You spot an amazing offer as you’re scrolling through a job website to see what kind of part-time gig you can get to make some extra money. The job requires no experience, pays exceptionally well and lets you decide how many hours you want to work, and when. Even better: The employer promises to get you up and running within a day. How can this be for real? you think. Trust your gut, because it probably isn’t.

Employment scams are one of the hottest hoaxes today. Criminals lure unsuspecting people in with their over-the-top offers and then trick them into sending money or providing personal information. By the time the victims realize they’ve been swindled, the damage is done. Even worse, employment scams are just one of countless different types of scams being cooked up by fraudsters. These criminals and criminal organizations target potential victims with offers and threats that take a variety of forms.

Common Scams to Watch Out For

Protecting yourself begins with knowing what different types of scams are out there. Some of the most common scams — imposter scams and online shopping scams — are described below. Read on to make sure you’re in the know.

Imposter Scams

In an imposter scam, a fraudster contacts you, pretending to be someone you trust, and then convinces you to send them money or give them sensitive information. There are many variations on this type of scam, such as:

Phone scams. Someone calls claiming to be a representative of the government, a nonprofit, your credit card company, etc., and says you owe money that needs to be paid immediately. This may include a threat such as, “You will face arrest or have your financial accounts frozen if you don’t comply,” and you may be asked to pay using a gift card or some other unusual payment method.

Rather than engaging in conversation with the caller, tell them you first need to call their company or agency to verify what they are telling you. Go to the organization’s official website to get contact information and then initiate communication yourself to ascertain whether the call represented a legitimate purpose.   

Romance scams. Online dating apps provide a convenient vehicle for criminals to prey upon unsuspecting targets. In romance scams, fraudsters create fake profiles, earn the trust and affection of would-be romantic partners, and then start asking for money — like airfare to enable them to visit you, or cash for a medical emergency or other hard-luck story. The scammer may continue bilking their victim of funds but then vanishes once they become suspicious.

If you choose to use an online dating platform, take precautions to protect yourself from this type of scam. Never share your financial information or send money to anyone you don’t personally know and trust.

Employment scams. Posing as an employer, a fraudster asks for your Social Security number or other personal information to allegedly process your application. Or they actually claim to be hiring you but ask you to invest funds upfront for training or supplies. They may even send you a paycheck, but before you have a chance to cash it (spoiler: it will bounce), they claim that they overpaid you and ask you to send some of the money back.

To avoid this type of scam, be cautious about job postings for “mystery shoppers,” or with vague descriptions or too-good-to-be-true offers. Do some online research into the employer, including checking to see if the posted job is actually listed on their website.

Phishing and smishing. Phishing is the practice of sending an email, posing as a reputable company or individual, and instructing the recipient to click on a link. That link leads to a fraudulent website where the target is asked to provide personal information — a password, a credit card number, a debit card PIN, bank account information, etc. — which the scammer can then use to access your accounts. Smishing does the same but via text messaging.

Look for red flags such as misspellings, grammatical errors, requests for personal information or threats of consequences. If you have any doubt about a message, use another method, like phoning the sender’s headquarters, to verify its legitimacy. Do not click unless you are 100% certain the request is legitimate.

Wire (money transfer) fraud. Important to know - once you wire someone money, it can be extremely difficult, and often not possible, to get it back. That’s why some imposters convince their targets to wire them money. A common example of wire fraud is the grandparent scam. A scammer calls, posing as a grandchild or grandchild’s friend, and says they are in trouble and need cash immediately. Make sure the elderly people in your life are aware of scams like this so they don’t get conned.

Online Shopping Scams

Online ads can be tempting, especially when they seem to know exactly what you want exactly when you need it. Once again, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. The ad may take you to a site where you can place an order and provide your financial information, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be getting the product you’re expecting, or any product at all for that matter.

Never click on an online ad link to make a purchase. Instead, visit the retailer’s website directly. If it’s a retailer you don’t know, research the company with the Better Business Bureau and seek out reviews of the company to make sure it’s legitimate before you make a purchase.

If you have been victimized by a scam, or you suspect that you have, you can file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at