How To Spot A Job Scam

Ensure your next gig is legitimate

Anupam Chugh
Apr 13, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

It’s easy to fall for a job scam. No really, it is. Alongside the number of real job openings, the volume of scams is also increasing today. Sometimes, this makes it tricky to differentiate between legitimate jobs and a scam.

People seeking out their next gigs are more likely to stumble across scams. Ask any developer, writer, marketer or freelancer with an internet presence and they’ll show you a mailbox full of fake job offers. While the classic forms of scam do involve money transfers at some stage, by requesting bank or card details, in 2020, that’s an obvious red flag. Understandably, I’ll stay away from phishing and money related scams and instead focus on the more sophisticated ones. Scams that involve luring you into work and career-related opportunities.

I hope the following warning signs would help you identify a scam, sooner rather than when it’s too late.

The Interview Happens At An Express Pace With Immediacy And Urgency

You open your inbox and find a new message. They cite your work online and are in awe with it. They walk you through their job requirements and look forward to setting up an interview quickly. The interview is conducted and you get the job soon — without much discussion or process to follow.

That’s a red flag. If the interview was ridiculously simple and the pay is great, take a step back and ponder over some questions.

  • Is the job description vague? Scammers typically send out job descriptions that a wide range of workforce can qualify for. Ensure that the job requirements aren’t a sales pitch. The right employer would spare no effort to write a thorough job description. Neither would they run through a hiring process despite how tight the deadlines are.
  • Is the contact information legitimate? Always check if the email has the company’s address and contact details. If the point of contact is using a personal email, that’s a bad sign. Besides, building websites is no rocket science. It hardly takes a day. Look into its timelines — when was it created, check the about us page, employee information, company references. Do they have a presence on Linkedin, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc?

Before agreeing to a job, or interview for that matter, always do your research on the company. If the search results don’t add up or exist for that matter, there’s a high chance its fake. As the cliche says: When things sound too good to be true, it probably is.

Scammers are sophisticated sharks. They know how to entice their baits. Typically by building trust and showing urgency. So, if you’ve got a bad feeling, “check-in with your gut”. Slow the process down. Take time to respond.

An Email Interspersed With Grammatical Mistakes

One could think that the grammar, typos and punctuation mistakes present in emails are due to carelessness or English not being the first language of the sender. Well, for scammers, at least, this certainly doesn’t hold true.

An odd typo or inconsistent spacing is understandable. Everyone does that, but not scammers. Scammers are masters at deceiving and artists in crafting emails. They strive to have a sense of control over every action. So, the emails interspersed with typos are actually intentional and meticulously planned.

Traditionally, misspelling certain words had a greater chance of penetrating through the spam filters. But one could argue the use of synonyms in this case?

The more, rational answer behind the overwhelming number of intentionally poor written emails is to filter out the “false positives”. Scamming is a long process. It requires continuously feeding the victim with lies. A less-gullible person can figure that and bail out anytime. Scammers would prefer to target a selected few who’d ultimately fall prey rather than wasting time with the smarter ones.

This strategy of inserting enough misspelling clues helps them weed out the less-naive ones at the start and target the susceptible. By tapping onto the sincerity, desperation, and vulnerabilities, a scammer establishes authority.

Besides, misspellings and grammatical errors make an email relatable since a vast majority of people aren’t Ernest Hemmingway — that’s what a scammer thinks. It helps him(or her) to build rapport and gain confidence just to exploit and fool their victim thereafter.

Closing Thoughts

Scams come in all shapes and sizes. The ones I’ve discussed above fall under the sophisticated category — common at workplaces and job boards online. It can happen to anyone and is a horrible feeling. Make sure, emotions are in check and you’ve done the due diligence of your next gig. It saves time which is as precious as money.

That’s it for this one. Thanks for reading.

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Anupam Chugh

Written by

Pouring thoughts in technology and code. Writer with over 2M views. An Android and iOS developer by the day. Investor. Sometimes funny.

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