Job scams and misleading job ads are ways that people try to take advantage of people looking for work. They might claim you can make lots of money working from home. They might ask you to pay money before you can start working.
People sometimes use employment scams to steal your personal information (for example, your driver licence number or bank account details). They might also try to get you to send money or goods overseas.
There are lots of different kinds of scams and misleading job ads out there, and they change all the time. The best way to avoid them is to know the warning signs of a scam.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Who do job scammers and misleading job ads target?
Anyone can be the victim of a scam, but scammers and dodgy employers tend to target:
- young people
- unemployed people
- international students
- travellers on working holidays.
Scammers target these people because they think they’re easy to fool, won’t know their rights, and won’t report the scammer.
How to spot job scams
Scammers might contact you via email. They might make posts online, or list an ad on a job search website.
Most job scams offer a way to earn lots of money easily. Some scammers ask you to pay for things up front, like training materials or a starter kit.
Signs that a job is really a scam include:
- claiming you can make lots of money quickly and easily
- talking about working from home using your own computer
- asking you for money up front
- asking you for personal information (for example, your passport, driver licence or bank account number)
- asking you to transfer money or receive goods for someone else
- they don’t provide a phone number or street address
- they use a free email account (for example, Gmail or Yahoo).
If you reply to a scammer, they can be very good at building a relationship with you over email or messaging app. They try to hook you in little by little with harmless interactions until you start trusting them.
If you’re suspicious, always ask to speak to them on the phone. They may not be who they’re pretending to be.
Never pay money up front. If someone has a legitimate job for you, they’ll pay you – not the other way around! Never agree to transfer money or goods for someone you just met.
How to spot misleading job ads
Some job ads are written to hide the real facts about a job, or promote jobs that don't exist. Here are some things to look out for.
1. Is the job ad trustworthy?
You can often tell a job ad is dodgy just by looking at it. Legitimate job ads should provide:
- the company or agency name, street address and phone number
- the job title (for example, ‘chef’)
- the qualifications needed
- whether the job is permanent, casual, fixed-term, part-time or full-time
- how you’d be paid (for example, salary, commission or award wages).
Some misleading job ads look just like the real thing. You should always do some research about any company you’re thinking about applying to.
Check them out online to make sure they’re trustworthy. Read some online reviews about the company to find out what other people think about working for them.
If you’re still not sure, email or call them to ask a few questions before you apply. Find out:
- what type of work is involved
- whether you’d be an employee or self-employed
- whether you’d be covered by an award, industry agreement, or employee contract (visit our What are employment contracts? page for more about contracts and awards)
- how much, when, and how you’d be paid
- where the employer is based.
If they can’t answer these questions, chances are it’s a misleading job ad.
2. Does the job ad have these dodgy elements?
Some common things in misleading job ads include:
- being asked for a payment upfront
- a guarantee of a job if you buy a product
- an offer of a job before you’ve been interviewed
- saying you don’t need any experience – most legitimate jobs want you to have some skills and experience
- jobs that are frequently re-advertised – this means no one’s staying in the job for long after they find out what it’s really like
- flashy titles like ‘digital sales consultant’ or ‘brand ambassador’ – these often mean commission-only door-to-door sales or telemarketing
- claims of high weekly earnings – usually these jobs offer commission-based pay, which means you could work long hours for no money.
Know your employment rights
Some dodgy employers ask you to do unpaid training or an unpaid trial, then don’t offer you a job. In most cases this is illegal. Find out more about unpaid work on the FairWork Ombudsman's Unpaid work page.
Other dodgy employers advertise the job at a certain pay, but when you go for the interview, they offer pay that’s below the minimum wage. Make sure you know your minimum wage before you agree to anything.
Some dodgy commission-only jobs guarantee you regular pay, but don’t tell you this payment is taken out of your commission.
Make sure any job you apply for offers the wages and conditions you’re legally entitled to. Visit our What are your rights at work? section for more about employee rights.
What you can do about scams and misleading job ads
If you think you’ve been taken in by a scam, you can make a report to:
- Consumer Affairs Victoria
- the Australian Government's Scamwatch website
- the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (for online scams).
If you’ve got a problem with a dodgy employer, you can:
Visit our What are your rights at work? section for more information on minimum wages, employment contracts and how to resolve problems.