Safety in Your Search

Whether you are doing a job or internship search in CareerCat or through other online job portals, it is important to protect yourself from fraudulent opportunities and scams. While Northwestern Career Advancement carefully vets all employers and positions posted in CareerCat, unfortunately in very rare instances, fraudulent employers can appear as otherwise legitimate organizations. NCA recommends that job/internship seekers exercise caution and use good judgment when reviewing job postings and responding to employers either in CareerCat or other sites. Below is a list of common warning signs as well as next steps if you think you have found a fraudulent posting/employer. Remember to trust your judgment; if something seems off about a posting, it might not be legitimate.

Warning Signs of a Fraudulent Employer

  • The company or organization website used does not link to the correct organization.
  • Fraudulent employers often create simple webpages and email addresses that look legitimate, but do not match the actual company domain. Try googling the URL or email address provided in the job posting to verify their legitimacy.
  • The employer contact email address is not a primary domain or does not match the organization.  Fraudulent employers intentionally create email addresses that look legitimate (e.g., name@northwesternmail.com or name@northwestern.com rather than name@northwestern.com)
  • By policy NCA does not approve employer accounts that use a non-company specific email address, with a very small number of exceptions.
  • Be suspicious of contact information that uses generic domains such as an @gmail or @yahoo, or those that don’t appear to be aligned with the company name. Likewise, use caution if the contact does not appear to have consistent instances that prove they represent that organization – LinkedIn profile, email address with the company domain name, etc.
  • The employer requests personal information such as a photo, social security number, driver's license, or financial information.
  • The employer offers you a job without meeting or interacting with you.

Warning Signs of a Fraudulent Opportunity

  • If an employer promises something that seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true, i.e. it is very unlikely that you will earn $1000 per week performing administrative work without leaving home. 
  • While, often times, fraudulent posting include spelling and grammatical errors, some fraudulent employers have gotten sophisticated and will copy/paste actual legitimate job postings from the actual company career webpage. One of the ways to discern that the employer is fraudulent, is that the fraudulent employer will direct the applicant to email their resume to a fraudulent email account rather than applying directly in the company’s job portal.
  • One common scam involves the employer sending you a check with instructions to deposit the check in your personal bank account. The employer then asks you to write a personal check or, as more often is the case, to wire money to an account, minus your 10% commission.  After you’ve sent the money, the employer’s check will bounce and you will lose your money.
  • You must provide credit card or bank account numbers or other personal financial documentation.

If you encounter questionable postings in CareerCat or other online sites:

  • Immediately suspend all communication with the employer.
  • If found in CareerCat, report the fraudulent employer and posting to nca@northwestern.edu.
  • Monitor your bank accounts if personal information was disclosed to the suspected fraudulent employer.
  • If you have sent money to the employer, contact your bank or credit card company to close your account and dispute any charges.

Additional Resources

  • The Federal Trade Commission offers information on job scams.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice offers several resources to file complaints about internet crime.
  • Glassdoor is an online career website where students can look up company reviews, salary information, job postings, and interview questions and questions.
  • Hoovers is an online resource that delivers comprehensive insight and analysis about the companies, industries and people that drive the economy, along with the powerful tools to find and connect to the right people to get business done.