Common Scams On Online Job Boards

Common Scams On Online Job Boards

Job recruitment scams are nothing new. Unfortunately, though, decentralised technologies give criminals new ways to defraud hopeful users. Here’s how to stay safe online.

Scammers are always ready to defraud unsuspecting people, and are prepared to exploit any opportunity ruthlessly if it means they can steal a few extra dollars. Unfortunately, this means they will look for particular vulnerabilities and areas they can take advantage of, whether that means on a personal, emotional or technical level.

Jobfishing 101

Recruitment scams, or ‘jobfishing’, has been around for many years. But as more of our everyday life has moved online, while inflation and the cost of living crisis bites more deeply, more criminals have gravitated towards this lucrative way to make money at others’ expense. The scams frequently involve the offer of well-paid work, but claim to require accreditation or training first, for which the candidate must pay. Bated in by the hope that they will soon have a well paying job, applicants send money to the training ‘companies’, only to find that there is no accreditation, and of course, no job at the end of it either.

Following a series of similar job scams, the UK government recently published guidance around remaining vigilant about fake recruiters, and some of the ways they con hopeful applicants out of cash at a time when they need it most. Regardless of which sector you work in, the following red flags are a helpful starting point to staying safe in your search for work:

  1. Poorly-written job adverts. Employers should be putting their best foot forward in their search for qualified candidates. If a job advert contains numerous spelling or grammatical errors, or doesn’t include vital information (roles and responsibilities, required experience, working hours, salary, etc.), then that should be a red flag.
  2. Suspicious (or no) contact details. The advert should include legitimate contact details, rather than simply just a website. There should be a specific person in charge who you can contact by email or call to assist you in the process.
  3. Unrealistically high salaries. Generally, if something seems too good to be true, it typically is. If a job listing advertises a pay that is much more than would be expected for such a role, then there’s a good chance the real purpose is to attract applicants into their scam.
  4. An offer without an interview. It’s customary to meet a representative from the company for an interview to check that you’re qualified and a good fit for the job. You should be suspicious if this does not happen prior to receiving a job offer.
  5. You’re asked to pay any money. The whole point of a job is that the employer pays you. They should never ask for money from you before (or after) you start. There may be all kinds of pretexts: training, certification, legal checks, and so on. Irrespective, these should be covered by the employer; not the applicant.
  6. Bogus companies or strange email addresses. Some companies look legitimate at first glance, but may have an unusual name, website domain, or email address. Aside from checking the website itself, as well as any LinkedIn or other social media pages, you can check online registers to ensure that a company truly exists and has been properly registered with the relevant authorities.
  7. Foreign companies. In a global labour market, there are many job opportunities with companies and employers all around the world. However, if you can’t visit their offices, meet them in person, or in some cases, even video-chat with them, proceed with caution.

These precautions are good warning signs no matter what kind of job you’re applying for. When you add online freelancing and crypto into the mix, however, it can get even more complicated, as the scammers may have some additional tricks up their sleeves.

The Risks Of Online Freelancing

With the rise of the gig economy and remote freelance work, scammers have a new set of opportunities to exploit. Back when most work took place in a physical office, it was harder to trick candidates with fake opportunities. Online, however, it can be much harder to verify an employer’s identity. What’s more, with companies based all over the world, employers might be operating in different time zones, making face-to-face communication difficult. You also may not even share the same first language. In short, the difficulties, risks and uncertainties increase.

Yet this is no reason to avoid remote gig work as a whole. There are steps you can take to ensure that opportunities are legitimate, including common warning signs to look for, and identifying means of protecting yourself from online scammers.

Personal Referrals

Firstly, if you’re looking for work and just starting out, there’s a good chance you’ll scour job boards and search for opportunities all over the web. While that’s a legitimate way to find employment, casting the net wide also increases your risk of engaging with scammers.

If at all possible, search for employment within your existing network of friends and acquaintances – through people you already know in your industry and, crucially, through people they know. There is strong evidence that most employment opportunities come not through direct connections, but through these second-order connections: friends-of-friends, acquaintances of colleagues, and so on.

If you can get a personal recommendation, or a word-of-mouth referral, these can be worth their weight in gold. This will put you directly in touch with someone valuable, avoid much of the hassle of the recruitment process, and ensure that you will not fall prey to scammers.

If you’re not lucky enough to find work this way, no matter. Just keep your eyes open and remain vigilant on how typical scammers tend to operate.

Common Online Work Scams

While there are many different scams around in the recruitment industry, there are generally some common themes. If you know what you’re looking for and take basic precautions, you should be able to avoid running into any issues. Using a platform like LaborX provides you with further protection, thanks to the features that have been built in to streamline the flow of recruitment and payment, while removing the unnecessary points of trust and single points of failure.

