As if people didn’t need another reason to be wary of the job search, a new analysis from Challenger, Gray & Christmas found job seekers and employers alike need to be aware of a new threat: online recruitment scams.

Scammers use a few different techniques to con job seekers; they may post a fake job ad and wait for people to apply or they will target job seekers who have posted their resumes online.

In one example from Australia’s consumer protection agency, the scammers created a false ad for Rio Tinto, that once a job seeker responded, escalated to asking for additional personal information, such as tax files, driver’s license, and birth certificate. Using this information, scammers were able to open credit cards and bank accounts.

The messages from these so-called recruiters sound legitimate. In the above case, the recruitment email included an email address with a extension and an application with the company’s name and logo.

In another incident in Houston, scammers set up an actual interview, via Google hangout, using the name of a reputable company, and then offered a position. The scammers then asked the job seeker to move around large sums of money, in this scenario, up to $3,000. To carry this out, they sent fraudulent checks made out to the job seeker to start a home office, then asked the job seeker to forward that money to a third party vendor.

“Any time a company asks you to pay or hold money for them, you should immediately see red flags,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “A credible employer would never ask their employees to move money through their personal accounts. That’s why companies have accounting departments.”

In July, Shell Oil posted a notice on its careers site warning job seekers that scammers were using the Shell name and logo to recruit for positions. The post read in part:

“Recent incidents have occurred involving organisations falsely claiming to recruit on behalf of Shell. These organisations, claiming to either work for or be affiliated with Shell, notify individuals that their qualifications were found suitable to work as an employee (local or expatriate) for Shell and solicit the transfer of significant sums of money to pay for work permits, insurance policies, etc.
Please note that Shell does not (nor do any of the organisations that recruit on our behalf) ever ask for money or payments from applicants at any point in the recruitment process. All individuals who are successful in gaining an offer of employment from Shell, whether directly or indirectly, are always required to go through a formal recruitment process.

Please note that these communications are fraudulent. They do not originate from Shell nor are they associated with Shell’s recruitment process.”

Besides the obvious problem for job seekers, the toll these scams can take on a company’s reputation is huge. From a recruitment perspective, once a company’s brand has been associated with these fraudulent ads, it may be difficult to attract the talent needed when a position becomes available.

In the Houston example, when the job seeker reached out to the company for which she thought she worked, they told her she was the fifth person to contact them about this issue.

“Employers need to be very aware of online activity, doing searches on various job boards to ensure there aren’t fraudulent postings using the company’s name. If employers receive a tip from someone who has fallen victim to one of these scams, they would be smart to issue a statement much like Shell’s, as well as contact media outlets.”


  • Ensure the entire company is aware which departments are hiring. Open communication about hiring practices will help current employees keep an eye out for potential fraud.
  • Dedicate resources to scouring the web in search of instances of fraudulent activity using the company name or logo.
  • If a fraudulent job ad is found, alert local authorities. They may be able to direct you to a cyber crimes unit within their department. Additionally, the FBI has set up the Internet Crime Complaint Center to address online fraud. You can file a complaint here:
  • Alert the media and post a notice on your website or social media accounts. Disseminating information is key to protecting your brand.


  • Besides asking the applicant for money, scam postings tend to include errors in grammar and spelling. Most companies use language which has been proofread and approved by multiple departments, such as legal and marketing, before job ads are posted.
  • The use of personal email or premium, for-fee phone numbers indicates possible fraud.
  • Job seekers should be wary of offers for which they did not apply or do not include any requirement to meet face-to-face.
  • Job postings that offer excessively high pay without verifying your data and work history may also be suspect.
  • Contact the company’s main number and ask if an ad is legitimate. Job seekers will not be faulted for doing due diligence on a potential job offer. This will not only alert the company to potential fraud, but it could allow the job seeker to make new professional contacts.