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Scammers advertise jobs the same way honest employers do – online, in newspapers and sometimes on TV and radio. They promise you a job, but what they want is your money and your personal information. Here are some examples of jobs scams and advice on how to avoid them.

Work-from-home job scams

Many people would like to make money working from home. Scammers know this, so they place ads claiming they have jobs where you can make thousands of dollars a month working from home with little time and effort. The job could be anything from reshipping products to selling things to people you know. Sometimes the scammers try to get you interested by saying you can be your own boss, start your own business or set your own schedule.

But instead of making money, you end up paying for starter kits, so-called training or certifications that are useless. You might also find your credit card is charged without your permission; or you get caught up in a fake check scam, where you deposit a check from your new employer, the employer then asks you to send some money back due to overpayment, but the check will ultimately bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the full amount of the fake check, while the scammers keep the real money you sent them.

If someone offers you a job and claims you can make a lot of money in a short period of time with little work, it’s almost certainly a scam.

Here are some examples of work-from-home job scams:

Reshipping scams
If you’re searching for a job online, you might see positions advertised for quality control managers or virtual personal assistants that have been placed by scammers. But here’s how you can tell it’s a reshipping scam: once you’re hired, the company says your job is to receive packages at home, throw away the original packaging and receipts, repackage the products and then reship them to an address they give you.

Sometimes the address is overseas. The products are often high-priced goods, like name-brand electronics, bought using stolen credit cards. Reshipping goods is never a real job. Sometimes the company tells you it’ll send your first paycheck after you work for a month, but the paycheck never arrives. And when you try to contact the company, you’ll find the phone number is often no longer connected, and the website is deactivated. This job is a scam, and if you gave your personal information thinking it was for payroll, you may now have an identity theft problem.

Reselling merchandise scams
You may get a call out of the blue from a stranger offering you a job opportunity, or you may see an ad online or in your local newspaper.

They say you can make money buying brand-name luxury products for less than retail prices and resell those products for a profit. But after you pay for the products, the package never arrives or, if it does, it’s usually junk.

Nanny, caregiver, and virtual personal assistant job scams

Scammers post fake job ads for nannies, caregivers and virtual assistants on job sites. They may also send emails appearing to be from someone in your community. The message might also seem to come from someone who’s part of an organization you know, like your college or university. If you apply, the person who hires you might send you a check. They’ll tell you to deposit the check, keep part of the money for your services and send the rest to someone else. That’s a scam. A legitimate employer will never ask you to do that. The check is fake and will bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the full amount of the fake check, while the scammer keeps the real money you sent them. So, if you get an offer that includes depositing a check and then using some of the money for any reason, it’s a scam. Walk away.

Mystery shopper scams

Getting paid to shop sounds like a dream job – especially if you’re going to school full-time or looking for a side job. But while some mystery shopping jobs are honest, many are scams. Honest mystery shopping companies won’t ask you to pay for certifications, directories of jobs or job guarantees. If someone asks you to pay to get a job, it’s a scam. And if they want you to deposit a check and send money back, stop. That’s a sign of a fake check scam.

Job placement service scams

While many staffing agencies, temporary agencies, headhunters, and other placement firms may deliver honest job search services, others lie about what they’ll do for you, promote outdated or fake job openings and charge fees for so-called services. Honest placement firms don’t typically charge a fee to job candidates. Instead, the hiring company pays them a fee to find qualified candidates. If a placement firm asks you for a fee – especially one you have to pay in advance – walk away. You’re probably dealing with a scam.

How to avoid a job scam

Before you accept a job offer, take these steps to avoid common job scams:

  1. Search online
    Look up the name of the company or the person who’s hiring you, plus the words scam, review, or complaint. See if others say they’ve been scammed by the company or person. No complaints? It doesn’t guarantee a company is honest, but complaints can tip you off to possible problems.
  1. Talk to someone you trust
    Describe the offer to them. What do they think? This also helps give you vital time to think about the offer.
  1. Don’t pay for the promise of a job
    Honest employers, including the federal government, will never ask you to pay to get a job. Anyone who does is a scammer.
  1. Never bank on a cleared check
    No honest potential employer will ever send you a check to deposit and then tell you to send part of the money or buy gift cards with it. That’s a fake check scam. The check will bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the amount of the fake check.

Advice on finding a job

When you’re searching for a job, start with safe and reliable sources:
This is the federal government’s official site with job openings nationwide.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop lists hundreds of thousands of jobs. It also links to employment and training programs in each state.
Find local government websites, which list any open positions they may have on their websites.

What to do if you paid a scammer

No matter how you paid – debit or credit card, mobile payment app or wire transfer, gift card, cash reload card, or cryptocurrency – immediately contact the company you used to send the money, report the fraud, and ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.