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Safety Tips for Your Online Job Search

Handshake and other online job systems have made it easier for you as job seekers to find positions posted by employers seeking candidates. Unfortunately, the same technology makes it easier for scammers to create fraudulent positions to take advantage of you. Though we do screen employers and the positions they post to Handshake, it is very important that you as a job seeker exercise common sense and caution when responding to any job posting.

If a position or job offer seems to be too good to be true, if you feel uncomfortable with some of the information requested, or something just doesn't seem right—either back off or proceed with extreme caution. Even if the original position description seems valid, if you receive follow-up e-mails, phone calls, or job offers that seem unusual, you need to proceed cautiously.

The following are some typical red flags:

  • You are asked to provide your credit card, bank account numbers, or other personal financial documentation.
  • The posting appears to be from a reputable, familiar company (often a Fortune 500). Yet, the domain in the contact’s email address does not match the domain used by representatives of the company (this is typically easy to determine from the company’s website). Another way to validate is to check the open positions on the company’s website.
  • The position requires an initial investment, such as a payment by wire service or courier.
  • The posting includes many spelling and grammatical errors.
  • The position initially appears as a traditional job…upon further research, it sounds more like an independent contractor opportunity.
  • You are offered a large payment or reward in exchange for allowing the use of your bank account (often for depositing checks or transferring money).
  • You receive an unexpectedly large check.
  • You are asked to provide a photo of yourself.
  • The position is for any of the following: Envelope Stuffers, Home-based Assembly Jobs, Online Surveys.
  • The posting neglects to mention what the responsibilities of the job actually are. Instead, the description focuses on the amount of money to be made.
  • The position indicates a “first year compensation” that is in high excess to the average compensation for that position type.
  • Look at the company’s website. Does it have an index that tells you what the site is about; or does it contain information only about the job you are interested in? Scammers often create quick, basic web pages that seem legit at first glance.
  • Watch for anonymity. If it is difficult to find an address, actual contact, company name, etc. - this is cause to proceed with caution. Fraud postings are illegal, so scammers will try to keep themselves well-hidden.
  • The salary range listed is very wide (i.e. “employees can earn from $40K - $80K the first year!”)
  • When you Google the company name and the word “scam” (i.e. Acme Company Scam), the results show several scam reports concerning this company. Another source for scam reports is: http://www.ripoffreport.com.
  • Google the employer’s phone number, fax number and/or email address. If it does not appear connected to an actual business organization, this is a red flag. The Symplicity team often uses the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/us/consumers/), Hoovers (http://www.hoovers.com/) and AT&T’s Anywho (http://www.anywho.com/) to verify organizations.
  • The employer contacts you by phone, however there is no way to call them back. The number is not available.
  • The employer tells you that they do not have an office set-up in your area, and will need you to help them get it up and running (these postings often include a request for your banking information, supposedly to help the employer make transactions).

If you encounter suspicious postings in Handshake, or if you suspect you have been the victim of an employer scam, please report your experience to the Career Development Office at cdo@vassar.edu  and end all communication with the employer. 

You may also wish to do the following:

  • Contact the police and report the fraud or scam
  • If personal information was disclosed, monitor your accounts over the next few days
  • If you have sent money to a fraud employer, contact your bank or credit card company immediately to close your account and dispute the charges
  • If the incident occurred entirely over the internet, file an incident report with the FCC at 1.877.FTC.HELP (1.877.382.4357) or at www.cybercrime.gov.

Job Search Safety Tips