Unhappy man holding three heavy suitcases in hand. Travel light.

It’s hard enough out there–don’t fall for any song and dance.

If you’re thinking about a job search, there are three disturbing trends you need to know about. Over the course of three posts, we’ll expose each of them. Up first, Scams: Offering you nothing for something.

Text scams: Real people offering fake jobs.

Most of us are used to getting text and WhatsApp messages posing as a friend or acquaintance who’s out of town asking you to buy gift cards, a young relative who’s been arrested and needs bailing out or someone claiming to represent the CRA or IRS with a warrant for your immediate arrest if you don’t pony up some bitcoin.

But have you noticed the volume of such messages has increased lately? Cybersecurity experts concur they’ve seen a “surge” in recent months, as desperate-for-dough scammers harness AI to drive their messaging. Too many people fall for these frauds, often the elderly who can’t turn down a request from their pastor, a plea from their grandson or a demand from a government agency.
If you’re like me, you delete them and forget about such blatantly scammy messages. Far more insidious are those seemingly personal texts suggesting they have a job you’d be perfect for. “Hi! This Is Lisa from HR at Job$4U. Are you interested in part-time work?” At a time when everyone seems to be urging us to get a “side hustle,” this opening gambit might grab your attention.

The initial goal is to get you to respond. Once you do, the scammer sets the hook, gets you on the line and attempts to reel you in. Recently a reporter for the Toronto Star played along with the scam to see where it was headed. And over the course of a series of texts, he got an earful!

TO Star article link: “When a text spammer offered me a job, I said yes. Here’s what happened next” by Alex Boyd.

Using an avatar, the reporter who played along was connected to a “coach” who promised “Our remote work only takes 30 minutes a day to complete and will not delay your other work and life!” Using an escalating series of rapid-fire “instructions” the “coach” plays the “fish” until the victim starts to feel pretty dumb, so they just follow the lead.

The final action is the promise of moneys “earned” but only available for withdrawal from the digital wallet they’ve been instructed to create by “topping it off” to the minimum amount required. Once the scammer has your cash, it disappears-along with the “Coach” and messages trail. As one anti-fraud professional notes, “It’s the predictable end to a text/textbook scam.” Gullible targets are promised money; “they just need to put a little of their own in first.”

Text-based job scams are a growing problem. According to data amassed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, “the amount of money swindled out of Canadians via text fraud almost doubled in 2023 — to close to $24 million — over the year before. When you add email-based scams to the text ones, Canadian victims lost a collective $7 million to these nagging messages in 2022, and last year that amount quadrupled to more than $30 million.”

And those numbers are likely an undercount, as only 5-10% of scams are reported because people feel not only duped, but downright stupid.

LI scams: The check’s in the mail

It’s not just Canadians who are falling for these false promises. Articles about job scams appeared this week on both sides of the border. A recent Business Insider article reported on LinkedIn having rolled out new recruiter verification tools last month to curb fake job ads like this one:

“I’m thrilled to extend to you an offer for the Personal Assistant role following a meticulous review of your qualifications. Your impressive skills and experience are precisely what I am seeking, and I am genuinely excited about the prospect of having you join our team.”

With the LinkedIn message sounding official and often emanating from email domains very close to those from actual companies, job hunters believe they’re hearing back about a job they applied to on LinkedIn. In most cases, it’s a scam, one in which the employer mails a fraudulent check to the would-be employee. The scammer instructs the mark to deposit the (fake) check to purchase work tools like hardware and software or airline tickets to attend “new employee training.”

The bogus check bounces, leaving the victim with a negative balance in their account, which may also have been flagged for fraud. The scammer’s take? Your personal information, which they sell to other companies for marketing purposes.

LinkedIn is grappling with this phenomenon. While it removed more than 63 million fake accounts from the site in the second half of 2023, enough bogus accounts are getting through that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently warned the public about the prevalence of phony job scams.

And despite claiming “expanded verification access” that provides members with the option to verify at least one detail of their professional identity, only half of job views on LinkedIn are of jobs with verifications. That means you have a 5-50% chance at best that the job you’re applying for is for real.

Link to Business Insider article: “LinkedIn says it intercepts the ‘majority’ of scams on its site — but job hunters say it’s not enough” by Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert.

Career services scams: All you have to do is trust me.

I don’t know if you noticed, but in the text scam article referenced above, the author reported being transferred from an “HR Rep” to a “Coach.” This individual was about as far from a coach as I can imagine, as her only goal was to convince her mark–through a series of increasingly urgent messages–to add money to his digital wallet. Once loaded, the money would be siphoned off by the scammer, who would then go dark.

Medium article: “Unemployed and Preyed Upon: My Experience with a Career Coach Scam” by Kerri L Holt.

What’s disturbing to me is that as an unregulated profession, coaching is whatever anyone says it is, and can sell. While text and LinkedIn scams like these are not driven by actual coaches, there ae some shady practices you need to be on the lookout for if you’re seeking career guidance.

