Poor economic times and high unemployment rates are enough to worry about, but the reality is there are people out there taking advantage of those seeking jobs. Here’s what to look for and how to protect yourself against job ad scams.


I never thought I would encounter a situation in which I would compare ordinary spammers favorably to someone else, but here goes. A piece I read in The Wall Street Journal today warns job hunters about employment ads that end up being nothing more than come-ons from career-marketing services that charge up to $10,000.

Basically, here’s what these scum factories do: They post an employment ad, you send in your resume, and they call you up to make an appointment for an interview. When you get there, they say, “Well, we’re actually a career service. We aren’t looking to fill that non-existent position we put in the paper, but we can train you to apply for ones like that.” Of course, you’re free to walk out at that point without giving them a red cent, and I beg you to do so, but even then you have wasted valuable time even meeting with them. You’ve also been unnecessarily encouraged by getting an “interview” and then let down hard.

At least your average spammer has the common decency to promise stuff that’s so outrageous any normal person can avoid it. In other words, if you respond to an ad for a cream that will either increase or decrease the size of some body part, you’re not going to get much sympathy from me.

But this job scam seems to go beyond “Buyer Beware.” It’s preying on the vulnerable people who make up that double-digit unemployment rate and who are desperate to continue to pay their mortgages and keep food on the table. And the career services market is not the only villain. According to The Wall Street Journal, “it might be a plan by identity thieves to get you to share sensitive personal information via phishing expeditions. Some of the job postings — sometimes for positions long filled — also could be from recruiting agencies looking to collect résumés.”

So how can you tell the difference between a real job ad and these scumbag tactics? The article says: “One sign is that it lacks details about the hiring company and position. Such an ad might describe an employer as a ‘major technology firm’ rather than cite annual sales or say what kind of technology it produces. It also might offer a vague job description or list a salary range spanning more than $50,000. Genuine ads typically target applicants who have a specific amount of experience and pay salaries commensurate with their backgrounds.”

If you’re unsure whether an ad is sincere, the article recommends you take these steps:

  • Provide a resume with a post-office box address instead of your home address.
  • List just your initials in the document and not your full name.
  • Consider using a disposable e-mail address to prevent spam from clogging up the one you normally use.
  • If a business address or company name is provided, and it’s a name you don’t recognize, search for the employer’s Web site to learn more about it.
  • Check for any complaints filed against it with the Better Business Bureau.