Two simple ways to spot a Fake Job Scam

As the “Designated Googler” in my rapidly-contracting social circle, I am occasionally the recipient of emails, web links and other documentary detritus with the attached question “Is this a scam?”

A particular category of scams is that of Fake Jobs and/or Homeworking opportunities. Purporting to be legitimate attempts to recruit staff, these scams are common methods to conduct cheque fraud in the US, and more generally to launder, hide and move money obtained through other illegal schemes. Now if you received one of these as unsolicited email, you might quickly disregard it. But what if you’re looking for work, and are listed on Job Search websites. Say you receive an email referencing your CV uploaded to those job sites? Perhaps your normal scepticism might not be triggered.

So, this is the job advertisement even now being received by people registered at a popular Job listings sites:

DSP Finance Company is looking for a candidate:
* Vacancy – Finance Assistant (No Experience Required).

 *  All ages 18+.
*  Sufficient English language skills.
*  Candidates must be eligible to live and work in the UK.
*  Meticulous attention to detail.
*  We are looking for an individual who is capable of working. independently and on their own initiative.

What we offer in return:
 *  Absolutely Free: computer Tests, practice, exams, study in UK with a trainer, providing Software DS-3A.
*  Opportunities to progress and develop.

  * Full-time: 24300+
* Part-Time: 17600+

Email  back and  We will send you an email with information on how to continue.

HR Manager

Via the 2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, the UK figure for median gross annual earnings for full-time employees is £26,200. So £24K for a job which requires no prior experience sounds pretty compelling. If you respond to the email, you’ll receive the following:

Return-Path: <>
Received: from [] by with NNFMP; 15 Dec 2011 17:00:58 -0000
X-Yahoo-Newman-Property: ymail-3

Received: from [] (mary_pittman@ plain) by with SMTP; 15 Dec 2011 09:00:19 -0800 PST
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 16:09:16 +0000
From: “Mary W. Pittman” <>
Organization: DSP Finance Company
Subject: Vacancy Information – Application – 15.12.2011
MIME-Version: 1.0

More detailed information about available position

Please fill out the “Application form” carefully and send
the form by email.

P.S The application must be completed in full detail
Our manager will call you within 1-2 working days.

Sincerely , Mary W. Pittman
HR Department , DSP Finance Company

Originally sent from a browser session somewhere in the University of Manchester, referencing a domain hosted on Yahoo’s US cloud and registered by a private individual using Yahoo’s Australian registrar partner, the email contains two Word Documents.

The first document describes the duties and benefits of a role with the MFI Consulting Corporation as a Finance Assistant.

I particularly like the pseudo-official Notary stamp on this one. A nice touch.

The second document is described as a Job Application Form, but also contains language suggesting it is a contract.

So, you’ve got your application form, details of the job and its generous salary and benefits. But, you’re still wondering… Is it too good to be true? Is it a scam?

The Short Answer: Yes

The Long Answer: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssss.  [rhetorical hat tip to ZP]

First thing, let’s look at some warning signs in the documents and website:

  • The proposed salary and benefits seem high given the absence of previous experience or skills.
  • The document contains frequent grammatical errors, judged by American English or British English writing convention.
  • Depending on which document or website you look at, you are dealing with MFI Consulting Corporation or DSP Finance Company, all described as “Registed in the USA”. There is not such thing as a Company “Registered in the USA”. Unlike the UK and many European nations, the USA does not maintain a national corporate register for limited, privately-held companies. The most common jurisdiction for registration is Delaware.
  • Anyone doing business in the UK relating to shifting money around is required to have a Financial Services Authority registration, even if they have no national presence. The company purports to sells a Financial Product (Merchant Cash Advances – a seriously dodgy way for retailers to obtain cash in exchange for a percentage of receipts from future credit card payments), but despite claiming an FSA registration they have no listing in the FSA’s database of registered companies for financial or payment services.
  • The listed corporate address appears to be an empty piece of scrubland. 3795 NW 84 Avenue, Suite 116 Doral, Florida 33166, whereas the picture on the website appears to be a stock photo of New York.
  • The website appears to have been built using Yahoo Site Builder; a worthy and user-friendly tool but not typically the starting point for the web presence of a global financial services company.
  • The Document Info on the Word Documents references a non-existent UK company “SLK Financial Planning Ltd”, and one of the documents is “stamped”, which is to say a picture of a pseudo-official notary-style stamp has been pasted into the document, which would be funny if the goal here wasn’t to get people to participate in something dodgy.
  • When was the last time you saw a Job Application form with an attached Force Majeure clause and a request for your Bank Name?

Any one of these is a good reason to disregard the offer (or if you’re feeling keen, report it to the authorities).

If you receive a job advertisement, particuarly via one of the larger job sites, then just look for these two warning signs:

1. An Improbable Proposition

If it looks too good to be true, it is.

2. A Vague Identity

If you don’t know who you are dealing with, then don’t deal with them.

7 thoughts on “Two simple ways to spot a Fake Job Scam”

  1. This is required reading, James. I’ll quote and refer at my place. There are many of them about at this moment.

  2. I did not receive any documents but just an email. It asked that if I was interested and wanted to find out more, then reply, specifying an interest and attach a CV. What is the company likely to gain from my CV. Is it likely that I am at risk of my details being used for purposes of fraud?

    1. In general, these scams have three different objectives:

      • Obtain specific personal information for a subsequent identity theft or phishing attack.
      • Persuade the mark to make a payment (an advance fee)
      • Send the mark a fraudulent financial instrument, which is then remitted back to an organisation affiliated with the scammer as real money

      Some scammers may attempt to achieve all three objectives as part of a single approach.

  3. James,
    Thank you so much for your detailed expose. I thought it was too good after receiving an email back via a CV jobsite place. I’ve searched around and the lack of info seemed suspicious but you seem the only one to actually lift the lid on this. It’s also good to know that one needs an FSA licence to move money around, as that helps us beware anything in the future! You are a star!!

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