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Never Accept a Job Without Doing This First, Experts Warn

Here's how to avoid a dangerous job scam, says the FTC.

In Nov. 2021 alone, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in search of better opportunities—the highest number on record within the past two decades of tracking by the Labor Department. This mass exodus from the workplace means that many people are on the hunt for new positions, and thankfully there are plenty jobs to go around. The New York Times reports there are currently 10.5 million unfilled positions (for reference, in Jan. 2002, employees were competing for just 3.7 million open posts), so the odds of finding something new at the moment are decidedly in your favor.

However, the transitional nature of a job search can be disorienting, leaving you more vulnerable to scams, experts say. That's why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued this piece of advice, warning job seekers to never accept a position without doing one important thing first. Read on to find out which step is crucial in the job hunting process, and the other red flags that might tip you off to a scam job offer.

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Never accept a job without an interview first.

man using laptop to search for jobs

The FTC is tasked with protecting the public from unfair or fraudulent practices in the marketplace—a responsibility that includes protecting job seekers from potential scams during their search for employment. The agency says that job scams are a common problem in no small part because scammers often convincingly imitate the practices of real hiring managers. "Scammers advertise jobs the same way legitimate employers do—online (in ads, on job sites, and social media), in newspapers, and sometimes on TV and radio. They promise you a job, but what they want is your money and your personal information," the government agency warns.

For this reason, the FTC urges that you should never accept a job if you haven't been interviewed first. "Be suspicious if you're offered a job without an interview," warns the FTC. "Scammers might say they're out of town, too busy, or have another excuse for not talking to you by phone or in person," they add. It's within your rights to request one.

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Interviews should never be held over messenger services.

Young woman using computer laptop with hand on chin thinking about question, pensive expression. Smiling with thoughtful face. Doubt concept.

Though increasingly our work interactions are taking place online, experts say that a job interview is almost certainly a scam if it takes place over a messenger service. "Legitimate companies won't conduct job interviews through such messaging services as Google Hangouts, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, or Facebook Messenger. Scammers, though, might use these services," says the internet security company, Norton.

Norton does offer one caveat: They say that when legitimate employers do conduct online interviews, they typically provide a link to their own in-house messaging platform, or set up a video interview. However, if the company is unfamiliar to you, or if you have difficulty verifying that the interviewer is legitimately associated with the company they claim to represent, proceed with caution.

Don't share personal information or put up cash during a job search.

filling out job application, skills parents should teach kids
Shutterstock/Brian A Jackson

If while pursuing a job, an individual or application form asks you to provide your bank account information or social security number, this should be considered a major red flag. They may say it's for a background check or to set up direct deposit for payment, but anyone privy to this personal information can access your accounts, or open new ones in your name. According to Norton, legitimate companies "won't ask for this information until you've accepted a job offer and are meeting with HR to sign your employment forms." If it's a scam, this may be the last you hear from the supposed hiring manager. "After you provide this information, they disappear, and you never get that job interview," says the company's site.

Similarly, legal employers should never ask you to send cash—even under the auspices of being for materials or supplies. "Legitimate employers, including the federal government, will never ask you to pay to get a job. Anyone who does is a scammer," says the FTC.

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Always do your research.

couple use a laptop computer to pay bills online, manage budget and prepare tax documents. They are in the kitchen of their home.

Before you move ahead with any job offer, it's important to do thorough research on the company and your contact there. "Look up the name of the company or the person who's hiring you, plus the words 'scam,' 'review,' or 'complaint.' You might find out they've scammed other people," says the FTC.

Next, the FTC recommends talking it through with a friend or family member—someone you trust. This may not only help you avoid the pitfalls of a scam, it will also help you decide if the job is right for you.

Finally, trust your gut if something seems too good to be true. "If a job promises high pay for little work, be leery. That's a common sign of a job scam. And if these same scammers ask for your personal information before offering a job? End the interview," says Norton.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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