Recognizing & Avoiding Job Scams

September 22, 2021

Are you on the lookout for flexible, part-time employment to help cover school expenses? If so, watch out for scams.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and high unemployment rates, the pressure to find a job may create more pressure for you to find work quickly. UC Berkeley has received numerous reports of employment scams where the sender impersonates Berkeley professors, researchers, and/or university departments. Some scams are easy to spot but how do you know who to trust?

Start with these basic guidelines:

  • Be skeptical. If a job sounds too good to be true, it might be a scammer trying to trick you.
  • Check the sender. Check the sender's e-mail address before replying or clicking on links.  Any correspondence from an organization should come from an organizational e-mail address. 
  • Trust your instincts. If a job sounds too good to be true, it might be!

Do Not:

  • Give out personal information. Things like your Social Security or bank account number should never be shared over email or phone.
  • Accept cashier’s checks or money orders as a form of payment. Fake checks are common amongst these scams and the bank where you cash it will hold you accountable.
  • Cash a check that comes with “extra” money. Scammers send checks that require you to deposit a check at your bank, withdraw the “extra” money as cash, and then deposit that cash elsewhere. The check will bounce and you will be held accountable.
  • Wire funds. If someone asks you to wire money, chances are they are a scammer. 

phishing poster with sample email about research assistant job

Review the "Fight the Phish" flyer on this page to learn ways to identify these types of attacks.


Common Job Scam Scenario:

A student gets an unsolicited email for an online job offer which usually involves communicating via text or "personal email". When it's time to get paid, the scammer sends a check worth more than what the student has earned. The scammer says they “trust” the student to repay the difference through a wire transfer (e.g., Zelle, Joust, CloudAfrica, Venmo). The student cashes the check and then wires the scammer the balance. Even though the bank cashes the check, it is later discovered to be a fake and does not clear. The student now owes the bank the full value of the check and is out the money paid to the scammer. 

Reporting Scams

If you think you've been the victim of a phishing scam immediately report it to security@berkeley.edu, we will work with you to determine how best to proceed including: