Your guide to avoiding job scams online

Georgia State student Chloe Pleasant was scammed into opening a P.O. box after she was recruited for a fake job on her personal email.

“[The recruiter] said I applied to them on LinkedIn, and I never did,” Pleasant said. “They made it seem like I already applied to them and I never sent an application.”

At the time, Pleasant was trying to find a job to help her with her living expenses.

“I was looking for a job to pay rent because, at the time, I was living in Atlanta, and rent is expensive,” she said.

Pleasant said it was a job as a “personal assistant” for an architectural photographer named Stephanie McGrath.

“It required me to help her schedule out appointments for her, meetings, printing out things, etc., for a couple thousand a week,” she said.

Pleasant said she felt pressured to accept the job.

“Every email they sent back never answered any of my questions, and they persuaded me to open a P.O. box for them to send me money that I never received,” she said.

Pleasant realized it was a scam when she noticed some red flags. They said that they sent money to her P.O. box, but she never officially opened it. 

The second sign was that the emails were filled with poor English, and the third sign was that they promised a phone call with her but never called.

“I texted the number numerous times, and they never responded to my questions,” she said. “They also wanted me to sign employment papers that didn’t make any sense.”

She said that she’d gotten some threatening comments from them when she would ask questions over the phone.

“I demanded to speak to them over the phone, and they basically told me that they were the boss and not the other way around,” Pleasant said. “Their English was very bad as well.”

Pleasant ended up getting her money back from initially opening the P.O. box, but she said it has affected how she looks for jobs now and recommends students to look for clues.

“Look for clues, like if they ask for money up front or for training,” she said. “No job needs your Social Security number up front, unless you’re filling out a W2 form or another form of work documents.”

Pleasant luckily didn’t give out that info, but she said that many people have.

Here are a few tips, color-coded to correspond with Pleasant’s email, to help you be safe and avoid job scams:

  • Research the company and the recruiter: Check out the company website to see what you can learn about their culture and their business model. If they have a list of staff members, see if you can find the name of the recruiter listed on the job posting.
  • Familiarize yourself with common job scams: They’ll often have misspelling and grammatical issues and will expect you to start right away. They will also include details that are not relevant to the job. Sometimes, they will have an excuse for always being out of the country or traveling to justify not being accessible to you.
  • If something feels “too good to be true,” it probably is: “Make $300 in a day from home.” Large sums of money for minimal work is a common tactic that a scammer will use to lure students in and steal your information.
  • Never cash a check for, or give any money to, an employer: A common technique used by Internet scammers is 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. No reputable employer will require you to pay for anything on your own, or cash a check on their behalf, before starting your job.
  • Be wary of an employer who offers you a job before even speaking with you: Any reputable employer normally requires an interview (and more) before hiring. An employer will also almost always ask to meet in person or through an on-camera interview.
  • Avoid names that sound too generic: Michael Scott, Eric Smith, etc. Often these are people outside of the country who are trying to sound legitimate by using “English” names.
  • Keep track of what jobs you apply to: A scammer will try to convince you that you applied to a job. If you have applied to many, it can be easier to convince you. Cross-reference all job offers with your records. If they don’t match, inquire where they got your information from.


Editor’s Note: Some tips were recommended by Handshake, a career-services program that Georgia State regularly works with.