walk away. You’re probably dealing with a scam.
Government and postal jobs scams
Information about job openings with the federal government or U.S. Postal Service is free and available to everyone. And it’s always free to apply for a federal or postal job. Never respond to an ad that promises jobs with the federal government or postal service. And don’t pay a fee to get the job. Those are scams. Use official government websites to find and apply for a job with the federal government at USAJobs.gov, or visit usps.com/employment to find jobs with the U.S. Postal Service.
How To Avoid a Job Scam
Before you accept a job offer, take these steps to avoid common job scams:
- Search online. Look up the name of the company or the person who’s hiring you, plus the words “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” See if others say they’ve been scammed by that company or person. No complaints? It doesn’t guarantee that a company is honest, but complaints can tip you off to possible problems.
- Talk to someone you trust. Describe the offer to them. What do they think? This also helps give you vital time to think about the offer.
- Don't pay for the promise of a job. Honest employers, including the federal government, will never ask you to pay to get a job. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- Never bank on a “cleared” check. No honest potential employer will ever send you a check to deposit and then tell you to send on part of the money, or buy gift cards with it. That’s a fake check scam. The check will bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the amount of the fake check.
- USAJobs.gov — This is the federal government’s official site with job openings nationwide.
- CareerOneStop — Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop lists hundreds of thousands of jobs. It also links to employment and training programs in each state.
- USA.gov — Find local government websites, which list any open positions they may have on their websites.
No matter how you paid — debit or credit card, mobile payment app or wire transfer, gift card, cash reload card, or cryptocurrency — immediately contact the company you used to send the money, report the fraud, and ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible. For specific advice on how to reverse different types of payments, read What To Do If You Were Scammed.
Find out more about how to avoid scams at ftc.gov/scams.