For every one legitimate job that’s available, there are at least 60 scams, experts contend. We don’t blame you for being concerned about your child’s summer sales job that sounds too good to be true. You have to do your due diligence today. In order to help lighten your load, we wrote this post, which will teach you how to decipher the job duds from the job studs, AKA whether or not a job is legitimate. Shall we?

7 Warning Signs a [Sales] Job is a Scam

If your child finds a job that they’re excited about, it must be a scam, right? Not necessarily… but yes, of course, if they were told they won’t have to do anything to earn millions of dollars with little to no experience. If that’s the case, then it’s most likely a scam. As the cliche goes: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Keep scrolling to read some of the warning signs a job is actually a scam.

1. There is no base pay.

Don’t let your child take on a sales job based on 100 percent commissions.

“I wouldn’t, nor will I take on any company that insists on such an outdated pay structure. The turnover rates are just too high (something like 99 percent of commission-only sales reps fail to make a livable wage and are forced to leave for greener pastures), and it’s nearly impossible to find A Players willing to accept this type of position.” (source)

2. A stranger asks you to transfer money.

One of the most common job scams involves money laundering.

“A stranger will contact you and claim that he or she needs to transfer a large sum of money into your country—and you can have a percentage of it if you provide your bank account info and agree to host the transaction. You might recognize these as the infamous “Nigerian prince” scams… never trust anyone who asks for your personal info or asks you to transfer money on his or her behalf.” (source)

3. A “recruiter” asks you for money upfront.

Real jobs don’t make you pay to “process your application.” Period.

4. A stranger asks you for personal information.

If you’re offered a job before even interviewing, that’s a big red flag especially if they ask for your personal information like a passport or bank account information.

“… Some scammers may promise an international job but ask for a scan of your passport in order to ‘start the application process.’ But this international recruiter says, ‘I do not ask for a scan of the candidate’s passport until I have interviewed him or her and extended an actual job offer.’ So, as with your Social Security Number, you should never share your passport number—much less a scan of the document—until you have an actual job offer in hand. The same goes for companies that demand any personal info or money from you in order to ‘process your application.’ This is always a big red flag.” (source)

Another way scammers do this is by asking for your credit report from a specific website they direct you to. “

While many employers do conduct credit checks as part of the application process, they perform these checks themselves, and they don’t have access to your full credit report… It’s common for employers to ask for your full name, your date of birth and your social security number in order to check your credit—but it’s illegal for an employer to ask for any credit-related information beyond this.”(source)

5. You have to pay for training and supplies to get started.

Some scams charge you for supplies and training materials, but then don’t provide you with any paid work thereafter. Others are even worse…

They’ll offer you your first month’s pay in advance, but it will turn out to only be a loan with outrageous interest rates.

Another possibility is that it could bounce, leaving you to foot the bank fees. In a recent case, job scammers exactly copied the real employer’s site, and because the domain name was so similar to the actual one, applicants didn’t notice the difference.

When the bogus employer said new hires had to pay to get the company’s work-at-home software, but would be reimbursed in their first paycheck, they shelled out $400 each. Needless to say, once the applicant paid up, neither the software nor the job materialized.

6. The recruiter is unprofessional.

If a “recruiter” or “hiring manager” gives you an AOL email address, run!

Look for emails with professional domain names. Also, pay attention to how they communicate.

Is their writing poor? Do they make a lot of grammatical and spelling errors?

Then it’s likely a scam.

Is there a picture next to their name? Or are they an anonymous, all lowercase avatar?

7. You make a lot of money for doing nothing.

No one makes $5,000 per week working from home, stuffing envelopes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Warning: All reviews aren’t created equal.

Before you learn how to conduct your due diligence, it’s vital you’re aware of the number of fake reviews that get published every day.

A study by MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Northwestern University reports fake, negative reviews are actually pretty common.

The study looked at 325,000 reviews of an apparel company and found 16,000 cases where it appeared that, despite the reviewers’ claims that they’d purchased the product, they actually hadn’t.

Most of those 16,000 reviews were negative. It’s important to be cognizant of fake reviews because a lot of them may just be someone who is venting anger toward a company.

Or, even worse, it could be a competitor who pays people to write a bunch of one-star reviews on their Facebook page. That’s what happened to this company anyway.

You need to spot the fake reviews from the authentic ones. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Fake reviews feature little to no information about the reviewer.

Users who show little site activity (i.e. posting very few and far between), have not completed their profile information, or have little to no social connections are more likely to be lying.

Fake reviews are extreme.

Fake reviews err on the extreme side, which is why five- and one-star reviews tend to be fake.

Fake reviewers will post several in a row.

A surefire way to catch fake reviews is by looking at the time stamps on them, according to Jenny Sussin, an analyst at Gartner.

A batch of reviews with nearly the same time stamps indicates that a company paid for a batch of reviews, all of which were uploaded simultaneously.

“Suddenly a product or company with no reviews or one every few months will have five in a row all mentioning something similar, from the same day,” she says.

Fake reviews aren’t detailed.

A research team at Cornell discovered that fake reviewers included less details about the offering and more superfluous details about who they were with or why they purchased the product. They also used the word “I” a lot more than real reviewers.

Fake reviews use smaller words.

According to scientists, it takes more brainpower to tell a lie than the truth. When we’re lying, our vocabulary usually suffers because we’re expending more energy on the lie. As a result, fake reviews tend to use shorter words.

