5 Tips to Avoid a Job Scam

by Phil Cross

OKLAHOMA CITY – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is or so the old adage goes. It is a phrase intended to inject a healthy dose of skepticism into the person on the receiving end of the advice before they make a rash decision.

The advice is as true today as it was in its earliest mentions, which according to the website The Phrase Finder was as early as 1580.

For students, or adults, looking to supplement their income either with a part-time job or full-time employment there are people who want to take advantage of the desire to get rich quick.

How do you avoid getting scammed by a job that makes you pay more than you’ll earn? Here are some quick tips from the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission that will help you avoid the job scam.

Red Flag 1. The cold contact.

Who initiated the job offer contact? Did you reply to an ad or did you get an email seemingly out of the blue from someone promising you a big payday?

Kitt Letcher is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Oklahoma. She said some legitimate job recruiters do reach out to potential job candidates through sites like Indeed and LinkedIn, but an unsolicited job offer should be the first thing that makes you look a little closer at the situation.

Also beware if the pitch to you is for a “previously undisclosed” federal job warns the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website about job scams. All federal jobs are posted online and all that information is freely available to the public. “Don’t believe anyone who promises you a federal or postal job,” the site added.

Red Flag 2. Sticking to a script.

Are you able to have a meaningful conversation with someone who calls you about a job or are you able to schedule a face-to-face meeting about a potential job?

“If you are not able to have the one-on-one conversation with them they either have poor communication skills or they have to stick to a script,” Letcher said. Before taking a job you should be able to meet with the company in person, or have some sort of meaningful personal interaction as compared to just an email exchange.

Red Flag 3. Paying to get the job.

If a job requires you to put up money before you are paid, beware. This can take many forms, sometimes, according to the BBB, job scams require the purchasing of training materials or certifications before a person is hired.

“After you pay, the job doesn’t materialize,” explains the Federal Trade Commission website about job scams, “Employers and employment firms shouldn’t ask you to pay for the promise of a job.”

Red Flag 4. Too much information.

When you get hired for a job, you need to provide a lot of personal information to ensure your taxes are calculated and the employment paperwork is completed correctly. However, the BBB warns much of this personal information is not, and should not, be required before you are hired.

The FTC website adds this advice is applicable to avoid many scams. “Don’t give out your credit card or bank account information over the phone to a company unless you’re familiar with them and have agreed to pay for something.”

Red Flag 5. Can you find them?

Where is the office located for the job you are being offered? Letcher said even legitimate remote work opportunities are connected to a physical location. Do not just rely on an address listed on a job advertisement.

“Even if you are working remotely on something like data entry, you should still be able to find a physical office location,” Letcher said.

The BBB warned job scammers often use addresses that sound like real locations, but are in fact mail boxes at shipping stores. Another common tactic is to use well known addresses for office buildings, even though the office does not exist.

For Oklahoma City, that sometimes includes addresses linked to downtown towers which contain multiple officers. Letcher said you should do what her staff did to a caller who wanted to get his business accredited by the BBB and claimed a downtown address. The BBB employee asked “What does the Devon Tower look like this morning.” Letcher said the man responded that he could not see the tower from anywhere around his building, when in fact the address was directly across the street.

When the BBB identifies a job scam they add it to the real-time scam tracker on the agency’s website Letcher said. The agency also includes information not just about the specific company, but also information about the owners or principals in the company. Collecting this information creates a trail of information in case the same people try to change a company name but keep pulling the same scam.

How do you find a legitimate job? Try looking local. Letcher said starting your job search at local companies where you can visit office headquarters or meet with people in person is a great way to avoid being scammed.

“Always vet a business before you go work for them,” Letcher said. If the company is claiming to be corporation or an LLC, check out the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s website to see if they are properly registered. Do an online search for the company and any names associated with the business.

If you find a scam you don’t have to keep it to yourself. You can report it to the BBB or to the FTC to help protect others.

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