For as long as I have been in this field, there have been career service practitioners/firms promising confused and/or desperate job seekers the moon. The come-ons are all variations on the same theme: pay us and we’ll get you a job.

  • First of all, beware any coach who “guarantees” you’ll get a job if you hire them. There are no guarantees in job search, and the only person who can get you a job is you. Ask what the guarantees consists of and if you you don’t get a job, then what? Under scrutiny, they will slink away, often with a snarky departing insult that you clearly aren’t the right calibre client for their “service.”
  • Watch out for anyone purporting to be a “recruiter” who promises that they will “place” you for a fee. Real recruiters–from temp agencies to executive search firms–never “work for you.” They are hired–and paid (well!) by organizations that engage them to fill job vacancies. A recruiter can no more “place” a candidate than a real estate broker can make someone buy your house. Steer clear!
  • While the so-called “hidden job market” does exist, it’s not like a black market that some coaches have access to and-for a fee-will open doors closed to others. Jobs are “hidden” because they have not been posted, at lest openly, are internal opportunities that may consider an external candidate or that exist just in the mind of the hiring manager. The only way to ferret out these opportunities is through research and networking.

The common factor in coaching scams is the cruel offer of hope that they can solve your employment problems with a solution bought, not worked for. Caveat emptor and shame on them! What you are buying is a line of BS that will leave you disappointed with less money in your pocket and depleted of the time and energy it takes to conduct a successful job search.

So, if a coach can’t find you, land you, place you in a job, what good are they? Career coaches are professionals who specialize not only in the content of what you need to conduct an effective search (resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters, etc.), they also have deep knowledge of how hiring works. As a result, they can help you prepare appropriately for a search, and guide you through the process. That will entail a lot of work on your part and will take time. What good coaching does is ensure that you are working smart and spending your time on the right activities.

* * * * *

The thread that ties these three scams together is the promise that getting a job is something that can be done for you. It will be easy, only requiring your credit card to buy your way into career success! Sorry–not the case, not now, not ever. So, keep your wits about you and remember: If it seems too good to be true, it is.

Look for Part 2 in the Job Search Follies series, in which we’ll cover “sham” jobs, positions that may be real, but will never be yours.



Schedule time with me!

Day Merrill

Day Merrill, M.A. Career/Executive Coach

Day Merrill, M.A.
Founder & Principal
2BDetermined Inc.
Office: 416.725.2947
E-Mail Day
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Unhappy man holding three heavy suitcases in hand. Travel light.

It’s hard enough out there–don’t fall for any song and dance.

If you’re thinking about a job search, there are three disturbing trends you need to know about. Over the course of three posts, we’ll expose each of them. Up first, Scams: Offering you nothing for something.

Text scams: Real people offering fake jobs.

Most of us are used to getting text and WhatsApp messages posing as a friend or acquaintance who’s out of town asking you to buy gift cards, a young relative who’s been arrested and needs bailing out or someone claiming to represent the CRA or IRS with a warrant for your immediate arrest if you don’t pony up some bitcoin.

But have you noticed the volume of such messages has increased lately? Cybersecurity experts concur they’ve seen a “surge” in recent months, as desperate-for-dough scammers harness AI to drive their messaging. Too many people fall for these frauds, often the elderly who can’t turn down a request from their pastor, a plea from their grandson or a demand from a government agency.
If you’re like me, you delete them and forget about such blatantly scammy messages. Far more insidious are those seemingly personal texts suggesting they have a job you’d be perfect for. “Hi! This Is Lisa from HR at Job$4U. Are you interested in part-time work?” At a time when everyone seems to be urging us to get a “side hustle,” this opening gambit might grab your attention.

The initial goal is to get you to respond. Once you do, the scammer sets the hook, gets you on the line and attempts to reel you in. Recently a reporter for the Toronto Star played along with the scam to see where it was headed. And over the course of a series of texts, he got an earful!

TO Star article link: “When a text spammer offered me a job, I said yes. Here’s what happened next” by Alex Boyd.

Using an avatar, the reporter who played along was connected to a “coach” who promised “Our remote work only takes 30 minutes a day to complete and will not delay your other work and life!” Using an escalating series of rapid-fire “instructions” the “coach” plays the “fish” until the victim starts to feel pretty dumb, so they just follow the lead.

The final action is the promise of moneys “earned” but only available for withdrawal from the digital wallet they’ve been instructed to create by “topping it off” to the minimum amount required. Once the scammer has your cash, it disappears-along with the “Coach” and messages trail. As one anti-fraud professional notes, “It’s the predictable end to a text/textbook scam.” Gullible targets are promised money; “they just need to put a little of their own in first.”

