Fired and looking for work? Watch out for scammers, FTC warns

As if losing your job wasn’t bad enough…

Mass layoffs in recent months across technology, social media and digital news outlets have sent tens of thousands of Americans looking for jobs. But now the Federal Trade Commission is warning scammers are refining their approaches to prey on job seekers — stealing some job seekers’ money and personal information while they’re at risk.

“Scammers may go to great lengths to get what they want,” the FTC said in a consumer alert issued Wednesday — going so far as to set up fake websites and conduct fake online job interviews. And for the potential victims who receive a so-called “job offer,” the FTC warns that some scammers might even create fake entry portals that might look legitimate and ask for your social security number and bank account information in order to set up a direct deposit for your paychecks.

Or some scammers ask their targets to send money to cover their remote work equipment up front with false promises to reimburse them on their first paycheck.

“These are scams,” the FTC said.

Related: More than 57,000 global tech workers will lose their jobs in 2023: layoff data trackers

According to the Better Business Bureau, an estimated 14 million people are exposed to employment fraud each year, with more than $2 billion lost each year — and that’s not counting time and emotional loss.

The FTC has numerous resources to help you spot potential job scams, as well as information on what to expect when an employer wants to conduct a background check.

The FTC also recommends using safe and reliable sources when looking for a job, such as the federal government’s official website USAJobs.gov, which lists job openings across the country, or CareerOneStop, sponsored by the US Department of Labor.

And here are three more FTC tips to stay safe while you search for your next gig.

Review vacancies before applying

Contact the company directly using contact information you know to be legitimate — not an email or phone number provided by the so-called recruiter who contacted you. And if you’re not familiar with the company, search its name using the word “scam” or “scam.” You may find stories from others that have been included.

Watch out for tell-tale signs of a possible scam

The FTC notes that while there is no one surefire way to spot a job scam, there are many red flags to make you suspicious. For example, emails from personal accounts not affiliated with a company; messages with poor spelling and grammar; Interviews conducted via email or online chat only; salaries that appear very generous or do not meet industry norms; and a request for account numbers or other personal information.

DO NOT pay for the promise of a job

Honest employers will never ask you to pay for a job, the FTC said. And legitimate recruitment firms and headhunters typically don’t charge potential hires. (The company looking for qualified candidates pays the recruiters instead.) So if they ask you for money, walk away. You could very well be dealing with a scam.

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