Consumer Advocate: Employment scams target college students

Consumer Advocate: Employment scams target college students

Many college students are looking for flexible, part-time employment to help cover school expenses. Finding a job can be difficult, and students feel pressure to find work quickly. If this situation describes you or a student in your life, watch out for scams. BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of employment scams impersonating professors and university departments. 

A college student in Oregon reported, "I'm currently a college student and got contacted to interview for a Finance/Accounting internship... Due to this pandemic, it has been hard to find a job for this summer, so I read the employment offer and everything looked real. After I signed the contract (where they have my name, address, date of birth, phone number, email), it started getting suspicious. First, the company sent me a $2,000 check to mobile deposit, so I can Zelle transfer the payment ($860 and $1000)... I did it, not knowing that the funds would eventually be fraudulent." She was later contacted by her bank that the check didn't clear and she was likely the victim of a job scam.

How the scam works

You receive an email at your school email address encouraging you to apply for a job. The message appears to come from your school’s job placement office, student services department, or even a specific professor. The position – it could be anything from pet sitting to secret shopping -- sounds perfect for a college student.  The work is easy, has flexible hours, and offers excellent pay.

When you reply to the message, things start to get strange.  The “employer” hires you without an interview. Then, they send you a check with instructions to deposit it before you’ve even done any work. You are instructed to use this money to purchase gift cards, money orders, prepaid debit cards, or other supplies you’ll need for your new job. Part of what you purchase should be sent to your new employer. The rest of the money will be your payment.

However, the check is a fake – a detail your bank will let you know a day or two after depositing it. Any money you sent to your “employer” is gone for good. In addition, the scammers now have your personal information.

How to avoid employment scams

  • Do your research. Before you say yes to any job, research the company that wants to hire you. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Search for what others are saying about their experience with this company.
  • Beware of red flags. Scammers often send emails with many typos and grammatical errors. They offer to hire you without an interview and even pay you before you’ve done any work. None of these are behaviors of a reputable business.
  • Never send money to strangers. Never send funds in the form of cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers to someone you don’t know or haven’t met. No legitimate company will ask you to pay them to get a job.

For more tips and scam prevention, visit If you see a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to Whether you’ve lost money or not, your story could help others avoid a scam.