How to Spot Fraudulent Employers and Postings

The University of Iowa Pomerantz Career Center makes every effort to check the legitimacy of opportunities being connected to the University of Iowa through Handshake. However, due to the high volume of postings we receive, we are unable to fully research each person, organization and posting.

The Pomerantz Career Center makes no guarantee about positions listed and are not responsible for safety, wages, working conditions, or other aspects of employment. It is the responsibility of each individual job seeker to research the validity of the organization(s) to which he/she is applying and verify the specific information for each posting. Job seekers should exercise due diligence and use common sense and caution when applying for or accepting any position.

For your privacy and protection when applying to an opportunity online, it is advisable that you do not provide your social security number or credit card or bank account information, or perform any sort of monetary transaction for an employer.

Many times, employers reach out through the university directory and not through Handshake. While they may say they have gotten your information through the career services, 95% of the time, this is not true. They are just phishing for information. 

When seeking and securing international employment, please refer to Spotting International Employment Scams.

Please contact the Career Center at 319-335-1023 or if you have any questions or concerns regarding the legitimacy of an employer or posting.


Here are some red flags to watch out for. Beware if -

  • You are asked to give out any personal financial information 
  • You are asked to send a payment by wire service or courier or are asked to transfer money or you receive an unexpectedly large check or are offered a large payment or reward for depositing a check or transferring money
  • You receive an email from someone that says they received your application when you haven’t sent one. Or an email that says they received your information from the Career Center. While some employers may legitimately contact you through the Career Center, the email would be more detailed. If you receive a very general email that says they found your resume through the Career Center, please check with the Pomerantz Career Center before responding to the employer.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • There is weird language or phrasing in the job posting. Be aware if there are a lot of grammatical errors.
  • The employer uses a personal account like gmail, live or yahoo or there is very little to no contact information for contacting them. Legitimate employers will always provide a valid phone number, email address or website.
  • The posting appears to be from a legitimate company, but when you look closely, the email address is just slightly different – example - may read It is best to check the company’s website to verify postings.
  • The job requirements are overly easy or there aren’t any. Many of these types of scams are recruiting for an Administrative Assistant, Personal Assistant (someone to run errands) or Office Assistant type position. Be wary of postings for Mystery Shoppers, work at home or virtual assistant positions.
  • You get offered a job without interviewing
  • The company has a generic name such as Finance or Insurance Company. Conduct a google search to see if the organization is listed. When you google the organization name and the word “scam”, the results may show several scam reports regarding the company.
  • Check to see if the job description is listed as one of their reported scams.

Sample text from communication between fraudulent organizations and applicants  - note that most involved wanting the applicant to cash/forward money orders/checks:

“By doing 3 transactions you're sure to earn nothing less than $500 per week. You can decide when you want to work as what you'll be doing initially is cashing the payments and completing the transaction to the supplier.”

“The process is as follows; you receive the payment directly from the individual buyer, in your mail, usually via UPS and have them cashed. You then send the payment to our vendors when I need you to, or directly to the company and your pay is 10% of the dollar amount sent to you.” 

“The form of payments from our customers usually come in check payments and/or bank transfers so its your choice to let us know which option suits you the best. I started from this level we are offering you so I can assure you that if you take the job seriously and are enthused in whatever tasks you are assigned you will be successful and promoted to a higher position in no time”

"You are to shop at XXXXX  and give a report on customer service, quality of product, and cleanliness of the establishment. I hope there is a XXXXX store in your area. Money will be provided for you to shop.  Here are the next steps: 1. You will also ascertain the ease of sending the balance to the next survey agent from XXXX.  2.. You will also be paid a commission of $300 for each assignment.  3  We are going to send you a check or money order for the assignments...  4. You are not to use any money from your own pocket.   5. I need you to Confirm the following information below,” (then confirms, name, address, phone, etc.)

“After shopping at XXXXXXX. you will send the balance to the next survey agent through an instant money transfer service so as to ascertain the ease of on-line and instant transfers as against check and money orders. Adequate information will be provided as to where to send the balance as soon as payment arrives.”


Especially for International Students Seeking Employment - Beware if -

  • A company charges a fee for anything (training, visa processing etc.) If a company offers free training, followed by assistance with job placement, this is a red flag. Often the training is not truly free and will cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars if you break the contract, and this is hidden in the contract you sign. The job placement may also be exploitative.
  • A company seeks out only international students who want H1b
  • A company inflates a candidates credentials or asks you if it is okay if they do so.
  • A company asks for extensive background information (copies of immigration documents, social security card, government issued ID, passport, or bank info). Never share copies of these documents with a company or individual you have not met. Only give these documents to your employer when you are physically at the place of employment.
  • For information on other types of scams, please see the International Student and Scholar Services guide to Safety and Security

Warning Scam Alert
   If you encounter or have already responded to one of these types of scams -

  • Please contact the Pomerantz Career Center. We can check to see if the organization is in our system and block them if they are. We can reach out to other students who may have bee affected by the scam. We can also help you determine your next steps.
  • End all communication with the employer and if personal information was disclosed, monitor your accounts closely for the next few weeks. If you receive unwanted emails or phone calls, you can contact your email and phone providers to ask them to block the person.
  • If you have given any financial information out or have sent money to an employer, contact your bank and/or credit card company to close your account and dispute the charges.
  • You should contact the local police who can conduct an investigation. Contact the campus police if you live on campus and the Iowa City police if you live off-campus.
  • If the incident occurred completely over the internet, you can file an incident report with the Federal Trade Commission