The art of swindling is far from new, but it’s flourished with the advent of the internet. Online work and job searches, particularly since the Coronavirus reared its ugly head, have proliferated fiercely. Unfortunately, more opportunities to find employment online also means more reasons to be wary.
There are plenty of legitimate job opportunities on Indeed’s job board, but instances of scammers have risen in the last few years. Be diligent about researching the employer before sending your application. Indeed does what it can to weed out scammers, but they’re sometimes fooled.
In the rest of this article, I will share some valuable guidelines to help identify if a job posting on Indeed (or any online job site) is legitimate. I’ll also give you some helpful information about job scams in general, how to report a suspected scam, and basic information about the company Indeed.
How To Identify Scam Jobs on Indeed
The purpose of a fake job posting is usually to obtain either your private information or money. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:
The Pay Doesn’t Match the Job Position
This one might seem obvious, but not all fake salaries are abnormally high. While a job listing that says it pays $50 an hour for a position that requires no experience may be outwardly suspect, another job that pays a receptionist a marginally higher salary for slightly fewer hours of work can still be a dishonest posting.
Receptionist jobs have some of the highest search volumes on Indeed, so those job titles also tend to have a higher number of scammers targeting them.
Some other examples of highly targeted titles are:
- Delivery drivers
- Warehouse workers
You’re Contacted First or Receive an Immediate Offer
It’s uncommon for recruiters to reach out to potential employees before going through any type of resume screening process. By itself, this doesn’t guarantee that the person contacting you has ill will. However, if it’s coupled with a job offer that requires no effort to procure on your part, it’s almost definitely a scam listing.
The Employer Wants Your Money
An employer requesting money is the biggest red flag there is. No valid company will ever require any type of payment to consider you for a position. Personal expenses you choose to spend to land the job are one thing; the company asking you for money is another.
The same goes for personal information. A legal company will not ask you for anything other than basic contact information before the hiring process is complete.
*Note: The only real exception to this rule is a background check. Employers in certain states can require prospective employees to pay for their own background checks.
However, that said, most reputable companies won’t do this, and if you see a job listing for a company on Indeed who then requires you to pay for the background check, be sure you do a lot of extra digging around to make sure they’re a legitimate company.
Furthermore, ask the company’s HR department if you can choose the background check organization and pay them directly. Most companies will allow this, and the one you’re applying to doesn’t, then you may be getting scammed.
Get Rich Quick, With Minimal Effort
Ah, the beloved get-rich-quick ploy. Job postings like these usually promise a hefty salary and are vague about what the job entails or details of how you’ll be paid. If you can’t find any further information on the post or a concrete way to research the employer, skip it.
The Posting Is Riddled with Errors
Usually, a legitimate business looking for apt employees will ensure they’re putting their best foot forward when creating a job listing. If a listing or any communication you have with an employer comes across as unprofessional or is grammatically incorrect to the point that it’s noticeable (the same goes for spelling errors), it’s probably in your best interest to find out more before wasting your time.
There Is No Company Information
If the Indeed listing is the only information you can find on the company, and that itself is vague (for example, if they have a company name and email but nothing else), it’s a warning sign. If they genuinely were interested in recruiting new employees, surely, they would want potential employees to be able to easily find them online.
If this is the case, try to type them into a search engine to see if they have any web presence. If you can’t find anything, it’s probably not legit.
Indeed Verifies it’s Employers…To an Extent
While Indeed does verify an employers’ identity when they first create their recruiting account, it’s not a foolproof system. In their terms of service, they specify that they do not guarantee the identity of any employer.
Just because an individual’s identity is verified via documentation or video call doesn’t mean they can’t create fake company information. If a job offer is flagged appropriately on Indeed, they will remove it, but they can’t stop it from being made in the first place.
Continuing in a similar thread, if you respond to a job offer on Indeed that directs you to communicate outside of Indeed or a third-party website where they attempt to access your information, it’s out of Indeed’s duty of care. It’s safer to continue the application through Indeed if you have any doubt.
Scams Are Not More Likely on Indeed Than Other Job Sites
It may seem like Indeed has an abnormal amount of fishy (or phish-y) job offers these days, but they are not alone. They don’t pose any greater risk than a different job site. Unfortunately, sketchy job postings are beginning to be the norm across the board.
The pandemic has thrown an exponentially high number of people into unemployment and precarious financial situations, and desperation usually equals easy prey when it comes to scammers.
The Coronavirus, plus the rise of work-from-home jobs and various social media platforms, have created a breeding ground for people looking to rip you off.
What to do if You Think You’ve Been Scammed
If you are still engaging with your scammer, cease contact immediately. If you have lost any funds or believe your personal information is at risk, here are some steps you should consider taking:
- Contact your country’s data privacy entity if you think your identity is at risk of being stolen; they will guide you on how to begin the process of dealing with identity theft.