Often scammers will start by advertising very particular types of jobs. These roles typically include:

  • Data Entry
  • Typing & Converting PDFs or Images
  • Uploading/Downloading Software
  • Translation Tasks
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Game Testing

These are generally tasks that require little expertise or training – meaning they are likely to get lots of applicants (aka potential victims). They may offer pay that seems higher than those positions would normally provide, again to entice others and increase the number of applicants. (Such promises of earning a strong wage often encourages people to look past any irregularities they might be more sensitive to if the job was offered at the typical going rate)

Of course, on many occasions low-skilled jobs will be perfectly legitimate, and the vacancy shouldn’t be ignored out of hand. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll very easily decipher whether it’s safe to proceed, or not.

You'll likely notice one of two things if you do encounter a scam – especially if you’re using LaborX:

  1. The ‘employer’ will post a link to take you off the platform to another site
  2. They will ask you to move the conversation to Telegram or another messaging app

In the first case, the risk is that you’ll visit the site and end up downloading a piece of malware, either deliberately or accidentally. This may be used to harvest your personal data, log your keystrokes, compromise your crypto wallets, gain access to your exchange accounts, and more. In many cases, this will be the desired outcome for the scammer; once you’ve clicked the link, their work is done and they have access to all the information they need.

Of course, such scams are common all over the web – you will no doubt have received phishing emails and other messages before. The solution is straightforward:

  • Do not click links unless you are confident about their source
  • If a link seems odd, hover over it before clicking it. You’ll see the target down in the bottom left corner of your browser. If this is different to the text of the link in a way that seems deliberately misleading, or the link is a misspelled variation of a legitimate site, do not click it.
  • Keep your antivirus and malware checkers up to date. Run them regularly, especially if you think you may have visited a malicious site.

Alternatively, the scammer will try to convince you to leave the platform because it gives them more freedom and less oversight. If you’re communicating via Telegram, you don’t have any of the benefits and protections offered by LaborX – which is designed from the ground up to facilitate safe working arrangements and reliable payment between freelancers and clients. For example, should you ever need to open a dispute, your communication history will be used by the moderating team to determine the outcome of the case. If parts of the conversation are missing because they took place off the platform, it may be impossible to reach a fair decision.

Further Red flags

Inside or outside the LaborX infrastructure (and again, for your safety, all communication should remain on the platform), one thing to watch out for is a so-called customer asking if they can pay only after you’ve completed the job. This should be an immediate warning sign to you.

The typical workflow on LaborX is to establish communication via the built-in chat; to discuss a specific task (whether a Gig or custom Job); for a formal offer to be made; for the customer to escrow funds; and finally for the work to begin. Upon completion, the funds are then automatically released from the escrow contract.

Working outside of this framework means you are forced to trust the other party fully. You may complete and submit the work, but never receive payment. In this instance, there would then be nothing you could do about it.

Escrow and Safeguards

When using LaborX as intended, you are protected by an escrow contract. Funds are locked here and cannot be withdrawn by the client, unless they open a dispute (which they might legitimately do if, for example, a freelancer submits work that is not what was ordered, or is of low quality).

The default outcome is that the freelancer is paid upon completion of the job. This acts as a huge source of reassurance to freelancers, who are otherwise vulnerable to being defrauded. Even in the world of regular work, almost every freelancer will have had to grapple with the issue of non-payment, or late payment, at one time or another. LaborX’s escrow contract ensures that freelancers aren’t kept waiting around after the end of a job, and don’t have to do any chasing – let alone deal with the frustration and hassle of customers who simply refuse to pay.

If a scammer is trying to get you to do any form of work without payment, then escrow provides the ultimate protection. Never accept an offer to do a job without using escrow, even if they offer more money – it’s simply not worth the risk!

In addition to escrow, LaborX is in the process of implementing a pre-moderation system. This system filters the jobs that are posted, and removes any that are blatant scams (since we know what we’re looking for, it’s relatively easy for our team to spot the jobs that are not legitimate). In future, we will also be rolling out a system that provides warnings within the chat when suspicious behaviour is detected.

Always remember to stay safe when interacting with employers and job offers!


  • If it’s too good to be true (e.g. an easy job for high pay, with little or no experience required), it probably is.
  • Pay attention to the job ad. If it’s lacking any key details, then that’s not a good sign. It may not be a scam, but could simply indicate someone is disorganised or is not taking the recruitment process – or their business – seriously.
  • Never click on any suspicious links.
  • Keep malware checkers up-to-date.
  • Stay on LaborX throughout the recruitment, discussion and submission process. Be wary of anyone who asks you to move to Telegram or another app for communication.
  • Always use an escrow deposit for payments.
  • Never pay for anything as a freelancer - you’re on LaborX to work and get paid.