How to Avoid Off-Campus Job Scams

Hands typing on laptop with warning signs above.


Some job scams are easy to spot while others appear legitimate. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s web page dedicated to job scams.

Common Job Scams Targeting College Students

  • University research assistants/interns: These scams specifically target students and advise them that they have been hired by a University of South Alabama professor as a remote research assistant or intern. Any initial communication advertising these positions that does not come from an official University of South Alabama email account ( is most likely a scam.
  • Mystery shoppers
  • Envelope stuffing from home
  • Repackaging or shipping from home
  • Issuing checks or check processing from home
  • Model/talent agencies
  • Pyramid sales schemes
  • A variety of scams where a student is asked to pay for certification, training materials, or equipment with the promise of reimbursement
  • Watch out for overpayment scams. These are often posted as a bookkeeper, personal assistant, administrative assistant, etc., to assist in processing checks or mystery/secret shoppers. The “company” sends a check to the “assistant” (student), who is then responsible for taking their “salary” out of the check and wiring the remainder of the money back to the “company.” These checks are fraudulent and can leave you out thousands of dollars and facing criminal charges.


  • Contact the Office of Career Development at if you think a job listing is a scam.
  • Be skeptical. If a job is offering a lot of money for very little work, it could be a scammer trying to get personal information from you.
  • Research the employer. Do they have a reputable website or professional references? Is the job listing you want to apply for also on their main career page?
  • Trust your instincts. If a job sounds too good to be true, it is likely a scam.
  • Question if an employer says they’re hiring you based on your resume alone. Any reputable employer normally requires an interview before hiring.
  • Use personal contacts, LinkedIn or other networking sites to verify the company representative is a legitimate employee of the company.


  • Don’t give out personal information like your social security or bank account number.
  • Don’t take cashier’s checks or money orders as a form of payment. Fake checks are common and the bank where you cash it will hold you accountable.
  • Don’t 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.
  • Don’t wire funds via Western Union, MoneyGram or any other service. Anyone who asks you to wire money is likely a scammer.
  • Don’t apply for jobs listed by someone far away or in another country.
  • Don’t agree to a background check unless you have met the employer in person.

Victim of a Job Scam?

  1. Cease all contact with the scammer.
  2. Contact your bank or financial institution immediately if you have accepted or exchanged funds, or have provided your account information.
  3. Report the fraudulent “employer” to USAPD at 251-460-6312.
  4. Report the fraudulent activity to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3).
  5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).