Stay alert to jobfishing when looking for remote jobs

Jobfishing: The New Scam Remote Jobseekers Need to Know About & How You Can Protect Yourself

Scams that prey on desperate jobseekers are nothing new. However, advances in technology, and the current preference for remote work, provide scammers with a host of new fraud possibilities. One sting that is currently making headlines is “jobfishing.” A play on the term “catfishing,” jobfishing involves applying for a job, getting hired, and starting work at a job that doesn’t exist.

Losses to employment scams reached an all-time high in the second quarter of 2020 due to the additional financial pressures on individuals and families at the beginning of the pandemic. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), almost 12,000 income scams were reported between April and June 2020. This is 70% more than the same period in 2019. In addition, a report by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) estimated 14 million victims with $2 billion in direct losses related to employment scams in 2020.

What Is Jobfishing?

As mentioned above, jobfishing refers to a specific type of income fraud that involves duping unsuspecting victims into thinking they are starting a new job. The criminals induce jobseekers to provide their personal information under the guise of filling out human resources forms and setting up direct deposit for their paycheck. The types of fraud that are perpetrated in jobfishing scams can include:

  • Identity Theft. Using social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and other personal information gathered as part of the “hiring” process, scammers can open credit cards, bank accounts, and apply for loans.
  • Fake Checks. In this scam, the non-existent company will send you a check to deposit, and then request that you purchase gift cards for them using a guise to keep you off-guard. For example, one scammer requested gift cards to help colleagues take time off due to COVID.  
  • Unwitting Accomplice. Many unsuspecting victims of jobfishing are lured into committing fraud themselves as part of their “new” job. These include participating in reshipping frauds, mailing fake checks, or being used as money mules.

Are You a Target for Jobfishing?

Do you think that this swindle is a matter of no concern because you are young and tech-savvy? Then you might want to reconsider. According to the BBB’s 2020 report on job scams, the most common victims of income fraud are between the ages of 25-34. Another commonality between the victims is need. Most victims really need the job. This desperation can cause you to overlook red flags and take risks that you might not otherwise. So, you may be particularly vulnerable to jobfishing if you are:

  • Unemployed or underemployed.
  • Recently terminated or laid off.
  • Have limited resources.
  • Are driven to start a new career.

Examples of Jobfishing

While the above groups are more likely to be targeted, anyone can fall victim to these sophisticated cons. Don’t be overconfident about your ability to identify scams, because it’s harder than you think to identify a fraud. With the increase in online job ads, virtual hiring processes, remote jobs, and 100% virtual companies, it is getting more and more difficult to tell the real from the fake. Below are a few recently reported examples of jobfishing:

  • Madbird. Perhaps the most complex example involves a BBC investigation into the fake London design agency called “Madbird.” This intricate fraud involved the fictitious company hiring more than 50 people to work remotely as designers, salespeople and managers. Victims from several different countries worked for up to six months before realizing it was a scam. Spending savings and going into debt, victims waited for a paycheck that never arrived.
  • Groovy USA, LLC. The BBB received more than six reports regarding a Connecticut company called “Groovy USA” from individuals across several states. Victims describe being approached for a work from home opportunity that they later found out did not exist. After being hired and re-shipping packages for a month, the work stopped when the first paycheck was due.
  • Obsidian Entertainment. Another jobfishing scam was reported in Long Island, NY where a woman applied for a job at a company calling itself Obsidian Entertainment. After text and phone interviews, she was offered the job making $55 an hour and received a fake check for $8,000 for work from home equipment. Luckily, the ruse was discovered before losing any money, however, the woman did have to close bank accounts because of the information she had already disclosed.

How to Identify Jobfishing

To give you a head start on jobfishers and other types of remote job scams, below are the top three red flags to be alert for when searching for and responding to remote job ads:

  • If the job seems too good to be true, it probably is. In the words of Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If someone promises you guaranteed income, but then tells you to pay them, tell the FTC right away so we can work to shut them down.”
  • Watch out for work from home jobs that involve potentially shady activities such as requests to receive and forward money, receive and reship packages, or deposit a check into your account for payment to a third party. These are all likely illegal.
  • It’s a bad sign if you find bad grammar and other inconsistencies in the information you are provided, including website content, emails, and other communications. It’s also a red flag if email addresses don’t match the company’s domain name. Be careful with individuals using an “” address as a business email.

How to Protect Yourself from Jobfishing

  • Confirm job details by locating the job posting on the company website. Confirm the company’s contact details by calling the business and using Google maps to double check addresses.
  • Search for the company profile and other employees on LinkedIn. If you don’t find anything, that’s suspicious. If you do, reach out to see if you can get information about the company.
  • Check the business at to see if they are listed and what reports may have been filed against them. 
  • Do an internet search with the name of the employer and the word “scam.” This should reveal reports involving online job scams.
  • Create a separate email address for your job search unconnected to your other online accounts. This can protect your personal email and other online accounts.
  • Consider setting up a second bank account or using a financial intermediary like PayPal to receive payments from remote employers.
  • Be cautious in providing personal information under any circumstances. Don’t include information such as your full address and birthdate on your resume or online profiles. More importantly, don’t provide your driver’s license, social security number, or financial information without carefully vetting and verifying the company first.
  • Secure your tech by installing a good security system that monitors malware, viruses, and spyware. Also, consider signing up for virtual private network or VPN for extra privacy when searching for jobs online.
  • Do not respond to calls, text messages or emails from unknown numbers or suspicious addresses. Also, do not click links in text messages or emails from anyone that you do not recognize. Even when receiving messages from a friend, evaluate the link before clicking in case they have been hacked. 

Looking for a Shortcut?

The best shortcut to finding legitimate remote jobs is to sign up for a Virtual Vocations membership. The professionals at Virtual Vocations thoroughly research and vet all the companies and job postings in our database. In addition, we partner with many reputable employers to help them find the right remote employees. Virtual Vocations also does not post any jobs that are only fee or commission based. So, if you’re looking for a worry-free platform to search for your next fully remote position, a Virtual Vocations membership is your best bet.

Have you ever encountered jobfishing? What advice could you give to remote jobseekers? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!

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