Published: October 25, 2023
5 min read

A dark side of job hunting? Read three job application scams to watch out for.


Clare Stouffer

Staff writer

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Job seekers using caution to avoid online job application scams.

The job-hunting journey! It’s exhilarating. It’s also nerve-wracking. The process always seems to have a few bumps in the road, but it (hopefully) is all worth it in the end.

Unfortunately, along the way, exploiters and scammers lurk in the shadows, ready to prey on our ambitions to step up and out in the world. As we dive into these tales of treachery, remember that exploiters and scammers are highly active in the modern-day job market—looking for new ways to steal our identities. Enter: the shady world of job application scams. 

A fake interview asking for curious background information

Picture Tara, an accomplished graphic designer, who’s been scrolling job boards for weeks, hoping to find a more challenging role. She read through plenty of non-starters and even applied to a very few postings, but nothing felt like the right fit. However, one day, her diligence seemed to pay off.

A listing describing a position with a "fast-growing startup, offering a competitive salary package and a chance to lead a team" caught her eye. Eagerly, she shot off her application and, within hours, received a reply. The response, though, was from a personal email—a red flag she overlooked due to her excitement.

The prospective employer was keen to start the process with an interview. During an initial phone interview, while discussing her experiences and portfolio, the interviewer dropped a question that felt out of place.

"Can you please confirm your birthdate and social security number for our records?"

That struck Tara as an odd request this early in the interview phase. With her healthy skepticism raised, she recalled the advice she once received from a friend about revealing personal information over the phone. She gave a perfectly professional answer, declining to provide that information and stating she'd share official documents at a later stage. The interviewer's demeanor changed abruptly, and the call ended.

In the last year, there have been multiple reports of job scammers going to the length of conducting fake interviews to phish out personal information from potential victims. Like Tara, be wary of requests for information that don’t seem quite right.

A recruiter cold-emails the perfect job offer, but something isn’t right

Jaime, an IT specialist, was reasonably content with their job but always kept an eye out for something that might offer better pay and better hours. When an unexpected email landed in their inbox with the subject line "Recruitment Opportunity for Remote IT Management Position," they were intrigued.

After responding to the email, Jaime received more detailed information from the recruiter. The role was for a reputable company, had similar responsibilities as Jaime’s current job, was 100% remote, and came with a 30% salary bump. Everything seemed aligned with Jaime's aspirations—until the "official offer" forms arrived. 

Detailed in the preliminary documentation was a request for Jamie’s bank routing information and social security number. The fine print in the document said that this info was necessary to perform background checks. But what struck Jaime as odd was the absence of any company name or logo on the forms.

Digging a little deeper, Jaime found out that the recruiter’s name didn’t match up with any employees listed on the company’s social website. It dawned on them that a golden opportunity might be fool’s gold. When they reached out directly to the company to confirm the paperwork, it revealed that the company wasn’t hiring for any such position.

It's possible for scammers to convincingly impersonate recruiters online. Be sure to do your research when a recruiter contacts you, and be wary of things that feel too good to be true.

A new job offer comes with a big check

Imagine if you were Daniel—fresh out of grad school and eager to start up a career in marketing. Daniel stumbled upon a listing that seemed right up his alley: a hybrid work position with a boutique agency. Emails flowed back and forth, with both Daniel and the recruiter discussing roles, responsibilities, and future prospects. It was a great fit, and Daniel accepted the offer quickly.

However, just as he was about to celebrate his new gig, there came a twist.

On his first day, the new agency needed Daniel to look after the needs of some of their more important clients. He would be sent a check to cover the costs up front. His task? To buy gift cards for "important clients" as a goodwill gesture.

Thankfully, Daniel asked himself why even a boutique firm for important clients would employ such an unprofessional approach? After some online sleuthing, he found forums discussing similar scams. The check would bounce, and he'd be left covering the costs. He gracefully bowed out before getting entangled any further in an advance check scam.

When searching for a new job, trust and verify

These stories are just a gentle reminder about how our work and employment have evolved to be more online than ever before. Our digital age has opened doors to countless opportunities, but it has also given rise to a new breed of predators and bad actors. Finding your next career move is a rewarding challenge. As you chart your professional journey, be curious, positive, professional…and a little cautious.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. LifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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