Too Good to Be True: Signs of a Phishy Job Offer

Person using laptop with "Alert" on screen.

Exciting news! Your application has been reviewed and you are hired! Just give me your banking information, your social security number, and the title to your car and we can be on our way to getting you paid way too much money for a position you didn’t even apply for! 

Obviously, this is a scam; but sometimes it’s not so easy to see when you find a vague job description on a job board or get an exciting unsolicited email from someone who says they work for your dream company (but with a Gmail address?). There are going to be predators and some multi-level marketing companies targeting college students, especially fresh graduates, with opportunities to make big cash fast. Fortunately, there are some universal behaviors you can be aware of to defend against opportunities that feel too good to be true. 

Here are some key things to look out for when you see something that feels phishy:

  • Do I really know you? Sometimes the sender will appear to be a fellow UO address or say they work for a real company but the website for their email is wrong. However, if you did not reach out, it’s safe to ignore, especially if it’s a job offer, or phrased in a way that suggests you have a short time frame to respond for immediate hiring. If you didn’t submit anything, they have nothing to respond to. Legitimate recruiters and hiring managers use sites like Handshake or their applicant tracking system to communicate with potential candidates and post their jobs. They also use their official company emails to respond to inquiries that you initiate by applying for a job or asking for an informational meeting. If they say they’re a recruiter with “X” company, you can look them up on LinkedIn or the company website to make sure it’s their legitimate contact information. 
  • TMI (too much information). If this mystery “recruiter” asks for basic information such as your name, social security number, birthday, or contact info, you have obviously not already given it. If they insist that you text, or even email, instead of calling and actually speaking, it is probably a scam. If they ask for banking information prior to signing an employment agreement or pay only through third-party apps and never directly (for example, through Paypal) it’s a scam. If they offer you big bonuses for signing on, or promise advanced pay, it is most likely a scam. 
  • “Click here for more info.” If the mystery email includes links, never click them. If you want to see what they lead to, hover your mouse and look at the address in the bottom left corner of your browser. If you don’t recognize it, it’s a redirect link, or if it is trying to imitate a legitimate website. It’s probably unsafe and a scam. 
  • Vague job descriptions. Not all vague job descriptions are going to be scams, but if there’s very few job details, they emphasize “no experience necessary,” offer a high pay rate over telling you the actual job responsibilities, and have lots of typos or bad sentence structures, they may not be who they say they are. Good job descriptions include job responsibilities, qualifications and skills, information about the company, realistic pay rates, and you can find the posting on the official company website. 
  • Jobs that require you to purchase something for them or from them. They want to hire you immediately, but first you must pay for some supplies needed for the job. Only they can provide the appropriate supplies. Or, possibly, you need to pay them for some special training that they will provide you to help you get started. Legitimate companies pay YOU for training—it’s a part of the job. They also will supply you with the tools needed to be successful in the role. 
  • Job offers without interviewing. Sure, you’ve got a great résumé on your LinkedIn that they found, but getting a job offer should be a little harder than pressing the “apply now” button or sending you a cold email. Interviews are also the time for you to be able to ask questions of employers and make sure it’s the right fit for you. 

On Handshake, the University Career Center strives to review employers and their full-time, part-time, and internship postings to confirm that they are legitimate. However, on occasion one slips through the cracks. If you ever see anything on Handshake that feels phishy, send the post number or forward the message you received from an employer to for review and removal. It is imperative that you, the job searcher, know how to distinguish legitimate job postings from scam attempts. Use caution, have some healthy skepticism, and pay attention to indications of malintent, and you will keep your information safe and find real, great jobs worth giving your bank routing information to. 

To learn more about preventing and reporting phish-y emails you might get to your “@uoregon” email, resources are available at