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Tips to protect yourself from online job scams

Online Jobs Scams vs Legitimate JobsScamming and stealing are not products of the modern world. They have existed since the times when men and women used to wear the latest collection of tree bark, coconut shells or animal rug – stealing someone else’s hunt or firewood and running away on a getaway beta version of a wheel!

Even Robin Hood, with intentions as pure as financing his soup kitchen, was still, technically, stealing. To be fair though, weren’t you guilty of stealing at least a leeetle bit when you used your neighbor’s wifi, downloaded Yo Yo’s Chaar botal vodka, sneaked a glance at the answer to the sixth question in your calculus exam or even watched the Youtube video of the sleepy puppy on company time?

Nearly everyone steals.

Some are really bad at it like Johnny who couldn’t sneak a spoonful of sugar without getting caught by his papa. While there are others who are so adept at it that they have now managed to take stealing to a whole new level, from breaking into your house to steal your moneez to a virtual enterprise of online thieves who simply sit behind a computer and plot scams on you.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were over 1200 cases of registered cases of fraud in 2013 alone, in India. These are heavily underestimated since most of us don’t report either out of humiliation, ‘coz we don’t know where and what to report or are not even aware that a fraud has taken place.

Some of these scams have now become legendary stories like Me, the Nigerian Prince and my bank account. But the majority of them have a simple single aim, finagling your information. Very phishy!!

And the phishiest of them all are scams played on online job seekers. Scammers prey on these vulnerable applicants who are looking for work and don’t ever want to give up on any opportunity that lets them get even an inch closer to a paycheck. Their attacks are sneaky and if you are not aware of the subtle signs that can give them away, you will find yourself falling victim to their underhanded techniques.

The attacks are even more subtle when you are looking at options of working from home. Your interactions, with the potential employer, are virtual. And if you are not careful so will be your salary. Here are the possible online job scam stamps that can help you from clicking your earnings away.

Tips to protect yourself from online job scams


It is not Christmas everyday

There are jobs that are good and then there are jobs that are too good. If you see an ad about some stay-at-home mom who makes seven grand a day doing surveys, then just ask yourself is it really possible to make a living by just rating whatevers from I am guessing I am not satisfied to I don’t give a rat’s tail? The answer is, Christmas comes only once a year. And Santa is not real.

Jobs, from home, are like regular jobs with the advantage of an extremely familiar and comfortable working environment. So there is no reason why you should be expecting unusual compensations, either too low or too high. However, offers such as the one above are a dead give away for the kala in your daal.

So stay real or the best case scenario would be you waiting near the fireplace forever waiting for that red and white dude to get you your first paycheck. Worst case scenario being you have managed to terminally infect your computer with some malware by clicking on the flashing Apply Here sign or them getting your information, including your bank details, to do as they wish.

And you didn’t come upon a magic lamp either

Beware of surprising emails, sent from a job consultancy company or a vague recruiter claiming you are the one dude they had been waiting for the last hundred years! We found your resume on so and so job hunting website. Congratulations, you are a finalist for the post of Senior Data Entry Executive at

Think about it. How can you be selected or offered a job without an interview? Or for that matter without even applying? (Read the possible reasons you are not getting interview calls in real jobs!)

If you respond, you will probably be asked to send your complete information and either some consultation fee or simply your ATM pin number so as to not annoy you any further with pay-up requests. They will take care of your money just fine!

Here’s a pearl of wisdom. Legitimate companies shouldn’t be charging you, the applicant, to be hired by them. Think about how counter-intuitive the arrangement sounds. They are hiring you with the intention of paying and yet they would like you to pay up for getting hired! Which one comes first?

Go ahead (don’t) open it

Sometimes you may receive an email with the subject matter claiming you have a job and the offer letter is already attached. Not recommended, but if you are still curious enough to open the email, notice how there would be no content in the body of the email. There would probably be no employer contact information, no phone number and no office address. And if you are still naïve enough to click on the attachment, hold your breath for the blue screen of death or a spyware that traces every keystroke!

Besides, if the email looks like it could have been written by a five-year-old or that the email sender has an address that your beer buddy could have – Chad Smith, ChadRulez88@ hotmail/yahoo/ then just better delete it permanently. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

A monkey could do it

Not literally so but if the job description, added with the intention to show that it is legitimate, is too generic then there is some funny business there. Required male or female, age group 18 to 55 years, any graduate with or without specialization. In fact anyone who can read this can apply.

You would think that with requirements so unremarkable they would be able to find someone right off the street and not have to pay to put up that advertisement!

There are plenty of signs like the ones above that might raise your suspicion about an email, a contact or an offer of job, online. But there are ways you can get all Sherlockish about them by following the next couple of tricks.

How to tell if a job is legitimate or fake

Lesson 1

If a certain company or recruiter contacts you with a fishy offer, research the company. Go to Glassdoor, Linkedin, any social media links and any google research you can gather about them (Read role of social media in recruitment).

A well established company should have reviews from past employees or there could be other known legitimate websites linking back to the company page. If what you see makes you feel like you can never really tell what this company is about, or perhaps you see negative reviews or worse, no chatter about them at all, then they are probably fictitious.

Lesson 2

If you have received an email from someone claiming to be from that company, look up the name on Linkedin, or even contact the company directly. You can also write to him/her requesting further contact.

When and if they do, ask them about their office location or whether they would be looking to interview. If they are not descendents of Satan, they will generally have believable responses. If yes, then they will ask you for confidential information, try to sell you training packages or even ask you to pay for hiring you!

All tell tale signs that you are the flavor of the week.

Lesson 3

Keep an eye out for those recruiter emails that show up periodically in your inbox. The one that claims that there is an urgent need for a vacant position.

How is it possible that this company has been so understaffed for so long? Or is it just trolling for victims and hoping that they would catch one right in their most desperate moment?

Lesson 4

A nifty trick is to use Google to see how long the website has been operational. Try Domain White Pages, for instance. It is good tool to get any website horoscope.

If it shows that the website came about two weeks ago while the lady on the phone is claiming the company to be five years old, say adios.

Lesson 5

Trust your instincts. If a company is trying too hard, if you are feeling rushed to accept their offer or if there is a general knot in your stomach ever since they have made contact, just stay away.
To conclude, these guys are dynamic and evolve their thieving ways with time. So there is really no defined way to recognize one. The only thing you can do is to always have your guards on, while applying for jobs online.

With over 300 million internet users, in India alone, it is quite probable that a significant number of them are now trading in illegally obtained records or money.

But it doesn’t mean that you have to turn to paranoia and stay as far away from the internet as possible. Online job search is very much still a thing. Just that you have to be aware of such job search websites that have a good reputation and has a fine print that says it will not trade your information with dubious employers. So share only open source information, in your resume, that are practically useless to scammers.

Secure your online presence. Read how real recruiters are looking for candidates. Or how referral recruitment, walk-ins, job portal hiring or campus placements compare. And whatever you do, don’t let scammers open sesame into your life!

Sources:1, 2, 3 | Image credit:

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Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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