Safety Tips

Handshake and other online job systems make it easier for you to find positions. Unfortunately, the same technology makes it easier for scammers to create fraudulent positions to take advantage of you. While the Career Center tries to screen employers and the positions posted to Handshake, it is imperative that you, as a job seeker, exercise common sense and caution. Read position descriptions carefully!

If a position or job offer seems too good to be true, if you feel uncomfortable with some of the information requested, or if something just doesn't seem right – proceed with extreme caution. Even if the original position description seems valid, if you receive follow-up e-mails, phone calls or job offers that make you feel uncomfortable, you need to proceed cautiously.

Warning Signs of Fraudulent Postings

This list includes some, but not all, red flags that a job posting is not real and should be avoided:

  • You are asked to give credit card, bank account or PayPal account numbers.
  • You are asked to send a payment by wire service or courier.
  • You are offered a large payment or reward in exchange for allowing the use of your bank account—often for depositing checks or transferring money.
  • You receive an unexpectedly large check.
  • You are asked to transfer money, including via e-Bay, PayPal or Western Union.
  • You are asked for personal information, such as your Social Security Number.
  • You are requested to send a photocopy of your ID, i.e., driver's license to "verify identity".
  • You are asked to complete a background check before you can be considered for a position.
  • The posting appears to come from a legitimate company or organization, but the contact's e-mail address doesn't match the company's website domain (i.e., rather than
  • The job posting doesn't mention the responsibilities of the job; rather, it focuses on the amount of money you will make.

Additionally, you may receive a job offer in response to your application to a legitimate-appearing position description that is actually a marketing e-mail to sell you job search "help." Some other tips:

  • Be wary of postings for mystery shoppers, work at home, or virtual administrative assistants or bookkeepers. Some opportunities are legitimate; many others are not.
  • Gather as much information as possible about positions for independent contractors or franchise opportunities, especially those that are not explicitly advertised as such. Some opportunities are legitimate business opportunities. Others are opportunities in which some people who don't succeed lose money. Others are scams.
  • Beware of positions that require a financial investment or upfront fees.
  • If you are an entry-level candidate with little experience, be wary of an offer with a salary that is way out of range.
  • Multiple misspellings in a job notice are often a sign of trouble.
  • If the position listing is for an international opportunity, does it include travel expenses? Upfront program fees? Research the organization and compare its program/benefits with other similar opportunities.
  • Verify that a URL listed in the ad goes to the internet domain of the company that listed it. If it does not, it could be a scam.
  • When using job boards other than Handshake, read their privacy policies carefully. Also, read how easy it is for employers to post jobs by going through the site's employer links.

If you encounter suspicious postings in Handshake:

  • End all communication with the employer.
  • Report your experience to the Career Center at or 216.368.4446.
  • You also can visit The Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • Contact the police and report the fraud or scam.
  • Depending on what personal information was disclosed, monitor or close your accounts.
  • Depending on the situation, you may need to notify the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Transunion.
  • If you sent money to a fraud employer, contact your bank or credit card company immediately to close your account and dispute the charges.
  • If the incident occurred entirely over the internet, file an incident report with the FTC at 1.877.FTC.HELP (877.382.4357)

More Resources for Safe Online Job Searching

Government experts and consumer organizations have more advice on protecting your interests while searching for a job:

Adapted from Loyola University Chicago, March 2011. Updated November 2018.