Getting hired might feel like the ultimate high. But finding out it was just a scammer trying to steal your money will bring you — and your bank balance — right back down. Many college students look for virtual jobs they can do while going to school, but if a new employer mails your first paycheck before you even start working, that’s your cue to stop — it’s a scam.

Scammers post ads for fake jobs for personal assistants on common job sites and social media. Or they might send emails that look like they’re from someone in your community, like a professor or an office at your college. If you apply, they’ll mail you a check to deposit at your bank. Then, they’ll ask you to send some of the money to another account. They tell you a convincing story,  but the check is fake and the whole thing is a scam. The check will eventually bounce and the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew. Meanwhile, the scammer will have walked away with the money you sent them.

Add these steps to your job search checklist to help you spot and avoid a job scam:

  1. Look up the name of the company or the person who’s hiring you, plus the words “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” See what others are saying about them.
  2. Reach out directly. If the email looks like it came from a professor or an office at your college, call them directly. Confirm that they’re really looking for someone for this position.
  3. Get it in writing. Ask the employer to send you details of the job duties, the pay, and the hours. If they refuse, that could be a sign of a problem.
  4. Talk to someone you trust. Show them the offer and see what they think. This also gives you vital time to think about the offer.

Your boss should be paying you, not the other way around. If they tell you to deposit a check and use some of the money for any reason, that’s a scam. Walk away. Then report it to the FTC at Learn more at

Fake check job offer


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