How to Identify a Fake Job Ad in 9 Easy Steps

Fake job ads and similar scams are increasing online. We’ve all encountered a badly written online job ad that doesn’t identify who the employer is. It’s crucial to be aware of the warning signs and avoid scammers, as the consequences of being scammed could be devastating and far-reaching.


There are various ways to verify whether a job ad is legitimate or not. Here are a few tips to help you spot the fake ones:

Ask yourself whether the job vacancies listed have any of the following characteristics:

1. They ask for cash up front

Scammers posing as recruiters or employers will likely ask you to pay money upfront, citing reasons such as training costs, travel costs, visa or interview costs. Cash in advance and subscription fees are not requirements of legitimate employers. If you’re asked to send money, do not do so, as it’s probably a scam.

2. They use free e-mail addresses

Take note of the e-mail address in the job ad. According to CareerMine, free e-mail addresses, as opposed to corporate e-mail accounts, often indicate a fake job ad. Free e-mail addresses include Google (, Yahoo ( and Hotmail ( e-mail addresses.

3. They require confidential information

If you are asked for personal information before being employed, this could serve as a warning sign too. Confidential information includes things like your ID number, banking details, driver’s licence, or passport. Scammers getting hold of your confidential information could lead to identity theft, loss of money, or you being complicit in a crime without your knowledge.

Learn more by reading “6 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Online“.

4. They appear in your inbox as job offers – but you didn’t apply for the job

Ask yourself: Did you apply for this job? If you didn’t and it just came your way or stumbled into your inbox unsolicited, you should be skeptical. Although head-hunting does exist, it’s always best to be cautious. If you’re unemployed and are in the process of applying for many jobs, it can be easy to lose track of them all.Try keeping a list of all the jobs you’ve applied for so that you can follow up when necessary.

5. They offer disproportionately high salaries

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fake job ads are often characterised by very high salaries, generous benefits and enticing travel opportunities that seem way out of your range, given your level of experience, qualifications, or skills. Most fake job ads are geared towards people in financial need and prey on the desperation of those genuinely looking for work in a difficult climate of unemployment. As much as you might want to believe a fake job ad, being scammed and losing money during a time of financial strain can be devastating, so be careful.

6. They have vague job descriptions

According to CareerMine, vague or generic job descriptions are another way to spot a fake job ad. Job posts that are not specific about tasks and responsibilities, as well as skills, experience and necessary qualifications, are less likely to be legitimate. You should also be wary of job ads that don’t require anything at all.


7. They’ve been posted by a company or recruiter with a dubious online presence

Google the company or recruiter, have a thorough look at their website and do your homework before responding to a job ad. First of all, a professional company website should exist for the employer. If it looks unprofessional with poor quality images, that’s a clear sign it might be fake. Also, look carefully at the name and logo – it might be a similar name or logo to an established company or government institution, with minor changes. This is often used to fool people. If you’re unsure, try to find a contact number or e-mail address on the site (if it’s real, this will be available), call the company and ask if they advertised the job.

Also look for online reviews – if other people have been scammed by a company or recruiter, there’s a good chance they would have posted online comments or reviews to warn others.

8. They don’t require you to attend an interview

No reputable employer will hire you without an interview. If you get offered a job without having been through an interview process (face-to-face, via Skype, or otherwise), the chances are that it’s fake.

9. They contain language errors

Many fake job ads are poorly written, with spelling and grammar errors. If you get the sense that the ad has not been proofread, it may well be fake.

Most importantly, if many of the above-mentioned points apply to one ad, it’s very likely to be a scam. One of these points, on its own, might not mean anything. So consider going through this checklist before applying for a job or giving out any information. Scammers are inventive and are always developing new ways to trick people, so this list by no means covers everything. Keep your critical thinking on point.

Want more info about scams? Read our article featuring 3 common scams that are targeting job seekers in South Africa.

How to Identify a Fake Job Ad in 9 Easy Steps
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How to Identify a Fake Job Ad in 9 Easy Steps
There are various ways to verify whether a job ad is legitimate or not. We offer a few tips to help you spot the fake ones.
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Job Mail
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12 Responses

  1. Caroline Morgan says:

    Thank you very much – that was very helpful!

    What about the jobs where you have to fax your CV? (Always the same fax numbers with no name?) No details of the company or the person?

  2. Caroline Morgan says:

    Thank you. No need to comment. I read your previous article. Thank you once again it was very helpful!

  3. How should one realise if other recruiters are also genuine ? Because other recruiters side a person apply to the advertised job more than 2 years or more but still not even one call for interview or something promising though you meet their requirements or even the standard of your CV is more than what they are looking for. How a person to know if it’s genuine or we are also being played for desparate people being fooled.

  4. Pearl says:

    Thank you so Much For sharing The Information Its a cruel cruel World out There and We all Know The people responsible For all Online scams.

  5. Mpho says:

    thanx for the tips

  6. Khitho says:

    Gosh thinking how many times I have been asked to send my full picture together with my cv. Thank God for opening our eyes

  7. Khitho says:

    I also thank the Almighty as I was not so desperate for the jobs. But I also feel 4 the national for being taken for granted online seeker’s

  8. Mxolisi says:

    I have been scammed several times but I Google before going to attend their interview . Thanks jobmail

  9. Hlengiwe says:

    Hi guys I just received the below email they attached 37 pages of interview questions and provided me with the space to answer the questions I was so happy but before I could start answering I realised that I should fax this 37 pages back to them I calculated each page is R5 meaning I have to pop out R175.00 where would I get such kind of money because Im a job seeker. thank god i just typed their fax number and I got all the result. thanks be to God Im off the hook.
    Hello again Hlengiwe Mkhabela

    This is just a quick reminder that we need your Shortlist 1 Pre-Interview Questionnaire by tomorrow on the latest, otherwise you will not be considered for an interview.

    If you’ve already faxed your questionnaire, please ignore this reminder, because then our correspondence probably just passed each other somewhere in cyberspace.

    Successful candidates will be informed within 7 business days. If you are successful you will receive your interview instructions via a follow-up email within the above mentioned 7 days.

    Kind regards

    Screening & compliance officer

  10. Hi Thanx for the alert I have just received a mail from Abail and she is requesting my full body pic,cv,qualifications and copy of my id. I nearly got trapped by a Nigerian guy in October wanting me to go to the interview at Royal House in jhb,when I was around jhb I phoned and asked for him and the one who picked phone asked me where I was he apparently wanted to pick me up, I lied to him and he said I can come the following day.after ten minutes I called them again and the number was unavailable.

  11. arnold says:

    thanks so much we are even being asked to bring along our original certificated and proof of identity

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