Protecting yourself from job posting scams

When searching for jobs, it's important to protect yourself from potential job posting scams.

A growing trend in this area targets students and new grads seeking employment, both on public job boards and university employment portals. 

Though WaterlooWorks job postings are carefully reviewed by Co-operative and Experiential Education in an effort to verify their legitimacy, we can't always catch fraudulent information. Sometimes scammers will post jobs with real company names, websites and information, but use fraudulent email addresses to correspond with students (among other tactics). The same is true of public job boards, where postings are often less closely monitored. 

Please use caution and sound judgement when responding to job postings, attending interviews and accepting offers from employers. To help you and your information stay safe, we've compiled some tips and information below.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your co-op advisor.

Tips to avoid job posting scams:

  • Watch out for:
    • Companies that aren't willing to provide information about their organization or the job itself.
    • Companies that refuse to interview you either in-person, over the phone or via Skype. 
    • Companies asking for access to personal information during the interview stage (e.g., your Social Insurance Number, banking or credit information, student card, driver's license or passport). Legitimate companies won't request this type of personal information until you've been officially hired.
    • Companies that ask you to make an initial investment up front. You shouldn't have to pay a company in order to apply for a job.
    • Companies that send you money up front and ask you to cash cheques/wire money back to them.
    • Opportunities that seem too good to be true (which means they probably are).
  • Research the company in advance:
    • Visit the company website, read reviews and search social media.
    • Does the organization have an online presence that lines up with what's in the job description? 
    • Does the company have a physical location?
    • Is the contact information readily available and does it line up with what's on the job ad? (e.g., Are the phone numbers consistent and in service? Does the email domain match the company's official website domain?)
    • Does the information seem ambiguous or vague? 
    • Can you find evidence that people (including the hiring manager) actually work there? 
    • Does the company (and employees) exist on LinkedIn?
  • Before accepting a job offer:
    • You should have an interview (in-person, over the phone or via Skype) to assess the legitimacy of the company and position.
    • You should receive a verbal and written offer from the employer, which typically includes a contract with the terms of your employment specified.

 If you suspect a scam:  

  • Do a web search with the company name and the word "scam" to see if someone has reported an issue in the past.
  • Ask questions and use your common sense if the answer seems suspicious.
  • Speak to your co-op advisor and tell them about your suspicions.

If you've been caught in a scam: 

  • Check your bank account for fraudulent activity. If you notice any transactions that you didn't initiate, contact your bank and/or credit card company immediately. Make sure you keep an eye on your bank account for the next few weeks.
  • File a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
  • Report the incident to your co-op advisor.

Common themes in job posting scams

Job posting scams typically involve fraudulent "employers" trying to convince you to send them money or personal information so they can steal your identity and obtain credit in your name.

These fraudulent postings and “job offers” sometimes involve the “employer” asking you (the candidate/job seeker) to do one of the following:

  • Send money from your own bank account to the “employer” (they'll claim it's for things like pre-employment screening, training materials/software...etc.) via wire transfer, money order or Interac e-Transfer. They steal the money, you never hear from them again and there's no way for you to get the money back.
  • Ask you to deposit a cheque from their "company" into your personal bank account and then immediately withdraw the funds to run some minor errands for them. They ask you to send the unspent money (from a few hundred to several thousand dollars) back to them. A day or two later, your bank will call to tell you that the cheque was a fake and you're now responsible for repaying all of the lost money to the bank.
  • Provide detailed personal information as part of the application process. The “employer” then uses the information to steal your identity and take out credit in your name - which they never pay off. This damages your credit history. 

Always contact your co-op advisor to report a suspicious job posting and/or if you were scammed. The University can then take appropriate action to ensure that other students aren't scammed by the same employer.