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10 Warning Signs That Online Job Offer Is a Money Scam

·5 min read
©Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com / Shutterstock.com

Even though the global pandemic has pushed some companies to allow employees to work from home, it's not a new concept. Working from home was -- and still continues to be -- an avenue for many people to earn money.

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But that doesn't mean that every remote or online job offer is legitimate. Some are outright scams, perpetrated by people who want to gain access to your personal information or trick you into spending money.

As you consider online job ads and offers, here are warning signs to look for to avoid falling victim to a scam.

Last updated: May 14, 2021

Unemployed beautiful young woman looking for a job online from home using a laptop and her smart phone, trying to decide what to do.
Unemployed beautiful young woman looking for a job online from home using a laptop and her smart phone, trying to decide what to do.

Job Listings or Emails Are Full of Errors

Legitimate companies send correspondence from professional email addresses -- not personal email accounts. When a job offer comes from what appears to be a personal address, such as a Gmail account, consider it a red flag.

An email that contains multiple grammatical errors or misspelled words is also a sign of someone who may be trying to scam you. Those types of errors may mean that the scammer is simply careless. However, it could be a strategy to weed out all but the most gullible of recipients, which make for better-scamming targets.

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Man working at home with laptop computer.
Man working at home with laptop computer.

Job Description and Requirements Are Vague

If you regularly look at job ads, you'll likely notice that they almost always include specific details about job duties, hours and requirements for the position offered. Salary and benefits might also be stated.

Job ads that could lead to a money scam include those that are vague and have very little detail. Once you reply to this type of ad, you may receive an email. Note if the email also seems generic, such as not having your name in the greeting line. If so, it's likely a boilerplate reply to anyone who responds to the scam.

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Working at home - work office.
Working at home - work office.

What You Thought Was a Job Opportunity Wasn't

You apply or register online for what you think is a job opportunity. Then, you get a reply offering you a membership to a job database or some kind of career service, such as counseling, for a fee.

While there may well be a product or membership you can buy, advertising a job to get your contact information -- and your money -- is scammy.

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Unrecognizable young man counting US Dollar bills.
Unrecognizable young man counting US Dollar bills.

Upfront Expenses Are Required To Gain Access to the Opportunity

People who are desperately seeking an online job are vulnerable to scammers. A scammer may ask job seekers to pay for a training course or certification to gain eligibility for an attractive job offer.

If you send the money, you might get something in return but it won't be a job. A legitimate job offer will not require you to pay to apply.

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Young woman using cell phone to send text message on social network at night.
Young woman using cell phone to send text message on social network at night.

Interviews Take Place Over Messaging Platforms

An online job interview through web-based interviewing platforms like Spark Hire or HireFunnel is what you'd expect from a legitimate company. But if you're offered an interview on messaging services like Google Hangouts or Yahoo Messenger, be leery.

Scammers use these platforms to "interview" you for a job. Then, before the interview is over, they offer the job to you and ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number, to set up direct deposit for your upcoming paychecks.

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Smiling creative business man typing on desktop computer in office.
Smiling creative business man typing on desktop computer in office.

The Job Seems Too Good To Be True

In most instances, if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. The same goes for job descriptions that offer easy work for terrific pay with no training. If you see this kind of ad, alarm bells should go off in your head.

If you think it could be a legitimate job opportunity, do some online research to find out if it could be a scam. Check the reported salary for the job on a site like PayScale or Glassdoor. If the compensation is way less than what you're being offered, it's likely a scam.

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young woman doing research work for her business.
young woman doing research work for her business.

The Company's Online Presence Doesn't Exist or Is Minimal

When a company is offering a job that you're interested in, it can pay off to research its background. Look for its website and see if it looks professional and informative or if it's basic and vague. Check out any social media accounts to see if there are followers and evidence of company events and actual people who work there.

Also, go to LinkedIn and search for the company name. If it's legitimate, there will be a link on the company's page to take you to employee profiles of real people who actually work there.

Read: Companies That Let You Work From Anywhere

due date calendar and alarm clock with blur business woman hand calculating  monthly expenses during tax season.
due date calendar and alarm clock with blur business woman hand calculating monthly expenses during tax season.

A Sense of Urgency To Hire

If you see an ad for a company that is hiring immediately or has a same-day hiring process, be on guard. Additionally, if a representative contacts you immediately after you apply and says the company is looking to fill the position that day or week, politely ask why. According to a recent Indeed survey, only 4% of job applicants hear back from a company the same day that they apply.

Plus, no matter how fast a company wants to hire you, a legitimate hiring process still takes time.

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Cropped close up image of pensive bearded entrepreneur in optical spectacles for better views dressed in black sweatshirt.
Cropped close up image of pensive bearded entrepreneur in optical spectacles for better views dressed in black sweatshirt.

The Web Address Is Slightly Altered

If you see a job ad that appears to be from a well-known company that's offering online jobs, put your detective hat on. If you click on the link, you might be redirected to a site that looks legitimate -- but examine the web address closely. Look for a subtle change in the address, such as an extra letter, a dash or a dot.

Scammers often recreate a well-known website, using a slightly altered web address to reel in unsuspecting job seekers.

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Social Security Card.
Social Security Card.

Personal Details Are Requested Upfront

While it's not illegal for a company to ask for your Social Security number on a job application, you do not need to supply it at that stage. Only after you have been offered a job would it be necessary for the company to have the number for hiring paperwork.

Also, be wary of a job application that asks for your birthdate, along with answers to random questions, such as those you would use to secure a password. This could be an attempt to steal your identity or gain access to your accounts. Here are some examples: What is your mother's maiden name? Who was your first employer? What was the name of your first pet?

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 10 Warning Signs That Online Job Offer Is a Money Scam