Before Covid-19, work-seekers would spend money on transport and printing to drop off CVs in person. In the new world of work, looking for jobs online is safer, cheaper and easier. However, searching for jobs online can have its pitfalls. As a jobseeker you should be aware of the dangers and keep safe to avoid them.

How to spot a job scam

Have you ever seen a job ad online that looked too good to be true? Well, it probably is! Though there are many legitimate opportunities online, there are also scams that try to trick you. A lot of young people have fallen victim to job scams; with some scams requesting money to secure your application.

1. You are asked to pay money
Scammers ask you to pay for a background screening or an admin fee. Recruitment Agencies are not allowed to charge job seekers for the process of job seeking. Recruitment Agencies earn their commission from the employer and not the work-seeker or employee. This is a big red flag that something is wrong.

2. Companies without an online presence
Companies that have very limited to no presence online may well not exist at all! Remember to use Google and/or social media platforms to search for the company. Also, go through the reviews and see what others have to say about them. Almost all companies and organisations have some sort of online presence. They may have a website but even the smallest employers have Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram accounts to promote themselves.

3. You cannot verify their contact information
The emails they may be using could be personal email addresses and they are using only cell phone numbers. Most companies and organisations will have an email address that uses its name in the address e.g.: With only personal email addresses and cell phone numbers you aren’t able to check that they really exist.

If they have a familiar sounding name then you need to check their contact emails etc very carefully too. Some scammers make their emails similar to known companies but with just one or two changes. For example, they may have created an email such as However ABSA’s emaills are So check for those kinds of changes as well.

4. Look out for third party validation!
This is where the company’s name has appeared on other websites or publications. This could be in a newspaper, maybe they sponsored an event and this shows that they do exist and they have a track record.

5. If it’s too good to be true….!
If the salary does not match the work, then it is likely to be a scam. No organisation or company will pay someone much more than the market value of the position. So many times, in job scam opportunities, you find that everyone qualifies for the job too. There are very few criteria that will disqualify anyone because they want to scam as many people as possible.

6. Being asked for personal details upfront.
Being asked for your personal details upfront (such as your banking details) is definitely not okay. There’s no reason why any recruiter or employer would want your banking details unless you have received a job offer. Obviously, if you apply you will send them your CV and that information should be enough at this point in the application process.

7. Being offered a job without an interview.
Being offered a job when you have not been through any screening process or interview is very fishy! The screening or interview may happen online but there does need to be this type of interaction first before a position is offered.

How to stay safe

1. Google the name of the company and see if you can find a website and/or social media pages such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
2. See if you can find the job post on other recruitment sites.
3. Google reviews about the company to see what other people are saying.
4. Check if the application site is secure and that it includes the lock icon that you see in the address bar of a secure site that has a url (Uniform Resource Locator).
5. If the opportunity requires you to pay to apply, get shortlisted, get an interview, or be placed, make sure to double check that it is not a scam. Paying opportunities are a scammer’s favourite way to trick you.
6. Once you get interview details, google the address they have asked you to come to – check it’s in a safe area and that it exists.
7. Tell your friends and family where you are going before you go to an address.
8. Be aware of the type of details they are asking you for. Don’t give your personal details if you feel unsure about the opportunity.
9. Make sure that you agree to terms of work upfront, even if the best they can do is a verbal contract.

Sadly, it has become easier for scam artists to run their scams now that many people are applying for work online. You need to be really aware of what you are applying for and take the time to check that the job opportunity is a real one.

Thanks to the Harambee Team for content support.


Tell us: Have you ever been scammed? What did you do?