- Contact your local ministry or government department to deal with documentation issues.
- Contact the appropriate credit reporting agencies to flag your social insurance number.
- Contact any company that may use your social insurance number as identification.
- File a police report.
I’m Worried About Posting my Resume Online
While your resume may be slightly more public than you would like, it is generally considered safe to post your resume on a job site like Indeed.
When you upload your resume on Indeed, you are given the option of making it public or private. Private is not recommended, as then potential employers won’t be able to view your work history. However, if you plan on only reaching out and not being reached organically, this option is fine.
When your resume is set to public, recruiters can view your work history, but your contact information, like your address and phone number, will be blocked.
Uploading a resume also makes it easier to edit (or download) from anywhere, simpler for employers to find you, and expedites the application process in general.
The Most Common Types of Scams
Around 65% of scammers will use “old-fashioned” scams that have had the same premise for ages.
The Check That Bounces
There are a few ways this one can go. The usual shtick is that the employer will send you an initial lump sum via check for more than you’ve been told you’re owed. The employer will then ask you to return the excess portion before depositing the cheque. It will then bounce when you go to deposit it, and you will be out that money.
Another example of check fraud is when an employer will attempt to send you a check for a particular amount of money and tell you it’s for something specific to their company; this could be:
- Travel expenses
They will ask you to deposit this check and then wire the money back to them to complete the purchase. Once your bank eventually deems that the check you deposited was fraudulent, there’s nothing you can do. Usually, these types of scammers will ask you to wire the money out of the country.
Counterfeit check scams are very dangerous to your wellbeing, not only because they will take your money, but they could also land you in jail. Regardless of whether you are the victim of a scam or not, with no way to prove these “employers” made you do anything, you could end up being the one on the hook.
Fake Job Listings
Often, an employer will create an enticing ad for a job to draw in potential applicants, then redirect them to a program or group that requires an entrance or tuition fee. They say that once you’ve completed this step, you will have access to said job.
Scammers will also sometimes pose as an agent for a government entity or an affiliate for a marketing firm, anything that sounds authoritative. They will often request payment upfront for a screening process. Never send money upfront to a potential employer. If they were legit, they wouldn’t be asking.
Phishing is a con where you will be sent an email that appears to be from a reputable service company. Often the email address is very close to the actual company’s email and is written professionally, so it won’t always be glaringly obvious it’s a scam.
They are usually sent from banks or a service provider, and the goal is to get you to divulge personal information like your social security number or bank info. They will typically tell you that there’s an issue with one of your accounts or that you must confirm your identity.
Once they have your private information, they can hack into your pre-existing accounts or create entirely new ones.
Requesting a Credit Report Through a Recommended Third Party
The idea behind this one is like the fake job listing scam, in which a potential employer will say they need to run a credit check before bringing you on board. Conveniently, there will be a cost for the credit reporting software they would like you to use. In addition to the initial fee, they can then steal your credit information.
Postal fraud refers to anything to do with sending out packages with “intent to defraud.”
On Indeed, this type of scam is directed towards those seeking work-at-home positions. Usually, it involves receiving, repackaging, then re-shipping goods out at personal cost. Then, there is no reimbursement.
If you’re caught “knowingly” involved in mail fraud, it is a federal offense, so if you’re not able to prove you weren’t in the know, you could face jail time. Aside from the shipping fees, the goods being mailed are also often stolen.
Career Help or Informational Material
Many scammers will make you think you’d be an excellent fit for a position or have “potential”, but with some fine-tuning, you would be the obvious choice. They’ll request you spend money on either a course or informational material about the company (that’s otherwise easy to find).
They might also say that they can help you update your resume for a price.
Where To Report Fake Job Offers on Indeed
If you discover a fake job offer on Indeed, the website urges you to report it immediately to help save other people from falling for whatever scam the company is running. Here’s how to do that:
- Use the search engine to find the listing you believe is fraudulent.
- Once you have located the job, scroll to the bottom of the screen, where there will be a button that says, “report this job.”
- You’ll be redirected to a form to fill out in greater detail.
While reporting a job doesn’t necessarily mean Indeed will remove the posting after they’ve investigated it, it does help keep the website as spam-free as possible.
Here are some other types of job offers that you may feel inclined to report to keep Indeed functioning at an optimal level:
- Jobs that are discriminatory in nature
- Inaccurate listings
- Advertisements or sales affiliates
We’re all Susceptible to Scams
Social psychologist and author Robert Cialdini has laid out a few reasons people are likely to fall for scams, and it doesn’t have to do with intelligence level.
