BBB Tips: Watch out for job-hunting scams

Hunting for a job is never easy, which is one good reason to be skeptical of emails or other solicitations appearing out of the blue, offering you employment or promising easy money.

A colleague recently began receiving emails for engineer jobs in India, despite the fact she has no engineering skills and doesn't live in India. Those were pretty obvious fake offers.

Others may not be so obvious, but there can be red flags. One of the most common employment scams is an offer to become a mystery shopper. Typically, these solicitations promise to give you money up front to buy items from designated stores. The red flag in many mystery shopper offers comes when the "employer" sends a check, which can appear genuine, and the shopper is directed to deposit the check in a bank account. The first "assignment" often is to wire some of the money back to the "employer," using a wire transfer service or gift cards.

Unfortunately, the check usually turns out to be fake. You may owe bank fees for a bad check or overdraft charges if you didn't have enough money in your account to cover the wire transfer. It's virtually impossible to get the money back once you've wired it, especially if the person receiving the transfer is overseas.

Another job scam requires upfront payment for something like a background check or drug test. In some cases, these jobs are advertised on social media, and the advertiser may claim hundreds will be hired for a mysterious employer. Anyone who tries to apply is asked to pay for a background check or drug test, with fees that are often less than $25. However, there is no job, and the "employer" simply pockets the fees.

In other cases, an employer may ask you to pay for merchandise to sell. Legitimate employers don't ask you to buy the merchandise. They may pay you a commission for what you sell, but you don't have to buy items that you could get stuck with if they don't sell.

Another common job-related scam is paying someone who promises to find you a job. Legitimate job placement or head-hunter firms don't charge job seekers to find a job. They make their money by finding employers great candidates for actual jobs.

Finding a great job is a full-time job in itself. You need to develop a professional-looking resume, scan online and other job-listing services and be ready to be interviewed one or more times by a company that is looking for someone with your skills.

Better Business Bureau reminds job seekers to check out any company that offers you employment by searching for its BBB Business Profile at or by calling 573-886-8965. Learn about scams or report one at BBB Scam Tracker,

Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.