Fake reviews are brief.

Real reviews are usually written by people who have taken the time to write something meaningful. Fake review mills pay scraps per review, so there’s no incentive for a fake writer to write something meaningful; therefore, fake reviews are usually sloppy.

How to do your due diligence

“Not all sources are created equal.” Your natural inclination is probably to “Google” your son or daughter’s new job, but that isn’t always the best resource, according to Linda Ferrell, distinguished professor of leadership and business ethics at Belmont University.

“I think there are a lot of ways to do research on these entrepreneurial opportunities, and Googling it is probably one of the worst ways to go. You have a certain number of people who sometimes take advantage of a message or casting the competition in a certain light,” Ferrell, says.

Instead, she recommends a few alternatives to Google, which we detail below.

Keep scrolling…

Visit LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the largest professional network online with 106 million monthly active users (MAU), and it’s the perfect place to find employees of the company you’re researching.

In order to show you how to do this step-by-step, I went undercover and pretended to be a parent of a student who was offered a sales position at Vector Marketing.

Here’s what I did.

Create a profile on LinkedIn.

In order to connect with someone on LinkedIn, you must have a profile. I recommend doing this from your laptop/desktop, as opposed to LinkedIn’s mobile app.

For the purpose of this post, I visited the site on my desktop.

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Type in the company’s name in the top, left-hand search bar.

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The company’s name and logo should pop right up. If it doesn’t, click the search icon toward the right of the input field, and click on the result that matches the company you’re searching for.

Visit the company’s page.

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First and foremost, you should make sure that a company profile even exists. If it doesn’t, that’s weird.

How professional is its “about” page description? Does the description clarify the company’s mission and objectives?

When was the company established? You can find a link to the company’s website and basic information, like its founding date, by clicking “See more.”

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Also, if you’re a LinkedIn Premium member, you can see how the company is doing in regards to employee turnover. Just keep scrolling down the page to see the graph, labeled “Total employee count.”

What’s the average tenure of employees? You’ll see that number at the bottom, left-hand corner, below the chart.

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Find employees who work at the company in question

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If you have connections to the company in question (see red above), then click through to see who you know.

If you don’t have any connections, then click on the second option (see purple above)—“See all X employees on LinkedIn.”

You’ll see something similar to this:

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Reach out to a few employees.

Pick a few people and reach out. All you have to do is click the “Send InMail” or “Connect” button on the right, across from their profile picture.

Whether you know someone or not, take the time to add a personal message so the recipient has context around your connection request. Here’s what mine looked like:

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When you receive a response, ask your top three questions.

I sent out four invitations to connect and not only did all four accept me, but they each also took the time to share their experience with me.

Here are three of the questions I asked employees and the best response to each.

Question 1

What has your experience been like at Vector?

“My experience for the past 4 years has been life changing…I was able to make my own schedule around other obligations outside of the job like school and college sports! So I love the flexibility. We also have scholarship opportunities that students can win through competitions.

Since working here I have been totally financially free. What’s great is we have a base pay and an incentive pay! So no matter what, our sales reps get paid for their work.

Probably the biggest perk of all is the experience/resume building/skills I have obtained while working here. These “soft skills” I will use for the rest of my life. The resume I have built really sets me aside from all of my peers and adds so much confidence when it comes to my future to get my dream job! It’s the stuff that they don’t teach in school. Just last summer at the age of 22, I opened my own branch office in Longmont. Not only was I able to add that to my resume, but I experienced starting my own business from the ground up [and that] was very special.”

—Matt Radi, Field Sales Manager, Denver

How do I know this is an honest response?

  • The person’s profile is fleshed out, and I can find readily available information on them.
  • The review is detailed and specific. He lists specific skills and bullets he’s been able to add to his resume.
  • The review is meaningful. You can read the genuine tone in his message.
Question 2

My son doesn’t have sales experience, and I don’t know how well he would do.

“I have an extremely biased opinion. But I have worked for the company for 20 years, started as a 17-year-old with no experience except mowing lawns. I was so shy that when I told my parents what I would be doing, my dad laughed at me. I ended up paying my way through U of Washington with no debt and had a good amount of money saved upon graduation (which Vector also teaches to its top reps).”

—Ryan Casey, Division Manager, Washington

How do I know this is an honest response?

  • The person’s profile is fleshed out, and I can find readily available information on them.
  • The review is detailed and specific. He uses specific numbers.
  • The review is meaningful. He admits he’s biased because his long tenure with the company.
  • The review is moderate. He doesn’t go overboard recommending Vector.
Question 3

What advice would you give someone who’s considering working there?

“If [they are] coachable, have a positive attitude and are able to work hard they should do well. The toughest part of the job is taking initiative.”

How do I know this is an honest response?

  • The person’s profile is fleshed out, and I can find readily available information on them.
  • The review is specific. He lists specific skills.
  • The review is upfront. He admits the job takes initiative and good work ethic.
  • The review is moderate. He doesn’t go overboard recommending Vector.

Use a phone number lookup app.

Probably the simplest way to discover who is legit or not is to use a reverse phone directory app, like Hiya, to find the registered name and location of the number that called you. Easy, peasy.

Speak with someone at your child’s career services center.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends checking with your local college’s (or your child’s) career services center to find out about legit job opportunities.

So, is the job legitimate?

By now, you should know the answer. If you don’t, please leave your questions in the comments section below. We’ll respond to all of them with our best answers!

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