Beware of Job-Hunting Scams

As I was researching ideas, I discovered a topic that I had never heard about before: job-hunting scams. I knew about credit card scams and Social Security scams; even romance scams targeting unsuspecting singles. But fraud on the job-search scene is something new to me.

Unfortunately, these scams can be hard to detect because, according to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers advertise online, in newspapers and on TV and radio — the same places where legitimate employers do too.

Here are some red flags the FTC says to beware of during a job hunt:

–You’re told you must pay to get the job. “They may say they’ve got a job waiting, or guarantee to place you in a job, if you just pay a fee for certification, training materials, or their expenses placing you with a company,” the FTC explains. “But after you pay, the job doesn’t materialize.”

–You’re told you must provide your credit card or bank account information

–The ad is for “previously undisclosed” federal government jobs. These jobs don’t exist! According to the FTC, information about available federal jobs (including postal jobs) is free, and all federal positions are announced to the public on

So what if you decide using a job placement service is a better, safer bet? There are myriad, highly reputable companies out there, of course. But there are outliers too. Before you sign any contract with a job placement service, the FTC suggests taking these steps:

–Check with the hiring company or organization the placement service mentions in an ad or interview. “Contact that company to find out if the company really is hiring through the service,” the FTC advises.

–Get all details in writing. Be sure you understand how much working with the service will cost, exactly what you get for your money, who pays any fees (the company that hires you), and what happens if the service doesn’t find you a job for even any real leads. And make sure any promises, including refund promises, are in writing. “If they’re reluctant to answer your questions, or give confusing answers, you should be reluctant to work with them,” the FTC cautions.

–Get a copy of the contract with the placement firm, and read it carefully. Don’t let anyone pressure you into signing on the spot. “Some listing services and ‘consultants’ write ads to sound like jobs, but that’s just a marketing trick,” the FTC explains. “They’re really selling general information about getting a job — information you can find for free on your own.”

–Check for complaints. Reach out to your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed. But realize that no complaints don’t necessarily mean no problem, the FTC notes. Doing a little sleuthing — searching online using the name of the company along with words like review, scam or complaint and trying to find past newspaper and magazine articles about the company are ways a bit of follow-up research can help you uncover problems before a contract is signed.

(Article written by Kathleen Furore)