Conducting a Safe Online Job or Internship Search

Scammers are continuously identifying new, creative ways to take advantage of unsuspecting job-seekers. It is critically important that you consistently exercise caution and good judgment throughout all stages of your job and/or internship search process. Review the below concerns/red flags, safety tips, and resources to maintain a secure job/internship search. Please contact the Gateway Career Center (610-330-5115; careers@lafayette.edu) if you are faced with a situation you’re unsure of or a safety concern you require assistance navigating; we’re here to support you!

INTRODUCTION
Posting Systems and Email Servers

Online job posting systems, including Handshake, make it easy for job and internship seekers to find and apply to opportunities of interest to them. It’s important to take into consideration that these online systems, as well as email servers like Google/Gmail, can be susceptible to scammers who create fraudulent postings and job-related communications. While employers and positions posted to Handshake are screened, it is very important that as a job/internship seeker, you remain vigilant when evaluating and/or responding to any job posting and/or email communication received regarding an opportunity.

KEY CONCERNS & TIPS

Posting Systems and Email Servers

Online job posting systems, including Handshake, make it easy for job and internship seekers to find and apply to opportunities of interest to them. It’s important to take into consideration that these online systems, as well as email servers like Google/Gmail, can be susceptible to scammers who create fraudulent postings and job-related communications. While employers and positions posted to Handshake are screened, it is very important that as a job/internship seeker, you remain vigilant when evaluating and/or responding to any job posting and/or email communication received regarding an opportunity.

KEY CONCERNS AND TIPS

A position or job offer that seems “too good to be true” or there is something that doesn’t seem right about the opportunity.

If you feel uncomfortable with some of the information requested, or there is otherwise something that doesn’t seem right about the opportunity, we suggest that you seek out help from the Career Center. If you decide to proceed forward, we urge you to do so with extreme caution.

NOTE: Even if the original position description seems valid, if you receive follow-up emails, phone calls, or job offers that seem unusual, you need to proceed with caution.

TIPS

  • Trust your instinct, and seek out help from the Career Center.
  • Conduct research to determine the legitimacy of the opportunity by reviewing the company website. Is it difficult to find an address, individual contacts, and/or company details?
  • Check GlassDoor or Handshake for trends or patterns in reviews
  • Check LinkedIn for diverse and long-term connections

Use the Better Business BureauHoover’s Online, and AT&T’s Anywho to verify organizations.

An employer offers you a position before even speaking with you.

TIPS

  • Never accept a job you didn’t apply to, or one that doesn’t require an interview or gives you a very short time to accept.
  • Any reputable employer normally requires an interview (and sometimes additional steps) before hiring.
  • Keep copies of all communications with the employer.

Financial-related concerns and/or requests for personal information.

Examples:

  1. The “employer” is asking you to provide personal and/or personal financial information
    (i.e. social security number, birth date, credit card number, bank account information, etc.).
  2. You are asked to provide a photo of yourself or a photocopy of your ID, e.g., driver’s license to “verify identity”.
  3. The “employer” asks you to deposit a check before you do any work.
  4. The position requires an initial payment/ investment, such as a payment by wire service or courier.
  5. You are offered a large payment or reward in exchange for allowing the use of your bank account (often for depositing checks or transferring money).
  6. You are asked to give credit card, bank or PayPal account numbers.
  7. You are asked to transfer money, including via Western Union money orders, cryptocurrency, eBay, PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, or other similar systems.
  8. You receive an unexpectedly large check.

TIPS

  • Never provide a photo of yourself, or any personal identification information to an employer unless you’re certain of the legitimacy of the employer, the opportunity, and the employer request.
  • It can be a common technique for scammers to ask you to cash a check at a bank, and then return some of that money to the employer while you get to keep some of the cash for yourself. THIS IS A SCAM!
  • Avoid any opportunities in which the “employer” claims that an initial investment is required for “start-up costs” or “office supplies for working remotely.”
  • Never allow your bank account to be used for business transactions such as depositing checks or transferring money.

The employer email says they found your information in Handshake, or through Lafayette College, or something else connected to your background but something doesn’t seem right.

  • Just because an email says it’s from Handshake/Lafayette does not mean it actually is!

Do your research. Search for the employer in Handshake and make sure the person who emailed you is a name within the Handshake account. Here’s a helpful article about what employers can do in Handshake, and what student information they can access.

The job posting is vague, available employer information is non-specific, or information connected to the employer or opportunity seems ambiguous.

Examples:

  1. The posting neglects to mention what the responsibilities of the job actually are. Instead, the description focuses on the amount of money to be made (e.g. $350 weekly).
  2. The employer contacts you by phone, however, there is no way to call them back. The number is not available.
  3. The salary range listed is very wide (e.g. “employees can earn from $40K – $80K the first year!”)

TIPS

  • Look at the company’s website. Does it have an index that tells you what the site is about; or does it contain information only about the job you are interested in? Scammers often create quick, basic web pages that seem legitimate at first glance.
  • Watch for anonymity. If it is difficult to find an address, actual contact, company name, etc. – this is cause to proceed with caution. Fraud postings are illegal, so scammers will try to keep themselves well-hidden.
  • When you Google the company name and the word “scam” (e.g. Acme Company Scam), the results show several scam reports concerning this company. Another source for scam reports is: http://www.ripoffreport.com.
  • Google the employer’s phone number, fax number and/or email address. If it does not appear connected to an actual business organization, this is a red flag. Sites like the Better Business BureauHoover’s Online, and AT&T’s Anywho can be used to verify organizations.

Additional Concerns/Red Flags

  • The posting appears to be from a reputable, familiar company (often a Fortune 500), but the domain in the contact’s email address does not match the domain used by representatives of the company (this is typically easy to determine from the company’s website). Another way to validate is to check the open positions on the company’s website.
  • The posting includes many spelling and grammatical errors, including misspelling Lafayette College and/or generically stating “your university/college”.
  • The position initially appears as a traditional job…upon further research, it sounds more like an independent contractor opportunity.
  • At the time of hire, the employer tells you they are traveling internationally and needs you to be their assistant or run errands for them.
  • The position is for any of the following: Envelope Stuffers, Home-based Assembly Jobs, Online Surveys.
  • The position indicates a “first-year compensation” that is in high excess to the average compensation for that position type.
  • The employer tells you that they do not have an office set-up in your area, and will need you to help them get it up and running (these postings often include a request for your banking information, supposedly to help the employer make transactions).
  • If the position listing is for an international opportunity, does it include travel expenses? Upfront program fees? Research the company and compare its program/benefits with other similar opportunities.
  • Tip: When using job boards beyond Handshake, read their privacy policies carefully. Also read how easy it is for employers to post jobs by going through the site’s employer links.

NEXT STEPS & HELPFUL ARTICLES

What should I do if I encounter a suspicious posting or have been the victim of an employer scam?

If you encounter suspicious postings in Handshake, or if you suspect you have been the victim of an employer scam, please report your experience to the Gateway Career Center at careers@lafayette.edu and end all communication with the employer. You may also wish to do the following:

  • Monitor your accounts over the next few days if personal information was disclosed
  • If you have sent money to a fraudulent employer, contact your bank or credit card company immediately to close your account and dispute the charges
  • If the incident occurred entirely over the internet, file an incident report with the FTC at 1.877.FTC.HELP (1.877.382.4357) or at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/
  • Contact the police and report the fraud or scam

Helpful Articles

Many thanks to Vassar College and the University of Rhode Island for their valuable resources related to job and internship search safety.