Devin Partida writes about cyber security and technology. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of

Amid historic unemployment from the COVID-19 pandemic, many people now find themselves job hunting. Job hunters should be aware that they may face additional challenges as they look through employment openings today. The FBI has issued a warning about cyber criminals stealing valuable information through fake listings.

According to the FBI, more than 16,000 people reported being victims of employment scams last year. The losses from these schemes totaled more than $59 million, with the average loss per victim nearing $3,000. Here’s everything you need to know about these scams and how to protect yourself.

Employment scams are growing

While employment scams are far from new, recent events have caused a surge in cyber crime, including employment fraud. Trends like the world’s increasing reliance on technology have made these scams far more convincing. Things that might normally seem suspicious or too good to be true are now not out of the question.

For example, remote work is becoming the norm in 2021, when it was once rare. Consequently, a job listing about a work-from-home position that would require a virtual interview or more digital communication won’t seem out of place. This type of communication makes it easier for scammers to steal information, and now it’s not unusual.

Increased reliance on digital technologies isn’t the only trend that can work in scammers’ favor. Job seekers may be more stressed than usual in light of widespread unemployment, financial stress, and other pandemic-related concerns. This, in turn, can distract them from spotting a fake listing or drive them to look into offers they wouldn’t normally consider.

How to identify a scam

While these cyber scams can be convincing, they typically feature one or more red flags. One of the easiest to spot is if the lister, either a potential employer or placement firm, asks for money upfront. Legitimate businesses will never charge applicants a fee for applying.

Employers today may hold interviews over videoconferencing software, but watch out for teleconferencing services you don’t recognize. Similarly, the FBI says you should avoid teleconference apps that use email addresses instead of phone numbers. You should also check the employer’s email address to ensure it’s the legitimate domain for that company.

Always double-check listings on job boards with the company’s website. Some scammers copy old listings from legitimate sources, but this check will help ensure the legitimate offer is still available. You should also look for spelling errors, unusual domain names, and other things that seem out of place, as these indicate a scam.

Some types of jobs are more likely to be fake listings. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), merchandise reselling or shopping jobs are almost always scams, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A good rule of thumb to follow in any online interaction is to never give personal information away to strangers. Legitimate employers will only ask for this info after hiring you, and it’s best to do so in-person if possible.

What to do if you’ve fallen victim to a job scam

If you find out that you’ve fallen for an employment scam, there are some steps you should take.

First, you should inform the website where you encountered the false listing so they can take it down. Next, you should file a fraud report with the FTC, who can tell you what to do next and stop similar instances in the future.

Stay vigilant about cyber scams

As long as people use the internet, cyber scams will be a threat. Cyber criminals grow more ambitious and skilled each day, so you must always look out for scams. When you know what to look for and how to react, you can stay safe from these rising threats.