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The Riley Guide

The Riley Guide: Before You Search

Is This Job Real?
What Should I Do If I Applied?!?

Margaret Riley Dikel

updated with new informationn August 2012


Is This Job Real?

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I got an interesting email a couple of weeks ago from a job seeker in Ohio.
Hello Margaret:

I was referred to this website by my state job bank. I am wanting to know if there is such a company operating in St. Louis under name of [name deleted]. They are showing several job positions that I am interested in. They give a email address for you to apply. However, once go on and enter info on home screen, click submit, nothing else happens. They have appeared on the state's website and another board. My state doesn't know anything about them.

Obviously the writer was suspicious, and with good reason. I did some research and responded that I didn't like these job announcements either. Here is how I check organizations online, a process which anyone can do!
1. I visit the advertised job announcement on the company's website and look for specific information -- where is the job located, what are the requirements, and (most importantly) who do I contact with questions.
I did find a street address and a generic email address plus a contact form, but no contact name and no real company information. At this point you could fill in the contact form or send a message to the generic email address and request more information on the jobs or the company and then see what kind of response you get. Keep that street address handy for something I'll outline in Step #4.

2. I backtrack to the front page of the company's website so I can learn more about the company.
In most cases you delete everything after .com (rileyguide.com/scams.html becomes rileyguide.com), but in some cases you must delete everything but companyname.com (hiring.network.company.com becomes company.com). Then I read the company's info. I'm looking for press releases, product information, even names of their corporate overseers. In this case, there was nothing there but even more job announcements. No company information at all. I don't like that.

3. I check the Domain Name Registration for information on who owns the URL (domain name) of this company.
For example, the domain name "rileyguide.com" is registered to me, Margaret Dikel. To do this, you must use a WHOIS database, a searchable system listing the contact information for the people or organizations who own these names. I use both Network Solutions and Whois-Search for this. To see what a Domain Name Registration looks like, take a look at the WHOIS information for Sara Lee. You see the company's name, a contact address, etc. And if you scroll down the page you will see "Record created on" and "Record expires on" dates. A company who wants to protect its trademark will register that name early and for a very long time (Sara Lee was registered in 1994 and will expire late this year.) Someone who registered his/her domain name recently and for only 1 year says to me "no expectations of longevity" and "plans to disappear soon."

Another thing I'm personally not comfortable with in these instances is a "private" registration, meaning the owner of this domain is hiding behind a privacy shield. Yes it's legal, but if you are a legitimate company promoting yourself online, why hide your identity? It just makes me nervous. And if I'm already nervous about a potential employer, this just makes it worse. Why should I apply for a job with them?

4. I visit a search engine (Google is my current preference) and search on the company's name, placing it in quotation marks so it searches as a phrase ("company name").
You might also search it without quotes for different results, but you want info on the company. What I want to see are references to the company, not job listings. I want to see press releases, news articles, comments from employees, association memberships, maybe even some sort of financial information -- pretty much anything except job ads and marketing ads.

In this case, there was nothing to be found but job announcements (which is an extremely bad sign). So, I resorted to an additional search -- the company's street address as shown on the website. This has to be done a couple of different ways:

  • A) the full address (number street suite) in quotations. For example, in Google I type "5663 Balboa Ave suite 477" into the search box
  • B) the street address in quotations + (and) the suite number in quotations. For example, in Google I type "5663 Balboa Ave" +"suite 477"
If you try these you'll see that the first search doesn't produce much of anything, but the 2nd will find at least 6 companies in the same office, all offering similar services, which is a little odd in itself.

5. Check a Business Directory, a Telephone Directory, and the BBB.
I know, you are all thinking "how old fashioned," but a legitimate business that has been in operation in the US for a while will have listings in telephone directories as well as business directories. So check Superpages.com for the business name AND go to the Advanced Search option and search the phone number (if you were given one). Again, a legitimate business will have the employees give out the business phone number, not a personal number. Then check resources like Local.yahoo.com, Yelp, and Manta to see if you can find the business listed or even just mentioned anywhere. You can even check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any information available.

All of my research said this was an employer to avoid. And I sent my results back to the person who contact me as well as the state job bank and another online site that was streaming jobs from this organization. (Both websites did their own research and then deleted the listings.)

But the story continues below....

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What Should I Do If I Applied?!?

So, a few days after going through all the research noted above, I got the following email from an employee of the state job bank:
Do you have some advice on for people who did apply for jobs with [company name deleted]? or other jobs that they later realize are scam jobs?
In the best case, you have merely been added to a spam list, in which case you can add them to your spam filter or request to be removed from the list. In the worse case you may become the victim of identity theft. Here are some suggestions on what to do.
1. If you gave them any detailed personal account information (Social Security Number, bank accounts, credit card numbers, driver's license number), or you were asked to submit a credit report with your application either on your own or through a specific website they wanted you to visit, then you are at extreme risk for identity theft.
Immediately call your bank and credit card companies and talk to their security people. Ask for help placing alerts on your accounts. You might also need to file a police report. See what your bank and credit card officials say. There is more information at http://onguardonline.gov/articles/0005-identity-theft, which is operated by the FTC, DOJ, and other federal agencies. Again, you might need to file a police report. See what your bank and credit card officials say. And contact your state division of motor vehicles to see if they will allow you to place an alert on your driver's license. Some will.

2. Request your free credit report from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/.
This is operated by the 3 credit reporting agencies and is the only legitimate free source as mandated by the Federal government. If you see accounts that you do not recognize, call the vendors and request they be closed.

3. Contact any one of the credit reporting agencies and request a Fraud Alert be placed on your account.
That agency will contact the other 2 agencies. Information and contact phone numbers can be found at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/helpfaq#fraudalert.

4. Go to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/)and file complaints against the website(s) where you submitted an application as well as the one where you generated a credit report. You should also file complaints with your state attorney general.
One of the things the complaint will require (if available) is the name, address, phone number, and web address of the person/business you believe defrauded you. You can find these by searching the Registered Domain Name in a WHOIS registry such as the one at http://whois-search.com. (I discuss this process above.) What they give you may be very basic, and you might have to visit a second site where the domain name is actually registered to retrieve the full name/address information. If the site is registered as a private domain registration number, write it all down and use that as the contact information on your complaint.

I hope all this helps. And feel free to let me know of new scams you see or smell.

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