Text-based job scams are a growing problem. According to data amassed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, “the amount of money swindled out of Canadians via text fraud almost doubled in 2023 — to close to $24 million — over the year before. When you add email-based scams to the text ones, Canadian victims lost a collective $7 million to these nagging messages in 2022, and last year that amount quadrupled to more than $30 million.”

And those numbers are likely an undercount, as only 5-10% of scams are reported because people feel not only duped, but downright stupid.

LI scams: The check’s in the mail

It’s not just Canadians who are falling for these false promises. Articles about job scams appeared this week on both sides of the border. A recent Business Insider article reported on LinkedIn having rolled out new recruiter verification tools last month to curb fake job ads like this one:

“I’m thrilled to extend to you an offer for the Personal Assistant role following a meticulous review of your qualifications. Your impressive skills and experience are precisely what I am seeking, and I am genuinely excited about the prospect of having you join our team.”

With the LinkedIn message sounding official and often emanating from email domains very close to those from actual companies, job hunters believe they’re hearing back about a job they applied to on LinkedIn. In most cases, it’s a scam, one in which the employer mails a fraudulent check to the would-be employee. The scammer instructs the mark to deposit the (fake) check to purchase work tools like hardware and software or airline tickets to attend “new employee training.”

The bogus check bounces, leaving the victim with a negative balance in their account, which may also have been flagged for fraud. The scammer’s take? Your personal information, which they sell to other companies for marketing purposes.

LinkedIn is grappling with this phenomenon. While it removed more than 63 million fake accounts from the site in the second half of 2023, enough bogus accounts are getting through that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently warned the public about the prevalence of phony job scams.

And despite claiming “expanded verification access” that provides members with the option to verify at least one detail of their professional identity, only half of job views on LinkedIn are of jobs with verifications. That means you have a 5-50% chance at best that the job you’re applying for is for real.

Link to Business Insider article: “LinkedIn says it intercepts the ‘majority’ of scams on its site — but job hunters say it’s not enough” by Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert.

Career services scams: All you have to do is trust me.

I don’t know if you noticed, but in the text scam article referenced above, the author reported being transferred from an “HR Rep” to a “Coach.” This individual was about as far from a coach as I can imagine, as her only goal was to convince her mark–through a series of increasingly urgent messages–to add money to his digital wallet. Once loaded, the money would be siphoned off by the scammer, who would then go dark.

Medium article: “Unemployed and Preyed Upon: My Experience with a Career Coach Scam” by Kerri L Holt.

What’s disturbing to me is that as an unregulated profession, coaching is whatever anyone says it is, and can sell. While text and LinkedIn scams like these are not driven by actual coaches, there ae some shady practices you need to be on the lookout for if you’re seeking career guidance.

For as long as I have been in this field, there have been career service practitioners/firms promising confused and/or desperate job seekers the moon. The come-ons are all variations on the same theme: pay us and we’ll get you a job.

  • First of all, beware any coach who “guarantees” you’ll get a job if you hire them. There are no guarantees in job search, and the only person who can get you a job is you. Ask what the guarantees consists of and if you you don’t get a job, then what? Under scrutiny, they will slink away, often with a snarky departing insult that you clearly aren’t the right calibre client for their “service.”
  • Watch out for anyone purporting to be a “recruiter” who promises that they will “place” you for a fee. Real recruiters–from temp agencies to executive search firms–never “work for you.” They are hired–and paid (well!) by organizations that engage them to fill job vacancies. A recruiter can no more “place” a candidate than a real estate broker can make someone buy your house. Steer clear!
  • While the so-called “hidden job market” does exist, it’s not like a black market that some coaches have access to and-for a fee-will open doors closed to others. Jobs are “hidden” because they have not been posted, at lest openly, are internal opportunities that may consider an external candidate or that exist just in the mind of the hiring manager. The only way to ferret out these opportunities is through research and networking.

The common factor in coaching scams is the cruel offer of hope that they can solve your employment problems with a solution bought, not worked for. Caveat emptor and shame on them! What you are buying is a line of BS that will leave you disappointed with less money in your pocket and depleted of the time and energy it takes to conduct a successful job search.

So, if a coach can’t find you, land you, place you in a job, what good are they? Career coaches are professionals who specialize not only in the content of what you need to conduct an effective search (resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters, etc.), they also have deep knowledge of how hiring works. As a result, they can help you prepare appropriately for a search, and guide you through the process. That will entail a lot of work on your part and will take time. What good coaching does is ensure that you are working smart and spending your time on the right activities.

* * * * *

The thread that ties these three scams together is the promise that getting a job is something that can be done for you. It will be easy, only requiring your credit card to buy your way into career success! Sorry–not the case, not now, not ever. So, keep your wits about you and remember: If it seems too good to be true, it is.

Look for Part 2 in the Job Search Follies series, in which we’ll cover “sham” jobs, positions that may be real, but will never be yours.



Schedule time with me!

Post Categories