With over 900 million people worldwide using LinkedIn today, the platform has become the primary service for job seekers looking to discover career and networking opportunities. Unfortunately, scammers are also turning their attention to this social media platform in an attempt to take advantage of people, tricking job seekers into sharing their personal information, payment details, and more.
Just last year, LinkedIn says it removed over 32 Million fake accounts, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning job seekers to be cautious, saying fraudsters on the platform pose a ‘significant threat’ to consumers. In this article, learn how to stay vigilant, what to look out for, and how to protect yourself if you encounter a job scammer on LinkedIn.
In the midst of global layoffs, job seekers are eager for opportunities
In recent months, headlines reported the news of widespread layoffs impacting tens of thousands of workers in tech and other industries. In 2023 alone, more than 100,000 workers in US Based tech companies have been laid off. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it is expected to see the national unemployment rate rise from 3.6% to 5%, reflecting the economic slowdown. As job seekers enter the unsettling world of unemployment, they are feeling the pressure to find work quickly. This urgency can increase the risk of falling for job scams.
How scammers use LinkedIn
Where do job seekers turn when looking for work? LinkedIn is a very popular social media platform where job hunters and recruiters alike go to connect, network, and hopefully find that next golden opportunity or candidate. Because this is a trusted tool with legitimate companies and employees making connections and finding opportunities, victims often trust that the people they interact with are also legitimate. After a few friendly back-and-forth messages with a new LinkedIn contact, a job seeker could become susceptible to falling for a scam.
Job scam sophistication is on the rise
According to recent data from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, more than 92,000 job-related scams resulted in over $367 million dollars lost, which is an increase from 2021’s $209 million.
In a January 2023 interview with the Financial Times, Oscar Rodriguez, LinkedIn’s vice president of product management, admits that online job scams are becoming both more sophisticated and more common. “There’s certainly an increase in the sophistication of the attacks and the cleverness. We see websites being set up, we see phone numbers with a seemingly professional operator picking up the phone and answering on the company’s behalf. We see a move to more sophisticated deception.”
Scammers are even using the popular AI content writing tool Chat GPT to generate convincing and realistic job posts — this method overcomes the easier-to-spot scams that include poor grammar, multiple typos, or strange photos. By using AI, scammers can improve both the quality and quantity of fake job opportunities without needing to spend more time building them. It also lowers the bar for newcomers to get into launching these types of scams with ease.
Types of job scams
Fake job posting
Scammers will create fake job postings — typically these will be work-from-home or remote jobs, as they are the most attractive to candidates as well as the easiest to fool applicants. The entire interview process is managed virtually, over email or a chat app, and then when the candidate “gets’ the job, the scammer starts a fraudulent onboarding process, collecting personal information, ID documents, and social security numbers. They could also demand upfront payment for things like work equipment, uniform, or additional training. Once they receive money from you, they disappear.
Fake recruiter profile
It can be relatively easy for scammers to create a fake profile on LinkedIn, just as it is on other social media accounts like Facebook or Instagram. To establish a profile, only a few pieces of information are needed, including a profile photo, and fake job history and information. With a fake profile, a scammer can pose as a real recruiter. At the same time, it is not uncommon to receive friendly messages from people you don’t know on LinkedIn, especially from a recruiter, offering a chance to apply for a role or schedule an interview. Once this relationship is established, the recruiter can easily collect personal information from the job seeker, pretending it's for a referral or application.
Fake investor opportunity
Scammers could message users on LinkedIn sharing a rare opportunity to earn money — whether it's in crypto or another financial opportunity. They could easily create a fake company and a fake website, and after starting a professional relationship, they then could ask you to send or wire money to secure your stake and holdings.
Job scam signs to look out for on LinkedIn
- Offers that seem too good to be true: If something appears too good to be true, (for example, an offer to make a lot of money, quickly, for not much work), then it likely is a scam. Legitimate job opportunities focus on a compensation package that includes salary and benefits, rather than a get-rich-quick scheme.
- Urgency: If the person you are communicating with pressures you to act or respond very quickly, that’s a red flag. As a job candidate, you should always feel empowered to take your time to review the opportunity carefully. Real jobs often interview multiple candidates at once and want to thoroughly vet each potential hire, so the process can take many days if not weeks.
- Quick success: If you get a job offer without an interview, without your references being called, or without any formal process, it is likely a scam. Real recruiters and hiring managers will want to thoroughly vet you and your experience, with one if not many rounds of interviews to verify you are the right candidate for the job.
- Communicating only through chat: If your entire interview process has been conducted digitally, that may be a sign of a scam. It is much easier to fake a company or job online than it is in person, so if you never get a video call or in-person interview, ask for one to verify the job is legitimate.
- Spelling errors or bad grammar: Poor grammar or misspelled words are a tell-tale sign that something might be fishy with a job posting. A real job opportunity or professional recruiter will be very polished and professional in their written communication.
- Slightly off website URLs or company names: Scammers will create fake websites pretending to be a real company with slightly different spelling or punctuation. Instead of realcompany.com, it may be spelled as real-company.com or realco.com. Always double-check that you are on the true company site.
- Lack of information about the recruiter or company: It is always a good idea to do extra research when you are interested in a job or company. When you receive an inbound message from a recruiter about the opportunity, look for more information about the person who contacted you, the company, or the job itself. If nothing additional comes up, this could be a sign of a fake job. Sometimes, researching this information may even result in becoming aware of the scam itself, shared by a previous target or news source.
- They won’t disclose the company name: If you are contacted about a job at a “very big" company, but the recruiter won’t actually tell you the company’s name, this could be a red flag. Recruiters may say it is to protect their commission but it could actually be a way to fake a job offer without having to reveal that there is no real company behind it since it’s a ‘secret’.
- Phishing links for job applications: When contacted by a job scammer, you may be sent a URL for an application that is actually a phishing link designed to collect and steal your personal information or financial credentials. Look closely for strange URLs or slightly off-looking designs if filling out a form with personal data online. Professional recruiters often use a trusted 3rd party service like Glassdoor or Workday to manage their inbound applications.
- Sending money or needing to pay upfront: Scammers will often ‘hire’ you for a job, and then say that to start training, or to receive your equipment, you need to send money. Another form of this is saying you need to pay upfront for additional training courses before you start your job. This is a sign of a scam, legitimate hiring managers will not ask you for money to start working.
- Sending personal or financial information before starting the job: HR onboarding is an important part of any new job you start — for example: setting up payroll, verifying your documents for the right to work in the U.S., and applying for benefits. But all of this happens once your job has started. Do not send over any personal info before your first day of work, especially copies of your ID or Passport, bank account, routing numbers, or social security number.
What to do if you fell for a job scam
Report it to law enforcement
If you were the victim of a scam, report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency. You can also report it to the FBI’s online crime complaint center.
Make sure to keep the evidence of the scam you encountered — emails, messages, screenshots, documents, and more. This will help the authorities investigate your situation, as well as provide proof to your bank if you file claims or you lose money as a result of the scam.
Report and block on LinkedIn
If you receive a message from a scammer on LinkedIn, you can block them and report them directly to LinkedIn so the platform can remove scammers from their site.
Monitor your data with advanced protection
If you inadvertently send any personal or financial information to an online scammer, consider investing in an Identity Protection service, like Lookout Life, that will monitor your important data and alert you about unusual or fraudulent activity associated with your online accounts, identity, and finances, and proactively protect you against risks.