To understand what makes people comply with a request, he penned a famous book titled Influence, available on Amazon.com, where he outlines and explains what he terms “weapons of influence.”
Here’s a summary of the core concepts:
The reciprocity rule dictates that if someone does something nice for us, we will return the favor. Like the other “weapons,” this feeling is embedded in us on a fundamental level.
An example is if someone gives you a birthday present, you are in a sense “future indebted” to them, as society says you must also now provide them with a birthday present when it’s their birthday.
Job site scammers will use this tactic in ploys like “If you take this course, I will give you this job” type situations, among others.
Commitment and Consistency
Cialdini refers to this one as “Our nearly obsessive desire to be consistent with what we have already done.”
When considering a decision we’re unsure of, our faith in the outcome of our choice shoots up when we make the decision.
So, suppose you reply to a sketchy looking job listing on Indeed and are having second thoughts once you’ve been accepted and begun engaging with the scammer. In that case, your mind will try to trick you into thinking you’ve made the right decision (despite all the red flags you might be witnessing).
As Leonardo Da Vinci has said, “It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
The principle of social proof is that as humans, we tend to look to others to see how we should be acting; the more people we witness behave in a specific manner, the more acceptable we deem it to be.
This is a helpful psychological mechanism because most of the time, doing what most people are doing will help us save precious brainpower and has helped us survive as a species. However, this principle backfires when we refuse to think for ourselves or ignore our instincts.
In Indeed job scams, this is most common in the form of fake reviews, raving about either the company or their experience working for them. Multiple recruiters conjoining on the same scam is another example.
We are far more likely to do something for someone we like or are familiar with (such as a friend), and plenty of organizations take advantage of knowing this. Cialdini’s personal research has shown that often even the mention of a friend’s name will cause us to comply in a circumstance where we otherwise wouldn’t.
When you’re searching for work, this can be pretty easy for potential con artists to capitalize on.
For example, they could do some very basic social media sleuthing on you and then offer you a position because “insert name here recommended you.” Or they could say that your friend referred you to a course or program.
We like our friends, so why would we say no to them?
There is something unyielding in the vast majority of us when it comes to listening to an authority figure. We have ingrained in us from many different institutions (police, teachers, government, parents, etc.) a strong sense of obedience, even fear when going against a person or entity we consider authoritative.
There are countless ways this plays out on job boards. A recruiter attempting to scam you could pose as a government affiliate or organization, a large multinational company with plenty of credit, or could rope you into giving your information over email phishing by telling you there’s some sort of problem.
We aren’t exactly safe even by knowing these principles, though it helps to be aware (and even reference them) if you find yourself about to apply to an Indeed posting that gives you a nagging feeling.
The truth is that these social concepts are so intensely embedded in us that we’re probably going to fall for them time and time again anyways (then kick ourselves for it because we can identify what happened.)
Indeed’s Safe Search Guidelines and Job Hunting Tips
Indeed has its own information page with in-depth advice on how to do a job search safely.
They recommend you to:
- Look for employers with a verifiable email (as in a company address, not a Yahoo or Gmail account).
- Double-check the email address is spelled correctly to avoid “fake” company addresses.
- Make sure the employer replying to you is referencing the correct job application.
- Think if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If the pay seems high for the position, or the hours too, flexible, take note.
- Schedule a phone or video call to verify their identity.
- Report unusual or suspicious job offers to Indeed.
They don’t recommend you to:
- Send any type of payment to an employer. In addition to being unsafe, it violates Indeed’s terms of service.
- Agree to perform any transaction for the recruiter.
- Agree to a job that involves opening multiple accounts if you’ve never met the employer.
- Accept money upfront for a job you haven’t completed.
Indeed is a useful platform when it comes to finding work online, and the majority of the jobs listed are legitimate. However, with all the new technology at our disposal, it’s become increasingly difficult to identify scams.
However, by following the guidelines illustrated in this article, you should be able to keep yourself safe. Make sure you research your employers before engaging with them, never agree to a transaction, and listen to your instincts if you encounter an offer that doesn’t seem plausible.
- Indeed: 10 Signs a Job Posting May Be a Scam
- Indeed: Cookies, Privacy and Terms of Service
- Indeed: Should I Upload My Resume To Indeed? (With How-To Steps)
- Indeed: 5 Common Work-From-Home Scams (And How to Spot Them)
- Indeed: Job Seeker Help Center: Reporting a job
- Influence at Work: Increase Your Influence
- Amazon: Influence
- Indeed: Job Seeker Help Center: Guidelines for Safe Job Search
- United States Federal Trade Commission: Phishing Scams
- Goodreads: Leonardo Da Vinci Quotes
- Background Checks: Employment Background Checks