University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Virtual Job Scams: Consumer Beware

How exciting is this? You are notified that YOU have won a million dollars – and you didn't even enter a contest! Yet, here is this random twist of fate and you?re set for life – well, sort of. All that is needed is your personal information and bank account number, and they will deposit the fortune in your account. Or you are notified of a deceased heiress in a foreign country who has chosen YOU as the beneficiary of her fortune – no questions asked! Sounds unbelievable? Well, it very well might be. However, most of us, at one time or another, have been tempted by scammers who find clever ways to dupe the unexpected with quick-rich schemes and promises of unexpected fortunes.

Anyone of any age, intelligence, or emotional level has the potential to be scammed. Most often, we hear of elderly individuals being scammed out of their life savings. The reality, though, is that political leaders, executives in high-profile companies, and even well-known economists have fallen prey to con artists who play on emotions and greed. Scamming is big business, and it has become more sophisticated making it difficult to detect. Scamming appears in many forms including romantic promises, fraudulent insurance claims, charity tricks, get-rich-quick schemes, and more recently, virtual job posting fraud.

Protecting Yourself from Virtual Job Offers

According to H. J. Cummins (“For virtual jobs, click with caution,” Star Tribune, September 27, 2007), the biggest source of identity theft happens on virtual job boards such as and While these sites are fairly secure, problems occur when people fail to recognize offers that may be too good to be true and give up their personal information too quickly. While both CareerBuilder and Monster have sophisticated safeguards to screen out fraudulent individuals or organizations, the financial damage consumers face from these and other sites can be insurmountable. It's important to realize that anyone using the Internet runs the risk of being scammed or having financial information stolen.

Cummins suggests the following safety steps to reduce the chances of being scammed:

  • Be suspicious of any job offer that asks for specific, highly personal information like your driver's license, bank account information, pin numbers, or Social Security information.
  • Protect your references by not providing that information; specifically, do not provide any of this information until you first get your references' permission.
  • Do not put the name of your college on your resume or any organization where your personal records might be obtainable.
  • Set up a separate account such as a Post Office box or a different e-mail account. Some job seekers have gone as far as to purchase disposable cell phones with alternate numbers during their job search. That way, if you only use this number on virtual sites, you will know who is calling and can mentally prepare before answering.
  • Search for the company of interest online and apply from their site rather than from the virtual job site.

Remember: if the offer seems too good to be true, there is a greater likelihood that you may be a potential target for scammers. Job seekers must take charge of their own search. Learn to network and meet potential employers in person. Join a job club. Take the time to check out a potential company with the Better Business Bureau.

Read the following resources to learn more about protecting yourself from scams: