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Top Official Shares How to Recognize Job Scams

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser shares tips to keep you safe when searching for a new job

classified ad circle in newspaper

Chris Gash

En español | The art of fraud these days is to customize the pitch to the moment. And in this moment, millions of Americans are seeking jobs. The result: a surge in frauds linked to jobs and hiring. We talked with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser about how to spot scams when searching for work.


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1. Many people are trying to get back to work. Is that a moment of vulnerability for them?

Scammers know how desperate people are for work right now. So they are taking advantage of that and posting bogus job ads. One key thing I'll say up front: If you have to pay money for a job application, or someone asks for access to your bank account or for payment through a prepaid card to apply, just walk away. It's fraudulent.

2. COVID-19 has forced many people to look for jobs in the gig economy. Any guidance?

Just be sensible. If somebody offers you big bucks for some simple work, ask yourself why. Jobs that don't require much effort, skill or experience aren't likely to make you rich; if they claim otherwise, it's more likely to be a scam. Related to that, never agree to be paid to forward packages or money for someone you don't know. They may well be involved in criminal activity.

3. We're hearing from people getting scammed after finding a job online. Any advice?

An on-the-spot job offer is a red flag. Legitimate companies will want to talk to you before they hire. Don't pay for the promise of a job, and be careful of the overpayment scam where you “mistakenly” get a check too soon, then get asked to return the overpayment with gift cards or wire transfers.

4. Some job sites request that you post your résumé. Isn't that dangerous?

That depends. Résumés should reveal only professional information. Be strategic about what you put in. Don't include your driver's license number, Social Security number, date of birth or even your full street address.

Jobs that don't seem to require much effort, skill or experience aren't likely to make you rich ... and are more likely to be a scam.

5. An unsolicited job offer can seem like a godsend. But should people be suspicious?

Yes. Avoid job opportunities that are offered by strangers who may contact you out of the blue by email, phone or social media, and avoid clicking on provided links. Legitimate businesses don't offer jobs randomly.

6. We hear from people being offered “career advancement grants.” Are they legitimate?

Usually not. It's a new take on the government grants scam. It's aimed at job seekers who may want to add certifications or courses to their résumés to advance their careers. It's enticing to think the government is awarding a grant to pay for such expenses. But if you're asked to pay any kind of fee, don't. It's likely a scam.

7. Is getting a check before you actually go to work ever legitimate?

That's very unlikely; usually that's a sign of a scam. Never deposit a fishy check.

Have questions related to scams?

Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline toll-free at 877-908-3360.

For the latest fraud information and advice, go to aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

8. What job services can you trust?

You should start with USAJobs.gov. This is the federal government's official site, with job openings nationwide. Then, the Department of Labor sponsors CareerOneStop, which lists hundreds of thousands of jobs and has links to employment and training programs in each state. Among private sites, Indeed, LinkedIn and Monster are some that are legitimate.

9. Give us your best advice to avoid employment fraud.

Always do your research before you apply for a job, particularly if you found it on a social networking site or in an online ad. Search online for the name of the company plus the words “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If little about the company shows up, or it has tons of complaints, you should move on.

10. Are you also seeing fraud targeting those filing for unemployment?

We're seeing people file fake claims using the names and personal information they've stolen. It's a huge national problem, and it is slowing the delivery of needed benefits to those who earned them. It's also costing states hundreds of millions of dollars. If you find out someone has filed a fake claim in your name, it probably means someone has stolen information like your Social Security number and date of birth. 

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