Fake Job Posts: Avoid These Time Wasters

There are plenty of good job opportunities to be found through job search engines, including sites like Monster.com and Idealist.org (we’ve compiled a list of other useful online resources here). Unfortunately, job seekers do need to keep their guard up when looking online for jobs. Fake or fraudulent job posts are impossible to avoid, and they’re sometimes subtle enough to fool even the typically savvy applicant.

Some fake posts, for example, advertise legitimate-sounding positions that, in reality, the employer has no intention of filling in the immediate future–if ever.  At the very least, applicants end up wasting valuable time tailoring their cover letters and resumes to apply for a positions that doesn’t exist. Here’s what to watch out for:

On this page:
  • Fake posts written by H.R. staff or recruiting agencies
  • Data-mining scams

Part 2:

  • Fake check scams
  • Direct deposit scams
  • Identity theft scams
  • Hidden fee scams

Fake posts written by H.R. staff or recruiting agencies

Why would a recruiter post an ad for a job that they have no intention of filling anytime soon? Recruiter.com, a site aimed at recruiters themselves, offers some insight. In one scenario, a company might be considering creating a new position sometime in the future, and hiring managers want to gauge interest and get a sense of the talent pool out there. In other cases, a human resources department has either pre-purchased a certain number of listings from a search engine service or has has extra money left over in its recruiting budget.

Headhunters or recruiting firms sometimes stockpile resumes for future use and eventually contact applicants when a position opens. In some cases, it can even be useful to send out a general “fishing” resume. At the same time, applicants should keep in mind that they might unwittingly disqualify themselves from later being hired directly by any company that has an ongoing contract with that recruiting agency.

The fewer details included in a post, the more likely it’s a fake. “Be as specific as you can when searching for a job – if possible, list both a specific job title and location, ” advises Alyson Doyle at AboutCareers. Also look for specific requirements and qualifications and/or the contact information for a hiring manager (rather than an HR department or a recruiting agency), Phil Rosenberg at ReCareered recommends. And keep in mind that generic ads appearing week after week are unlikely to be real.

Data-mining scams

Other fake job posts encourage you provide “employers” with personal data (your name, email address, phone number, home address, education, and more) that they can then sell to anyone.

Another way scammers collect your email address and personal information: you reply to an offer that seems to good to be true, only to be informed that you need to register through an additional website service (one that promises even more job listings) before your application can be processed. If you do so, you’ll likely end up only with nothing to show but an email inbox filled with spam.

Before sending a resume or providing personal information, always check the potential employer’s website. The USC Career Center recommends doing the following:

  • Look for an index on the website, and beware of any site devoted solely to the position you’ve seen advertised. Scammers sometimes create a basic website that can seem legitimate at first glance.
  • Validate the position you’ve seen advertised by checking to see if it matches open positions listed on the company’s website.
  • Verify the contact information listed in the job post.

Also be very careful about sharing any sort of personal information like your social security number. It’s best to complete these job applications in-person and at a company’s office.

Part 2: Subtle Job Scamsjob scam

The next entry addresses even sleazier fake job posts–and how to avoid them.





Flannery Amdahl

Flannery is a PhD candidate in the GC's Political Science department.