6 Common Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

6 common job scams

If you’re searching for a new job, do so with caution. The rise of job scams poses a real threat to our privacy, finances, and livelihoods. Online scammers are taking advantage of the increase in remote work, Artificial Intelligence, and a competitive job market to post fake job offers or other job scams online.

As cases of fraudulent job offers, employment agencies, and consulting services that require a fee are on the rise, we take a look at some statistics on job scams over the past few years, common LinkedIn and WhatsApp job scams, and how to protect yourself from scammers taking advantage of you.

Table of contents

What is a job scam

A job scam is a fraudulent scheme in which scammers advertise fake jobs or manipulate real job postings to trick people seeking employment. Scammers advertise fake jobs or manipulate real job postings to steal personal information and money or even exploit people for free labor.

In short, job scams are created with malicious intent, with motivations to:

Steal personal information: This is a common goal. Job seekers often provide personal details like name, address, phone number, Social Security number (in some regions), and even resume information in job applications. Scammers can use this information for identity theft, opening fraudulent accounts, or selling it on the dark web.

Steal money: Fake job postings might lure applicants into paying for application fees, "background checks," or training materials. They might also involve fake interview processes where the "employer" requests money for travel or relocation.

Access to devices or accounts: Some scams might send you fake job offers with malware attachments. Once downloaded, these attachments can steal login credentials and banking information or infect devices with ransomware.

Exploit for free labor: Some scams may take advantage of the rising popularity of remote work opportunities but involve tasks like money laundering or pyramid schemes.

Harvest resumes: Scammers might collect resumes from applicants and build a database of qualified candidates to sell your data to third parties, recruiters, or marketing firms without their knowledge.

These potential dangers have caused millions of losses for people hoping to find their perfect jobs, as we will see in the statistics below.

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Job scam statistics

Here is a brief overview of some shocking job scam statistics that show how these scams are taking advantage of people looking to change jobs:

  • There have been 294,000 reports of employment scams in the United States over the past 5 years.
  • These complaints have totaled over $73 million. On average, successful job scams have cost victims $8,700.
  • Job scams doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic as people were more desperate to find work. Reports doubled from 37,000 in 2020 to 81,000 in 2021.
  • Employment scams reached a record high in 2023, with $277 million lost to fake job offers.
  • Losses per victim have shown steady growth over the last five years, with an average of $12,000 lost per victim. This suggests that this year will see a record high of losses due to job scams, making the need to exercise caution and protect your data even greater.

Data was collected from the Federal Trade Commission 2023 report

Below, we can see the actual effect of reported job scams and their losses.

Reported job scam losses
Source: Surfshark

Next, you can see who is at most risk from job scams by age group, plus the average losses.

Source bbb.org

The 6 most common job scams

Below are the most popular job scams scammers use to try and steal your finances and personal information.

Fake job posts

Even though legitimate job sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc., take measures to verify employees, some scam job postings can still appear on these platforms.

If not, fake jobs may appear on social media, asking applicants to pay a fee to complete their application, move forward in the interview process, or start the role.

Red flags of fake job posts

What to watch out for:

  • Unrealistic salary or benefits compared to the job description.
  • Poor grammar or typos in the job posting.
  • The company website seems unprofessional or lacks details.
  • The job requires you to pay for training materials or background checks.


We’re not talking about feeling imposter syndrome when you start at a new company, but rather, scamming and posing as recruiters from legitimate businesses. Imposters may target you through unsolicited emails, phone calls, or social media messages.

These messages claim to have found your resume online and present a fantastic job opportunity with a well-known company or government agency. They will create fake company logos or websites to make their claims look legitimate.

Once they have your attention, they'll pressure you to move quickly and provide personal information. Sometimes, they may request a "screening fee" up front, often in the form of gift cards or wire transfers, which are difficult to trace and recover.

Red flags of imposter job scams

What to watch out for:

  • The "recruiter" contacts you through unsolicited emails or social media messages.
  • They pressure you to act quickly and provide personal information.
  • They request payment methods that are difficult to trace, like gift cards or wire transfers.
  • You can't find any information about the supposed agency or hiring firm online.
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Optimizing your job profile

Finding a job requires networking and building a profile that not only helps recruiters find you but also grabs their attention. People who contact you promising to optimize your job profile to help you stand out from the crowd are a common LinkedIn scam.

Scammers posing as hiring experts promise to optimize your candidacy for a fee. This information is usually free online or on the employer's website.

To begin with, these scammers often try to flatter you, much like a scammer on a dating app, by highlighting your resume's strengths. Then, they focus on optimizing your candidacy for a fee, guaranteeing interviews, or even job offers.

The "information" they offer is often generic. Still, they will suggest unnecessary resume revisions, like using fancy keywords or an overly complicated format, which can backfire with modern Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

The internet is full of valuable resources to help you check, revise, and improve your CV, and many tips and advice are available for free. If you have to pay for this information, it’s probably a scam.

Red flags job profiling scams:

What to watch out for:

  • They guarantee you an interview or job offer if you buy their materials.
  • They pressure you to pay upfront without explaining the value of their services.
  • The information they offer is generic and readily available for free elsewhere.

