As long as people have been around, scams have been around. While the internet and new technology has been a good thing for the world, it's never been easier to scam others. 21st-century con artists have a wide variety of tools they can use to pull off their crimes without ever leaving their house.
Fortunately, scams are easy to avoid if you know what to look for. Read on for some tips about how to stay safe when it comes to the job hunt.
Avoid Job Scams
Job searching online has experienced a significant rise over time. Now, it's hard to imagine a job search without online job boards and social media sites. This, too, has made it easier to run a scam.
In a job scam, the scammer poses as an employer. They will post fake job ads on job board sites or spread the scam via email and social media. Some scammers even set up entirely fake job boards or employer sites. These scams often appear as a "work from home opportunity" or offer a huge return for small efforts. These people target 21st century job seekers, and people do fall for them. The scammers know exactly how today's job market is and how desperate some people can become.
So, when you look for jobs on job boards or social media, be careful. Always research the company before you submit your info to any job. This is a quick way to tell if it is legitimate. Also, don't let your guard down if you find the company has a website. Sometimes, the "company" looks real, but is actually a cover for a scam, such as a pyramid scheme. In addition to checking out their website, look into reviews and feedback left by customers and employees. Always approach with caution if you have an odd feeling about the company you are researching.
While online job boards make it easy for people to discover a variety of job opportunities, some postings may not be legitimate. Therefore, it is important to use caution when reviewing and applying to jobs online.
Here are a few more red flags to watch out for:
- The "employer" wants to hire you on the spot.
- You are offered a job or interview that you didn't apply for.
- The job posting, email, etc. is full of typos and errors.
- You're required to pay money to start working there.
- The "employer" asks for personal information, i.e. your Social Security Number, copy of your driver's license, etc.
- The person who emails you has a different email address than the name of the company (i.e. smith@gmail rather than smith@nameofcompany).
To read more about online scams, check out this article.
Stay Safe on Social Media
The social media revolution caused a huge shift in how we view online security. Before Facebook, it was taboo to post anything online that revealed their real-life identity. Posting your real name, location, photos, and other personal info was unthinkable. However, all these things are now considered normal.
Although they're useful tools for the job search, social media sites have a lot of security risks built in. Having your identity online is a risk itself, but you ultimately have the power to control what you post and how you use these sites. Here are some tips for staying safe.
- Vary your passwords – Don't use the same password for all your social accounts. If someone hacks into one, you don't want them to be able to get into the rest.1
- Don't overshare – When you share too much, you risk your privacy and make yourself an easier target for scams and identity theft. Have limits for what information you will and will not post. Also, never post anything private like your financial info or Social Security number. Read more about oversharing in this article. For more information about what identity theft is and how to deal with it, check out this article.
- Use good judgment – Don't trust an email or message just because it looks real. If it seems fishy, it helps to do some Googling first to make sure it isn't fake. Don't trust messages or emails asking you to send money or personal information.
- Protect your devices – Security problems can happen "offline" as well! If a crook gets a hold of your phone or laptop where you're logged in, they can easily do damage. So, make sure your devices are at least protected by a password or PIN. This makes sure that you are the only one using your social accounts.1
- Don't forget the "block" button – It's there for a reason. If you are being spammed with suspicious messages or posts, block the sender and report them.1
- Protect your login details – Write down your username and password and keep them in a safe place. Don't store them on your computer. Also, never give your password to anyone online. If you get a message asking for your password, it is without a doubt fake.
- Watch out for short URLS – Many legitimate companies use these on social media, especially ones with character limits. However, social media is a popular tool for scammers. If you have to click on a short URL, it helps to run it through a URL expander first. This way, you know exactly where the link goes.
- Be wary of "giveaways" – These are popular on sites like Facebook and will claim you can "win" something if you click a link. If you see any of these, ignore them as they are usually scams.
- Watch for suspicious posts – A common social media scam involves hijacking a person's account and posting things in their name. If a friend or connection posts or messages you something that seems fishy, be on guard and do not click any links. Scammers may also set up bogus accounts or pages designed to trick people, so watch out for these as well.
- Ignore that "IRS Warning" – The IRS will never email you. If you get a message claiming to be from the IRS, ignore and delete it.
- Install security software – Common sense is the best weapon against security issues. However, there have been cyberattacks in the past that affected people regardless of what they did. For example, "ransomware" attacks can spread from computer to computer without the user having to do anything. Because of this, it's a good idea to protect yourself with some good software such as Avast or Malwarebytes. You could also install software that scans links for you, such as Web of Trust.
Other Security Tips
There are a few tips that apply to internet safety in general. Here are some tips for protecting yourself:
- Don't click links in an email or message. Instead, log into the real website directly or contact the organization. The only exception is if you're verifying your account on a site you just signed up for.
- If you're suspicious about a site, check the entire domain name instead of just the beginning. It's helpful to take a look at Wikipedia's list of top-level domains. That's because domain names always end with a top-level domain such as ".com, .org, .net, .gov, or .edu." Remember that it must end with one of these. There's nothing stopping scammers from using "com" as a subdomain.
- There's an old adage: "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is." Always be wary of what comes into your email or social media inbox. If something seems unbelievable, be on your guard, and use Google to research it.
- It's unheard of for actual businesses to ask for customers' Social Security numbers. If an email or website asks for yours, that's a huge red flag.
- Last but not least, trust your gut. If something "just doesn't feel right," that may be a sign it's not.