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Job Scams That Target College Students

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reporting that there is a new spin on an old scam. They have tracked the emergence of virtual job scams that are now being targeted at individual college students.

Recruitment or employment fraud is not uncommon. What is new about the recent scams is how personalized these efforts are, presenting elements in the approach that are likely to be persuasive to individual recruits. College students have described to the FTC how they were approached on social media platforms by people claiming to be recruiters for Wall Street firms, tech companies, national retailers, and other attractive employers for a great employment opportunity.

A fake recruiter often claims to have a connection at the university the student attends and asserts that the dean or a specific professor has recommended the student as a top prospect for the recruiting company’s prestigious management program. The fake recruiter may include faculty names, campus landmarks or memories to press the connection with the student/target that they (the recruiter) are an alumnus of the school.

Virtual interviews have led to lucrative job offers – that are ultimately proven to not be legitimate. However, before the truth is revealed, the student who accepts the offer provides their Social Security number, bank account, driver’s license information and other data to a fake Human Resources (“HR”) professional. In some instances, the recruiting company may send an oversized check for a “signing bonus” and as an advance so that the student/recruit can buy a business cell phone or laptop, with instructions to send excess funds back to the company.

The risks for college students who fall prey to these scams are: 1) the sharing of personally identifiable information with fraudsters means they are likely to become victims of identity theft in the future, and 2) the advance checks are always fake, and so any “excess” money sent back to the company is money out of the student’s pocket into the fraudsters’ pocket, with the student suffering the loss.

College students should be cautious about offers that come from the internet with the only interaction between themselves, the recruiters, and other company personnel being all virtual. Protective steps can include:

  • Confirm a recruiter’s references

    When a recruiter uses the name of someone at the college, the student should contact that faculty member directly before going very far into the interview process.

  • Scrutinize the recruiter’s email address

    The email addresses of recruiters should originate from the company in question or that of a recruitment firm. Addresses from “” or other personal addresses are red flags the recruiter is not genuine. Further, the student can seek independent verification of the recruiter’s identity. Obtain a phone number for the company or recruitment firm from the organization’s website. Call into the general company number and ask for the recruiter by name.

  • Resist providing personal information

    The college student should not provide any personal data virtually without the following: 1) confirming the recruiter’s existence as stated above, 2) receiving an offer letter from the company, and 3) calling the HR department of the company independently to confirm the legitimacy of the offer letter.

  • Report the experience A student who recognizes they have been targeted for a recruitment scam should report the incident to their college’s online career service. Further, the FTC encourages reporting such experiences through


(This article was adapted from “Job Scams Targeting College Students are Getting Personal” by Lesley Fair, printed in the FTC website, Consumer Advice page, December 27, 2023.)