WGU Career & Professional Development
How to Avoid Fraudulent Job & Internship Postings
While you are working hard to ensure that you land an ideal opportunity, be aware that the perfect job may not be so perfect. Con artists and scammers can and do attempt to post job listings on Handshake in order to obtain money or identity information from unsuspecting students. Although the WGU Career & Professional Development staff reviews all new employer accounts to determine that contact information appears valid and job descriptions appear legitimate, some fraudulent parties have succeeded in posting jobs and internships.
In order to help safeguard students and alumni against potential threats, we are providing the following security-related tips and resources that will help you evaluate job or internship postings. If you suspect a position you encounter through the Handshake database or through your wgu.edu email is fraudulent, please contact our career services team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are common "red flags" that we encourage you to look for as you evaluate opportunities, as they often indicate that an opportunity is fraudulent:
- Send money as a condition of application or employment; never purchase gift cards or equipment for an employer.
- Give credit card or bank account numbers, or copies of personal documents.
- Cash checks, wire or transfer money, or utilize your bank account to deposit checks or transfer money as part of the application process or as a condition of employment. The check will bounce, and you will be liable.
- Email someone whose contact information is not listed or from a different domain than the company or organization.
- Send your resume to a generic email address (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.). (NOTE: this is not necessarily an immediate hallmark of illegitimacy, as many small businesses and/or start-ups utilize generic email accounts as they are getting started; but use of a generic email address should trigger some additional research on your part).
- Accept a position if the interview is conducted online or over the phone, and an offer is given almost immediately.
- Send a personal photo of yourself.
- Apply to position listings with bad spelling or very poor grammar.
- Apply for a job that is emailed to you out of the blue.
- Provide your social security and driver’s license information on the initial application. Personal information should never be asked during the initial application process.
- Agree to a background check unless you have met the employer in person.
- Review jobs and internships thoroughly. If the job promises a large salary or reward for very little work (especially those that state thousands of dollars of income per month with little or no experience required).
- Read through the job description and make sure you have an understanding of jobs and responsibilities. Scammers often neglect to mention the responsibilities of the job. Instead, the description focuses on the amount of money to be made.
- Watch for anonymity. If it is difficult to find an address, actual contact, organization name, or other company identifying data, proceed with extreme caution. Fraudulent job posters/scammers will try to keep themselves well hidden.
- Make sure you find and research the company contact information: company website, physical address, phone number, etc. It is a more than likely a scam if the employer contacts you by phone, but there is no way to call them back (the number is not available).
- Conduct thorough research on positions that indicate the candidate will be "working from home" or will be a "virtual" employee; while some legitimate home-based opportunities exist, this is a common element of fraudulent postings as well and opportunities with these qualities deserve additional scrutiny on your part.
- Meet face-to-face with the potential employer. An in-person interview or informal chat over coffee will help you determine the employer's intentions.
Trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Pay attention to anything that seems 'off'. You can read more tips on identifying fraudulent employers from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
- Read the employer/company description (if available) before submitting any application materials.
- Google the organization name and the word “scam” (e.g., Acme Company Scam), to see if the results show several scam reports concerning this organization. Another source for scam reports is http://www.ripoffreport.com.
- If you have doubts about a company's legitimacy, research the company using web sites operated by the Better Business Bureau, Hoovers, or AT&T's Anywho.
- Make informed decisions before sharing your Social Security Number with a potential employer. Most employers will not ask for personal information until you arrive at their offices for an interview and are given a formal job application, so be wary if you are asked to give your Social Security Number by phone, email, or online. Asking for a Social Security Number is not illegal, but they should have a good reason for doing so at the initial application
- Never wire funds via Western Union or any other wire services to a potential employer
- Never accept any kind of offer to cash checks or money orders on someone's behalf
- Refrain from providing credit card or bank account numbers or engaging in any financial transactions over the phone or online with a potential employer/recruiter
- Withhold offering personal information (such as marital status, age, height, weight). Such questions might violate federal hiring standards, and job seekers are not obligated to answer them
- Exercise caution when dealing with prospective job contacts outside of the United States at companies with which you are not familiar
What if I am already involved in a scam?
As long as you did not include your Social Security Number, bank numbers or a photo with your application, there is a low risk that your privacy would be compromised at this point. However, if you have concerns and you are contacted by the company after you apply, we discourage you from filling out any additional application materials or responding back at all.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests the following instructions:
You should immediately contact the local police department. The police department is responsible for conducting an investigation (regardless of whether the scam artist is local or in another state).
- To report a scam, file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission. Check out their video on how to report scam and more ways to avoid fraud.
- If it is a situation where you have sent money to a fraudulent employer, contact your bank or credit card company immediately to close the account and dispute the charges.
- If the incident occurred completely over the internet, file an incident report with: http://www.cybercrime.gov/ or by calling the FTC at: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
- If the position was posted on Handshake, please also contact WGU Career & Professional Development Employer & Student Engagement Coordinator, Michael Kimball-Bryant as soon as possible: email@example.com.
If you have concerns about identity theft problems resulting from your resume submission, you can also find helpful information at the Federal Trade Commission https://identitytheft.gov/ and the Identity Theft Resource Center www.idtheftcenter.org. There, you will find fact sheets and detailed information about specific steps you may wish to take.
Information adapted from: Rutgers University, University of Washington, University of Southern California.