Fake summer job scam season heats up

Surge in fraudulent offers and interviews

As the summer season approaches, the quest for the perfect summer job heats up. But beware, job hunters.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns the job market is rife with deceptive listings, cunning scam artists, and too-good-to-be-true work-from-home offers. High school and college students, often the most eager and vulnerable, particularly are at risk. The BBB urges all job seekers to stay vigilant and informed to ensure your summer job hunt doesn’t leave you out in the cold.

“These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing,” said Steve J. Bernas, BBB president and CEO. “Job scams have a serious risk of money loss and identity theft. It may look like you are starting a great new career, but you are giving personal information or money to scammers.”

Employment scams are BBB’s second riskiest scam type in the U.S. (Investment scams are #1.) Employment scams have a median dollar loss of $1,995, significantly higher than the overall median dollar loss of $100 reported for all scam types.

“Searching for a job is easier than ever, but you must be careful online,” Bernas said. “Scammers utilize technology, too. Expect to encounter scams; they are widespread and come in various forms.”

How the scams work

You spot a “Help Wanted” ad online or receive an email or a text message from an “employer” asking you to apply for a position. The ads sometimes use the name of a real business or government agency. Companies, small and large, have been impersonated. You apply and get a quick response from the “hiring manager.” You might be invited to do a job interview (phony) through a video chat service.

After you are “hired,” the company may charge you upfront for “training.” You may need to provide your personal and banking information to run a credit check or set up direct deposit. You may have been “accidentally” overpaid with a fake check and asked to deposit the check and wire back the difference. You may also be told that you need to buy expensive equipment and supplies to work at home.

Remember, if you question the company’s methods and receive a defensive response, it’s a clear sign of a scam. Don’t succumb to pressure and follow their demands. Stay skeptical and cautious. The job they're offering isn’t real!

BBB tips to avoid employment scams

Do your research. Before you say yes to any job, research the company that wants to hire you. Evaluate what others are saying about their experience with this company. Research companies offering jobs at Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Find a number on the business’ website and call to confirm the job or job offer is real. Check the email address to ensure that it is connected to the company. Be cautious providing personal information to unverified recruiters and online applications.

Government agencies post all jobs publicly and freely. U.S. federal government and the U.S. Postal Service never charge for information about jobs or applications for jobs. Be wary of any offer to give you special access or guarantee you a job for a fee. Paying for the promise of a job is probably a scam.

Beware of red flags. Scammers often send emails with many typos and grammatical errors. They offer to hire you without an interview and even pay you before you’ve done any work. None of these are behaviors of a reputable business.

Never send money to strangers. No legitimate company will ask you to pay them to get a job. Never send funds in the form of cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers to someone you don’t know or haven’t met.

BBB recommends job seekers follow these guidelines:

Different procedures should raise your suspicion. Interview processes done strictly over email are not normal. Beware of businesses that ask applicants to pay for job supplies, coaching, application, certification or training fees. These expenses are the employer’s responsibility, and asking for money is a big red flag that something is wrong.

Be wary of job offers that don’t require an interview. You may be an excellent candidate for the job, but beware of offers made without an interview. A real company will want to talk to a candidate before hiring. Legitimate companies will understand that employment choices are big decisions. Watch out for on-the-spot job offers. Any sort of pressure to sign an employment contract right away or start the job immediately is a red flag.

Be wary of big money for small jobs. If an employer promises outrageously good wages for simple tasks such as reshipping packages, stuffing envelopes, or answering phones, this is a red flag. These too-good-to-be-true offers are an attempt to steal your personal information from a fake job application. This can result in serious long-term problems for you.

Never deposit unexpected checks. Be cautious sharing any kind of personal information (including your banking and credit cards) or accepting any kind of pre-payment. Don’t fall for an overpayment scam; no legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask for money to be wired elsewhere.

Never work for a company before they hire you. A legitimate company will not ask potential applicants to complete complex projects before making an official offer. Before beginning any work, request an offer letter or written confirmation of what the job entails, including an official start date and compensation details.

Some positions are more likely to be scams. Always be wary of work-from-home, package reshipment and mystery shopper positions, as well as any job with a generic title such as caregiver, administrative assistant, or customer service representative. Positions that don’t require special training or licensing appeal to a wide range of applicants. Scammers know this and use these otherwise legitimate titles in their fake ads.

If you encounter a scam, even if you don’t lose money, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker to help alert others and protect your community. Look for the BBB seal, The Sign of a Better Business. Visit or follow us @ChicagoBBB on social media.

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