Published April 20, 2020
Students can be targeted by fake job offer scams, putting them in financial and legal risk.
What does a job offer scam look like?
Job offer scams typically work like this: someone contacts you, usually by email, and invites you to apply for or start a job. These job offers are almost always unsolicited—meaning you never applied or interviewed for the job.
There are many different kinds of scams. A common one involves asking you to handle, transfer, or spend money for seemingly legitimate purposes like ordering office supplies—they’ll even send you a check.
But the money is an illusion. Although you may receive a check, that check will typically bounce. Depending on how you are directed to use the money, you could even be charged with a crime like money laundering or credit card fraud.
Many college students are anxious about finding a job, and these scams use tactics meant to trigger those anxieties. If someone contacts you with an unexpected job offer, here are some things to look for to determine if it’s a scam.
Scams are generic
“Dear student,” one scam email begins, “We got your contact through your school directory…”
Emails that don’t mention specifics like your name or the school you attend are kept general so they can be sent to many people at once. It is highly uncommon for a company to offer a job to a large group of people, especially when those people haven’t applied or interviewed.
Job offer scams might also include generic job descriptions like “organize items orders [sic]” or “[write] detailed reports,” and sometimes include no job description at all.
Scams are unsolicited
“You are selected from your school directory to partake in the ongoing Student Empowerment Program PART TIME JOB OFFER…” reads another scam email.
Any student who has applied for jobs knows the market can be competitive. And just as companies don’t typically offer jobs to a large number of people, they also don’t typically select those people at random.
If you receive an offer for a job for which you didn’t apply, and they claim to have found you through “your school directory” or “your school job search,” you are most likely the target of a scam.
Scams are too good to be true
One scam email from “Terry White” (no company listed) encourages you to “Work 4-8 hours weekly and get paid $250.”
That’s $31.25 an hour—not bad for an entry-level position for which you were chosen randomly.
Michael Behun Jr. is the UB Information Security Office’s HIPAA Privacy and Security Official. He encourages everyone to remember: if a job offer seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
“A good question to ask is, ‘Why is somebody paying me this much to do something they could do themselves?’” Behun said.
Job offer scams entice with unbelievably good pay for very easy work—something that just isn’t that common in the real job market.
Scams have spelling and grammar errors
Emails from reputable companies will, at a minimum, have little or no spelling or grammar errors. An abundance of errors in spelling or grammar is a definite red flag.
The following are all quotes from real job offer scams:
- “Accompanied by an attractive wages and a reasonable working hours per week.”
- “Do not need a transportable mechanism as all needed task can be done online.”
- “Receive detailed invoice showing all products ordered for are correct and in place.”
Job scams at IU
Sometimes scammers impersonate instructors, advisors, deans or other members of the IU community to trick students and employees into giving up personal information. This can also take the form of a fake job offer.
As a rule, students are only hired for IU student jobs through official channels like an @iu.edu email address, or an application on Career Link/Handshake or an official employer website.
To protect yourself from job scams involving someone pretending to be from the IU community, do not respond to any offers coming from an unofficial email address, or an unofficial communication channel like a text message, even if the sender claims to be someone you know from IU.
If you are interested finding a job, consider searching for positions on Career Link or other legitimate system that vets job postings.
- Do an internet search for the company to see if they have an active website and physical address.
- Look up their address on Google Earth to view their physical location. If it is non-existent or a residential location be wary.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are complaints against the company.