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Real vs Fake Jobs: Your 2024 Guide

Fake jobs and scams are rampant right now. reports 32% of workers who searched for a job in a recent two-year period were tricked into applying and/or interviewing for fake jobs. Among them, 48% ultimately had personal information stolen and 12% were tricked into sending money.

While these scams are ever-changing (so an all-inclusive list would be impossible), we compiled descriptions of some of the more disturbing fake jobs on the rise below:

LinkedIn Fakes

The FTC recently warned job seekers about an uptick in fake recruiters reaching out on LinkedIn and other job sites. LinkedIn is a great place for recruiters to find you and this scam can be hard to detect from legitimate interactions at first. The first red flag may be a follow up from a personal email address and not from the company the recruiter claims to represent. Even if they pass that test, they may push you for personal information like your driver’s license, Social Security, or bank account number, to fill out “employment paperwork” surprisingly early in the process. The final clue would be if they ask you for money.

“You’ll get an invoice (it’s fake) for equipment like a computer they’ll order for you, but tell you to pay for — using cash, Zelle, or PayPal. They promise to reimburse you. But they won’t because it’s a scam,” the FTC warns.

We covered similar LinkedIn scams last spring, with advice from LinkedIn on how to protect yourself. It’s also wise to review our post How Recruiters Find You on LinkedIn for an idea of how reputable recruiters use LinkedIn to find you.

Entry-Level Scams

The FTC most recently warned that college students are falling victim to a particular virtual interview job scam.

“College students are telling us they’ve been approached on social media platforms by people claiming to be recruiters for Wall Street firms, tech companies, national retailers, and other attractive places to land a job. The pitch is convincing,” the FTC admits. “The ‘recruiter’ may claim to have a connection at the college and say that the Dean or a professor has recommended the student as a top-flight prospect for the company’s prestigious management program. In some cases, the recruiter may pepper the conversation with faculty names, campus landmarks, or even memories of their days back at good ol’ insert-school-here.”

A series of virtual interviews is followed by a lucrative job offer. Then comes the request for personal information and sometimes even a signing-bonus check that “needs to have a portion of the cash sent to someone else, perhaps to cover the cost of a company phone or laptop.” When it gets to that point, if you haven’t already, the FTC says to pump the brakes. Contact the referenced faculty member or call the company directly to see if it’s aware of the opportunity. The FTC offers more advice here.

Ghost Jobs

This one is a bit different because it can be perpetrated by legitimate employers. The Wall Street Journal recently reported a trend in organizations placing or keeping active job ads that aren’t attached to active job openings.

A survey found that 27% of employers were guilty of posting these “fake jobs” for a multitude of reasons: Many wanted to give the impression the company was growing or to “placate overworked employees.” Others admitted to stocking a pipeline of ready applicants in case an employee quits or an “irresistible” candidate applies. Still others are required to post all job openings, even if a candidate has been predetermined. While the practice won’t swindle you out of money or steal your identity, it does waste your valuable time.

Indeed compiled a list of 17 more common fake jobs that should have you on alert. Scammers can take the form of hiring managers, recruiters, career coaches, HR or IT departments, and others. There are scams involving pay-to-play government opportunities and pay-for-your-own credit report scams (don’t ever pay for a job opportunity or anything related to a new employer, please). A reputable recruiter can help you avoid these and the other traps more easily than you can on your own.

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