Flexible, remote work sounds like a dream for most because it’s easy and convenient — but that means it can be easy and convenient for potential scammers, too. I’ve worked with women to find remote jobs for over 25 years, so I’ve seen a variety of different scams vying to steal money or personal information from victims seeking work-from-home jobs.
One, in particular, went a little something like this: A company reached out to me randomly one day, offering an interview. I, of course, had not applied for any position — in fact, I was busy running my own business. However, working in the remote job sector, I decided to do a little sleuthing about this very obvious scam.
The email had a signature complete with the person’s photo. The email address seemed to match the name of the company. It looked professional and seemed well done. I asked them how they found me. They said they used a staffing agency, but I was not working with any sort of staffing agency.
I replied to the email asking for more information. The person on the other end responded almost immediately saying that more information would be given during the job interview. They did list the salary for the job in this message, and it was extremely high. Again, I asked for more information. The company refused to give any, pushing heavily for an interview instead — another red flag.
Related: Woman Gets Scammed With Fake LinkedIn Job Posting — Here Are the Red Flags
I turned back to the information provided in the email to research: The person’s name and image in the footer were of a real person, but that person didn’t work with the company the emails appeared to be coming from. Taking a closer look at the email address, I noticed that it had an “s” at the end, so instead of [email protected], it said [email protected] (as an example). Typing that address into the URL bar produced a weird website with a security warning — and it was not the website of the company supposedly offering this position. I then reached out to the company in question through their actual website, and I reached out to the real person on LinkedIn to see if the position was legitimate.
It was all fake.
Why would someone do this? What happens is that this so-called interview is through a chat service like Skype. You never speak to someone over the phone or via a video call. They offer this amazing too-good-to-be-true position, and then when you say yes you want the position, they do one of two things: they ask for personal banking information to “set up” direct deposit, or they try to send you a bad check/ask you to deposit money into your account.
With all this in mind, how can you tell something is a scam like this? Here are my tips based on past experience.
Related: I’m a Business News Editor, and Even I Fell Victim to an Online Scam That Cost Me $300
1. Validate email addresses
The first step in validating a message is to look at the email address. Examine the information that appears after the @ symbol. See if that matches the URL of the company reaching out. You can take whatever comes after the @ and type it into your URL address bar to see what happens. If it takes you to the company’s website, that’s a good sign! If not, then it might be a scam.
2. Ask for more information
If the email address looks good, but you’re uncertain still, reply and ask for more information. Specifically, ask how they found your information. If they say they used a staffing agency (as in my story above), but you do not work with a staffing agency, then that is a red flag. However, if they mention a friend you know or a company you have worked with, then it could be legitimate.
Also, make sure to ask for more information about the job position itself. If they refuse to tell you what the duties of the position are and push for an interview, or if they mention a salary that seems way too good to be true, then it’s time to walk away. Finally, keep in mind that it’s suspicious if they also only want to interview you via chat and not through a phone call or video session.
I did work with a company once where we only communicated via email. I never spoke to them or saw them. It was a legitimate business. Before I jumped into working with them, I did a lot of research. Not all companies go the traditional route of an interview, but be very wary if they do not.
Related: Avoid Nightmare Employers and Scams By Job-Searching Like a Journalist
3. Verify everything
Try to find the job listing online for the position you are being contacted about. If it doesn’t look like the company has listed the job anywhere, go to the source and get the company’s contact email off their website to ask them if they are truly hiring. Sometimes companies use referrals and go directly to a potential candidate before publicly listing the position, but oftentimes they do both simultaneously so you should be able to find the position online.
Make sure to look up whoever sent you the email. Use their name and search on LinkedIn. If the company in question has a staff section on its site, use that to see if you can find the person’s information. Reverse Google search any headshots used in emails to ensure that person matches the name they are giving in the email.
4. Ask someone else
Social media is great because you can use that to find someone else that currently works at that company. Don’t be afraid to message them and ask if their company is hiring.
You can also find online reviews about companies from people that warn about scams.
At the end of the day, trust your gut. If something seems suspicious and you are not comfortable with it, walk away and find something else. I also encourage you to reach out to any company or person in question to ask for more information.
Related: How to Find Legitimate Remote Work Opportunities
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