Fraudulent Job Offers and Email Scams

Students and alumni in the internship and job search process are seeking promising opportunities. Knowing this, fraudulent employers offer hopeful candidates seemingly ideal job opportunities with the intention of stealing their money, identity, and personal information. Although fake job scams have been around a long time, advances in technology make it easier and more lucrative for scammers to pose as potential employers.  Cyber criminals fabricate job opportunities that seem real by spoofing the websites of legitimate companies and the emails of real people.   Thousands of people report being a victim to employment scams each year and the damages can be significant.   

University Career Services works to support students and alumni in exploring career options, and we want to ensure safe job searching practices and precautions. We encourage you to explore this page to learn how to recognize and avoid becoming a victim of fraud.  

Warning Signs of a Job Fraud

Check out this 4 minute video from Candid Career with the key Do & Do Nots.

What to look out for

Often, scammers make their proposed job positions look legitimate, making job seekers more likely to fall for their trap. Below are some red flags that are commonly found in fraudulent job offers. 

  • The email address is not affiliated with a company (ex. Gmail, yahoo). Scammers may pretend to be from a recognizable organization. Some may even use a St. John’s email address making the job offer appear legitimate. 
  • The job offer is “too good to be true.” The employer personally reaches out to you. The job position is high-paying but requires little work. The employer contacts you immediately after applying. The interview is quick, and the employer hires you right away.
  • The email is written unprofessionally. The email/text contains several grammatical errors, misspelled words, or uses all-caps. The subject of the email is vague or irrelevant. 
  • Information on the company is difficult to find. An online search of the company shows little to no details about the company or the job position being offered. 
  • The job description/company is not specific. The job requirements are too simple (ex. Must be 18 years old. Must be a citizen) and do not ask for details about your education or past experiences. A real employer would list specific requirements. There is no company address or phone number provided.
  • The job requires you to handle money place orders, or deposit checks. The employer promises you a job if you pay upfront. The employer asks you to deposit a check, keep some of the money, and send the rest to someone else. The check is most likely fake and will get bounced by the bank. Scammers may also get you to launder money (transferring money from one account to another), which is against the law. 
  • The employer asks for confidential information. The employer may ask for your Social Security, bank account, date of birth, and other personal information over the phone, email, or text. Before sending any information to employers, make sure the website is secure having a URL beginning with “HTTPS://” and not “HTTP://”. 
  • The employer only communicates via email or text. The employer may ask to interview you using an instant messaging service and ask for confidential information in the process.  

Example of an unsolicited job offer

Text explaining what a job offer scam looks like

How to avoid getting scammed

Before applying for any job, it is important to conduct ample research on the company and employer. Below are a few precautions you can take before you accept a job offer to protect yourself from scammers.

  • Do not share personal or financial information with a contact you did not expect. A legitimate company would not ask for information (ex. Social Security, bank account, credit card) via phone, email, or text. 
  • Do not click on any links/call the number provided. Once you call the number provided, the scammer now has your phone number. To contact the company, do an online search for a trustworthy website or look up their phone number.
  • Take your time. Fraudulent job employers will pressure you to act quickly by paying or sharing personal information with them. A real employer would not pressure you to make a quick decision. 
  • Do your research.
    • The company: Search online for the company’s website. Look for details about the company and employer. If you suspect that a scammer is pretending to be a recognizable company, call the company and see if the employer that contacted you exists.  
    • The employer: Who is the employer? What is his/her contact information? Search for the employer’s name along with the company to see if there are matching results.
    • The email address: Before you contact the employer, search for the email address online to see if any matching results come up. Type “scam” after the email to see if the email is associated with existing scam reports. You can also search for the phone number online or website domain name. 
  • Search for jobs through a reliable platform. St. John’s University uses the recruiting platform, Handshake, to safely connect students to potential job opportunities. All jobs featured on Handshake comply with the university’s job policies and guidelines creating an effective and safe job search experience for students. 

 What to do if you are a victim of fraud

 Fraudulent employers can be highly persuasive and deceptive. If you think you gave money or personal information to a fraudulent employer, there are actions you can take to minimize the outcome of being scammed. Below are resources that will guide you on what to do next. 

  • If you sent money, personal information, or gave computer access to a scammer visit Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 
  • Report a scam to the FTC. Watch this video on how to report a scam. 
  • Report spam or phishing email messages in Outlook
  • If the scam is connected to your enrollment at St. John’s, contact Public Safety at 718-990-5252. 

Additional Resources

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Fraudulent Employers: Tips for Students

Top 10 Job Scam Warnings