Money laundering scams

Money laundering involves disguising the origin of illegally obtained money to make it appear legitimate. A scammer will contact you and try to convince you to accept a sum of money and use your personal bank account to transfer it to another account. In return, you get to keep a percentage of the initial sum.

There are many excuses they may give you to do this, such as:

  • You won a lottery or contest you never entered.
  • They need help receiving a payment for their "overseas business."
  • They need your account to hold an inheritance temporarily.

It’s one of the common WhatsApp scams, as people will generally contact you via this service to hide illegal activity. It’s a dangerous job scam because the money you receive is likely obtained illegally through criminal activities like fraud, drug trafficking, or cybercrime.

By using your account and offering you this “job,” they aim to distance themselves from the source of the money. In fact, you are taking all the risks and will find yourself in a lot of legal trouble for what you thought was a new job.

Red flags of money laundering scams

What to watch out for:

  • The offer involves transferring money on someone else's behalf.
  • The explanation for needing your account is vague or suspicious.
  • They promise a high return for minimal effort.
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Remote work scams and fees

For some, remote work sounds like a dream. It offers flexible hours, no commute, and the freedom to set up your own space to work peacefully. The attraction of remote work also makes it a prime target for scammers and is another one of the common LinkedIn scams.

After a suspiciously short interview process, they offer you the job...but it comes with a catch. Their company policy states that you must buy your equipment  – computer, monitor, software, chair, etc – upfront before you can officially start.

These scammers offer unclear explanations about how and when you'll be reimbursed for the equipment. They will give you vague promises of "reimbursement on your first paycheck", or even try and get you to pay upfront costs using a fake paycheck. In this type of job scam, they take the money and run.

Most companies expect that you will use your own equipment for remote work. If you’re really lucky, they will provide you with the equipment or give you some financial help to purchase it.

If they make you pay a fee upfront without any contract or official job offer, it is best to immediately stop all contact with the scammer.

Red flags of remote work scams

What to watch out for:

  • Upfront equipment costs: Legitimate employers rarely ask this.
  • Vague reimbursement Details: Be wary of unclear explanations about getting paid back.
  • Pressure tactics: Scammers rush you before you can question the request.

Reselling luxury goods

This kind of job scam targets people who want to supplement their income by reselling luxury brand goods on the side. It’s another one of the common WhatsApp job scams, as the scammers will usually target you via phone or email.

A resale job scam is when a scammer contacts you with an offer to sell luxury goods on their behalf for their e-commerce site or other reasons. These items can be clothes, home appliances, fashion accessories, or the latest technology gadgets.

The scammer will help you purchase the items, claiming they have exclusive connections with wholesale suppliers. They will ask you for an upfront payment for these items via credit card, gift cards, wire transfer, or other methods to pay for online goods.

The scammer vanishes without a trace once you pay for the items, leaving you out of pocket.

Red flags of resale scams

What to watch out for:

  • Unbelievable discounts: Legitimate wholesale options for luxury brands typically require substantial upfront investment and business licenses.
  • Pressure to pay upfront: Legitimate businesses won't pressure you to pay upfront for inventory before receiving the items.
  • Unclear reselling process: Be wary if they can't provide a clear and detailed plan for how you'll resell the items and make a profit. Often, they create a false sense of ease to lure you in.
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How to protect yourself from job scams

Finding the right job can be intimidating due to the threats of these kinds of job scams. With the right measures, however, you can spot common LinkedIn job scams and others if you take the following precautions.

Pre-application research

Researching a company before you apply is key to avoiding job scams. The right research helps you spot inconsistencies across platforms, check reviews, and learn more about the company's employees and expertise.

You should also meticulously examine the job post for grammar errors or other details that may indicate a scam. If the posting offers little to no experience but offers a high salary, or if the post is too vague regarding the type of work offered, this can also be a red flag.

Finally, you can do a reverse image search of company logos to see if these images appear as stock photos or if they are registered and copyrighted to the company.


Always be cautious of emails that use casual and informal language. Also, check for spelling errors or messages that create a sense of urgency by asking for payment or personal information to proceed with the application.

Check the email to see if it comes from a personal or work email, and be wary of WhatsApp job scams if somebody messages you with an inviting offer to make money quickly.

Finally, legitimate companies usually conduct interviews on established videoconferencing platforms; if they ask you to conduct the interviews on an unknown platform, it may be a sign of a job scam.

Report suspicious job postings

If you encounter a suspected scam, report it to the relevant platforms (e.g., job board websites) and authorities (e.g., the Federal Trade Commission in the US). When networking via platforms like LinkedIn, verify the person's profile and connections before accepting connections or engaging in conversations.

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Finding your perfect job amidst the scams

Despite the difficulties of the job market, the right job is out there waiting for you. It’s important not to rush your decision and trust your instincts if the offer sounds too good to be true. If something feels off about a job opportunity, it probably is. Don't hesitate to walk away and prioritize your safety and finances.

By making an effort to research the company beforehand and staying up to date with common job scams, you can safely navigate job websites and only apply for jobs that are worth your time.

By doing so, you will save time and money and protect your sensitive information from scammers looking to take advantage of your job search.