Every now and then as a job seeker you may come across a job opportunity that sounds too good to be true.

Perhaps an employer is calling to offer you immediate employment, a high starting wage, and great benefits. Maybe they’ve shared that you are their top candidate! Or you get an offer like this and you didn’t even apply for this role. Things can seem perfect when opportunities simply fall on your lap!

However, if a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

While job scams have been around for decades, they appear to be on the rise.

Thankfully, there are several steps a candidate can take to research potential employers and identify and any red flags that may indicate that the job is a scam or deceptive.

Conduct online researchMany job ads that are scams cite similar duties, qualifications, and benefits and may even use the exact same language.

Copying and pasting the text from the job description into Google or other search engine along with the word “scam” can unveil reports of fraud or deception.

If no reports of fraud exist, you can research the legitimacy of the prospective employer through additional research.

Does the email have a company domain (e.g. ag@company.com versus ag@gmail.com)? Do they have a street address? and when you Google the street address, does a legitimate building appear or is it just an empty field or derelict warehouse?

When you look up the company on LinkedIn, do they have employees listed?

During your research, you should be able to verify the company is operating and has other employees.

Multi-level-marketing?Multi-level marketing or network marketing schemes – often known as pyramid schemes – are controversial and can be illegal.

In fact, the FTC says “Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They’re actually illegal pyramid schemes.”

While some people can do well, and some of companies are on the up-and-up, studies have shown that most workers for multi-level-marketing companies end up losing money for their work.

You can find out if the company you are considering is a multi-level marketing scheme, direct sales, or illegal pyramid scheme by researching the products, learning more about the company by reading reviews through the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org), along with understanding the terms and conditions of the role.

Additional items to consider can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website.

Protect your identity

You may receive a call from an employer offering an interview without ever having applied to a job with them. This is a red flag. Now, there are situations where someone may hear about how great you are and wants to snag you up. But that outreach is rarely in the form of a phone call and almost never will include a job offer. This likely means that the employer got your name and number by some other means, perhaps through a job board where you have a profile set up. If that’s the case, double check your privacy settings on these sites so that your resume and profile information will not be shared with third parties. Secondly, as you learn more about the opportunity, be weary of any program that requires a monetary investment to get started. and do not give your bank information over the phone!

Assess risks and rewardsIn the end, accepting a job offer is a personal decision that involves weighing the pros and cons.

What benefits will this job provide to you and your family? What might potentially turn you off from accepting this? Are there questions left unanswered?

Make sure you discuss your decision with a trusted group of people. Finding people in your corner who offer unbiased opinions and provide recommendations for how to proceed is important, and may offer an alternative viewpoint and help you avoid a mistake.

Finding the right job can take a lot of effort.

Emotionally, it can be devastating to get excited about a seemingly great opportunity, only to find out it was a scam. But it is far better to be leery and disappointed that an opportunity wasn’t legitimate than to become the victim of a scam.

Allie Grill is associate director of the Career Development Center at Susquehanna University and Matt Rousu is dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University. Views do not necessarily represent those of their employer.

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