Staying safe in your job search

Handshake and other online job systems have made it easier for you as job seekers to find positions posted by employers seeking candidates. Unfortunately, the same technology makes it easier for scammers to create fraudulent positions to take advantage of you.

While we try to screen employers and the positions they post to Handshake, it is very important that you as a job seeker exercise common sense and caution. You need to read position descriptions carefully.

If a position or job offer seems to be too good to be true,  if you feel uncomfortable with some of the information requested, or something just doesn't seem right either back off or proceed with extreme caution.

Even if the original position description seems valid, if you receive follow-up emails, phone calls or job offers that seem unusual, you need to proceed cautiously.

Watch out for Red Flags

  • You are asked to give credit card, bank 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 money orders
  • You are asked for personal information such as your Social Security number.
  • You are requested to send a photo copy 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 email 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.

In addition, you may receive a job offer in response to your application to a legitimate-appearing job description that is actually just a marketing email 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
  • If you are an entry-level candidate with little experience, be wary of an offer with a salary that is way out of range.
  • Are there multiple misspellings in the job notice?
  • If the position listing is for an international opportunity, does it include travel expenses? Upfront program fees? Research the company and compare its program/benefits with other similar opportunities.
  • If the ad mentions upfront fees, proceed cautiously.
  • Verify that a URL listed in the ad goes to the internet domain of the company that listed it. For example, if the ad lists "" but when you click on it, goes to "," 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.
  • The position initially seems to be a traditional job, but upon further research or contact, is actually an independent contractor or franchise opportunity.

If you encounter suspicious postings in Handshake

  • Please report your experience to the Center for Career and Professional Development at or 313-993-1017 and to The Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • End all communication with the employer, and if personal information was disclosed, monitor your accounts over the next few days, to be on the safe side.
  • Contact the police and report the fraud or scam.
  • If you have sent money to a fraudulent 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 FCC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or at

More Resources for Safe Online Job Searching

Original text developed by Loyola University Chicago. Used with permission by Career Development Center at Loyola University of Chicago.

The University of Detroit Mercy website provides links to other websites, both public and private, for informational purposes. The inclusion of these links on Detroit Mercy's site does not imply endorsement by the University.