Apparent scams and fraudulent job postings have been on the rise lately in online job boards. After two positions that we approved in Ashland University’s on campus job board ended up being apparently fraudulent or inauthentic, I sat down and took a look at what information had been provided to us, and there were a lot of inconsistencies in the postings that should have been red flags that the postings were not genuine. This post is intended for administrators of job boards as they review unsolicited postings to assist them in identifying what jobs may be worth double-checking.

Check the address

Suspicious postings I have identified have addresses that should be suspicious. One job posting listed an address allegedly in town, but the number was way out of line with most addresses on that street. Addresses in that range on that road would have been in another town a few miles northwest, with a different zip code. We have also found several addresses to homes, storage facilities, and multi-tenant office buildings but were not able to trace a company of that name to that location online. Google Maps is a great resource for identifying whether there is a building at that address, and what kind of building it is.

Check the email address

Is the email address actually from the company? We have noticed many suspicious postings registered by users with email addresses at some variation of the company’s domain. For instance, if Example Co’s website is example.com – an inauthentic posting may have been registered by jon@examplemail.com or @exampleonline.com or @example.net – not the company’s actual domain.

Sometimes this can be a false positive – especially in education, for some reason, it seems like many schools and school districts have a different domain for email than they do for their website – but in that case if you visit the school’s website, you will usually see email addresses with that secondary domain listed on the site, so you know it is legitimately a domain belonging to the school. If you get a job posting for Example Co. and the email addresses at example.com are all @example.com – it should raise suspicions as it is unlikely that one employee would have an email @examplemail.com unlike the rest of the staff.

Does this company do business in your area?

Why would a New England-based supermarket chain be hiring a “mailing clerk” to work from home in a small Ohio town 500 miles from their nearest store? If it seems to make no business sense, it very well may be fraud. Another post we received was identifying itself as a marketing firm based in Maryland, but they provided as the work site a local address in town (one that appeared to be a single family home). While many organizations may have ways for employees to work from home, it strikes me as highly unusual for these home workers to be recruiting for people to come work at their homes.

Check the phone number

We require people posting in our system to provide a company-wide phone number, as well as one for that individual contact – and suspicious postings often raise flags in the phone number. For instance, the phone number listed for the company may be a few digits off from the phone number listed on the corporate web site – likely to make sure you call them rather than the actual company to discuss the job posting. Sometimes the phone number for the company or contact can also be in an area code that doesn’t make sense – for instance, the job is in Ohio, the company is based in New York, and the contact number is in California – unlikely that person is either a regional recruiter or at the main headquarters.

Watch for generic job titles and descriptions

Finally, many of these potentially fraudulent jobs provided only the vaguest-sounding names and descriptions. Titles like “General Clerk” or “Mailing Assistant” and other similar titles were common. Along the same lines, these jobs usually had very little detail in the job description. Typically some generic text about conducting mailing from home or something about clerical tasks, and promising large sums of money for little work. While this combination of few responsibilities and big reward should seem suspicious to job seekers, people who are desperately seeking opportunities may still try it, and could become the victims of a scam. If the posting sounds too good to be true, we tend toward skepticism until proved otherwise, typically by contacting the company directly.

Hopefully these guidelines can help administrators of other job boards decide what positions to take a closer look at before applying. While we want to provide the maximum possible number of opportunities for our students or job seekers, making sure positions are legitimate before publishing the job for student view is an important step in protecting our job-seeking students from potentially dangerous situations, or, at least, from being ripped off.

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