Unveiling Deception: How to Spot Fake Recruiters and Job Posts

The digital landscape and the rise of remote work have created more opportunities for job seekers. It has also created fertile grounds for job search scams and recruitment fraud to thrive. Scammers can reach a wider pool of people while exploiting the anonymity and reach afforded by the internet. Constant vigilance is key to spotting deceptive tactics used by fake recruiters, who prey on desperate and eager job seekers.

Recruitment scams involve fraudsters posing as recruiters, sometimes even using the identities of real people in the recruitment industry, and enticing unsuspecting job seekers with fictitious opportunities. They aim to trick you into sharing personal information for nefarious purposes like identity theft.

Over the years, LinkedIn has experienced a growing problem with fake profiles on its site. In 2021, LinkedIn removed 32 million fake accounts to combat recruiting scams. These fake profiles are insidious because they are frequently linked to someone in your LinkedIn network who likely accepted the invitation without knowing any better. Connecting with a fake recruiter can give them access to important details, such as your work history and professional contacts. They often use these details to create elaborate phishing scams.

How do you spot a fake LinkedIn profile?

Five key indicators are helpful in detecting a fake LinkedIn profile:

  • Fake profiles appear incomplete and hastily assembled with little to no personalized content about their specific attributes or professional backgrounds. Sophisticated scammers might create a more detailed backstory to make their profile credible. However, they often use generic job titles, and their experience does not align with their claimed background. Real recruiters have more complete profiles, such as a comprehensive work history, education, and skills section.
  • Fake recruiters have very few or an unusually high number of connections to people with suspiciously similar-looking profiles. Legitimate profiles often have a mix of connections. Real recruiters typically have large professional networks dependent on established relationships with hiring managers at the companies for which they recruit.
  • Fake profiles typically have little to no LinkedIn activity. Genuine recruiters often post jobs on LinkedIn and converse with other community members.
  • Fake profiles tend to have no profile photo or a model-quality stock photo. Some scammers will use photos of lesser-known actors or actresses to create multiple fake profiles. You can verify photo authenticity with a reverse image search to see where else that image has been used online.
  • Fake recruiters may claim to represent well-known companies but lack verifiable endorsements. More-savvy fraudsters will often use the name of an established recruitment company to link their profile to that company’s corporate LinkedIn page. Authentic recruiters typically have clear affiliations with reputable organizations on their profiles.

How do you protect yourself against recruitment fraud?

If you have been approached by a recruiter, investigate before engaging. Start with LinkedIn and look for signs of authenticity or red flags like the aforementioned indicators. Never share sensitive personal information, such as a social security number or bank account details. Legitimate employers will ask for this information for tax purposes only after you have accepted a written offer.

Read job postings carefully.

Spelling and grammar errors, excessive capitalization or exclamation points, and overly promotional language should raise suspicion. The job should include specific details about the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations. Fake postings are vague, using generic language or making unrealistic guarantees, such as an inflated salary.

Pay attention to the process.

You never have to pay for a background check or to apply for a job. Reputable employers pay all fees associated with the recruitment and placement processes. Do not download any software from an unknown source, as this can open you up to malware and phishing attacks. Legitimate recruiters use established platforms and tools for communication and application submissions.

You should also never feel pressured to apply for a job or accept a job offer on the spot.

Fake recruiters often use urgency as a tactic to entice job seekers to act first and think later. Legitimate recruiters work to fill tightly specified openings and want to understand how your background aligns with the role. They will not skip steps in the hiring process or make you an offer without having you go through the interview process.

Bringing it all together.

Most job opportunities you encounter will be legitimate. By familiarizing yourself with common fraudulent recruitment practices, you can protect your financial security, identity, career safety, and emotional well-being. If you think you have fallen for one of these scams, you can file an identity theft report with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Internet Crime Complaint Center, and your state Attorney General’s office.

This article originally appeared in the Career Connection column in the April 2024 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at www.aiche.org/cep.