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How to Identify ''Scam'' Job Ads Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Question: I recently applied to a job on another career site and got a very positive reply. In fact they've basically offered me this very high paying position without even interviewing me. But in their e-mail message to me saying I've been selected as their top candidate, the company illegally asked me for private information (like my age and marital status). Plus the way they describe the position makes it sound like it's not legitimate. How can I tell if this is a real employer or not, and should I send them the information they've requested?
Justin G., Ottawa, Ontario
At some point in your online job search you're likely to stumble an ad for a job that just seems too good to be true. It may be that the offer sounds incredible financially, such as ''Work from home and earn $200 an hour.'' Or the job described seems ideal for you, except the employer and their location aren't named so you have no idea who you're applying to. Then there's the tactic of offering you the job once you've applied for it, but it turns out not to be an actual job, and instead is something that resembles a money laundering scheme.

A classic example of this last category is a posting that is currently making the rounds on the Web. It's supposedly for an Accounts Receivable Clerk at a firm that calls itself Argos Company. A quick look at the posting triggers several alarm bells right off the bat to someone like me who has seen thousands of credible position descriptions over the years. Here are a few clues that the Argos Company's offering is highly suspect:

> There is no website listed for the company. This alone is worrisome considering how wired the world has become.

> The position they advertise for is ''Account Recievable Clerk.'' First of all, the correct term is ''Accounts,'' not the singular. Secondly they've spelled the word Receivable incorrectly - remember the addage ''i before e except after c?'' Any credible company worth its salt would not be so sloppy in a job posting.

But wait, we're just getting started.

> The posting asks for just 2 years of relevant work experience, then goes on to offer an eye-popping salary of between $100,000-124,999! Not bad for a position that has no educational pre-requisites and requires fewer years of experience than the time it takes for Canada's federal government to call a new election.

> All responses should be sent to Strange, don't you think, that this person is using a personal e-mail address instead of one from the company he claims to be hiring for?

> Finally, the job description consists of four short paragraphs in its entirety. This is not unusual for a position that might be paying $35,000 a year. It is highly inappropriate for one that claims to pay six figures.

The kicker is that everyone who applies to this add automatically receives the following falsely encouraging response (I've included the first parapgraph only here for the sake of brevity, but once you read it you'll see it reveals itself as bogus):

Dear Applicant,
Your application was received regarding the Job posted on the largest employment site We have gone through your resume and due to one reason or the other you have been selected to be the best for the Job offer and you will be our candidate for Account Receivable Manager.

Think about this for a moment: based only on your resume and cover letter, without so much as being interviewed by phone or even by e-mail, you are being offered a job that says it pays over $100,000 a year. Sound a little bit too good to be true? You bet it is. They even spell the compay name wrong in their e-mail message. And they describe the job in more detail, which basically amounts to you receiving money orders from strangers, putting them into your personal bank account, taking a small commission on each money order you process...then waiting unsuspectingly until the money orders bounce and you are on the hook for the whole amount - while at the other end of the transaction they keep their money and laugh all the way to their own bank. I've included the rest of their e-mail message below just so you can see how outrageously fraudulent it is.

The lesson here is that it's buyer beware when it comes to these types of job ads. Fortunately they are not common. But when they do appear, especially if they do so late into your job search and you're hungry for any sort of positive response from a possible employer, please be sure to conduct your due diligence before signing up for something that seems to good to be true. Otherwise you might get fleeced by the Argos Company, as well as by other unscrupulous operators.

The actual E-mail from Argos Company, as submitted to me by an alert reader:

Dear Applicant,
Your application was received regarding the Job posted on the largest employment site We have gone through your resume and due to one reason or the other you have been selected to be the best for the Job offer and you will be our candidate for Account Receivable Manager.


Argos is a unique retailer recognised for choice, value and convenience. It sells general merchandise and products for the home from over 700 stores throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland, online and over the telephone. In the last financial year, Argos sales grew 8% to £4.2 billion and it employed some 34,000 people across the business.
Presently with the amount of Orders we have, we cannot put them on hold for fear of loosing the customers out rightly. Secondly we cannot cash these payments from the US soon enough.We lose about thousands of dollars or more of net income each month because we have money transfer delays. Your task as a representative of the company is to coordinate payments from customers and help us with the payment process.You are not involved in any sales. Once orders are received and sorted we deliver the product to a customer (usually through FEDEX/UPS).
After this has been done the customer has to pay for the products but in most cases we make our clients prepay for orders or items they order. About 90 percent of our customers prefer to pay through Certified Checks and Money orders drawn from the United State.
We have decided to open this new contract -to-hire job position for solving this problem.


Your First Primary task (Collection of Payments)

1. Receive payment from our Customers or Clients.
2. Cash Payment at your Bank or any cashing facilities near you.
3. Deduct 10 % which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed
4. Forward balance after deduction of percentage/pay to any of the offices you will be contacted to send payment to.

You'll have a lot of free time doing another job, because this job is part time, you'll get good income .But this job is very challenging and you should understand it. We are considering your application because you satisfy our requirements and we are sure you will be an earnest assistant till we start running our branch office in your state.

Get back to us with information below so that we can add your mailing address to our Regional database and forward it to our customers for them to send payments.

First name...................
Middle name..................
Last name....................
Address Line 1(NO P.O BOX)...
Address Line 2...............
Zip/Postal code..............
Home phone...................
Cell phone...................
Marital Status...............
Present Job..................

Your response to this email is needed, so that we can reconfirm your mailing address details we have in our database.

We will be updating you as soon as the payment is being sent to you and you will be directed as to where to have the remaining 90% of the money sent to, after the deduction of your 10% pay on any payments received and processed by you.

A swift acknowledgement of the receipt of this email will be appreciated.

Thanks for Your Total Understanding.

Mike Moore Hiring Manager ARGOS CO INC

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