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If a Job Ad Sounds Too Good to be True, It’s Probably a Scam

Jobs that sound too good to be true should raise a red flag for any college student. Fake job postings abound in unsolicited e-mails sent to your student account and in online job listing sites.

Here's an e-mail received this week by the Student Employment Program—the job was rejected:

"Agile and Responsible individual is needed to fill the vacant position of a Personal Assistant (Part time) Someone who can offer these services: * Mail services (Receive mails and drop them off at UPS) * Shop for Gifts * Sit for delivery (at your home) or pick items up at nearby post office at your convenience. (You will be notified when delivery would be made)"

An IUP student received the following e-mail:

"If you are resourceful, organized, good with paperwork and honest, you can make three hundred dollars ($300) a week, as a business assistant. This flexible but formal position would only take at most two hours of your time daily, or even less, depending on your work-speed. You would be needed Mondays through Fridays, but the job's flexibility lies in the fact that your duties are clear-cut and would take little of your time to be executed daily. Kindly get back to me ASAP if you are interested and wish to know more about this opportunity."

Here are some tips to help you identify fake jobs. You should always carefully research the legitimacy of employers before applying.

Common Job Scams Targeting College Students:

  • Mystery shoppers
  • Envelope stuffing from home
  • Repackaging or shipping from home
  • Issuing checks/check processing from home
  • Model/talent agencies
  • Pyramid sales schemes
  • A variety of scams where a student is asked to pay for certification, training materials, or equipment with promise of reimbursement

Watch out for overpayment scams. These are often posted as a bookkeeper, personal assistant, administrative assistant, etc., to assist in processing checks or mystery/secret shoppers. The “company” sends a check to the “assistant” (student), who is then responsible for taking their “salary” out of the check and wiring the remainder of the money back to the “company.” These checks are fraudulent and can leave you out thousands of dollars and facing criminal charges.

Beware if the E-mail or Job Posting:

  • does not indicate the company name
  • comes from an e-mail address that doesn’t match the company name
  • does not give the employer contact information—title of person sending the e-mail, company address, phone number, etc.
  • offers to pay a large amount for almost no work
  • offers you a job without ever interacting with you
  • asks you to pay an application fee
  • wants you to transfer money from one account to another
  • offers to send you a check before you do any work
  • asks you to give your credit card or bank account numbers
  • asks for copies of personal documents
  • says you must send payment by wire service or courier
  • offers you a large payment for allowing the use of your bank account—often for depositing checks or transferring money
  • sends you an unexpectedly large check

No legitimate employer will send payment in advance and ask the employee to send a portion of it back. DO NOT provide any personal information, especially Social Security numbers or financial information!

If you have concerns about the legitimacy of a job or internship posting, please contact the IUP Career Development Center at 724-357-2235 or student-employment@iup.edu.  If you feel that you’ve been the victim of a scam, please contact University Police at 724-357-2141.

  • Career and Professional Development Center
  • Pratt Hall, Suite 302
    201 Pratt Drive
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-2235
  • Fax: 724-357-4079
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m.– 12:00 p.m. and 1:00–4:30 p.m.