Anatomy of a Job Scam Email

From: Christensen [Redacted] <[redacted]>

Dear Student,

We got your contact through your school database and I’m happy to inform you that our reputable company [Legitimate Company] is currently running a student empowerment programme. This programme is to help loyal and hardworking students like you secure a part time work from home job which does not deter you from doing any other, you just need a few hours to do this weekly and with an attractive weekly salary.

Kind Regards,
Christensen [Redacted]
HR Manager
[Legitimate Company] Inc.®


This is the first email that you may receive that will not result in a job, but rather could cost you thousands of dollars.

There a number of things that are indications of a possible scam:

  • It is from a Gmail, Yahoo, Wix, or Hotmail address, even one that is [legitimate_company_name] Why wouldn’t an HR Manager be emailing you from their work address? UCS and the RCC will not post jobs from employers that do not have corporate email accounts.
  • The email doesn’t address you by name. The emails often say that they got your information from a job board, school, or even our office. Then why don’t they know your name?
  • They are asking to continue the conversation by text. This makes the scam harder to document. If you have questions, continue the conversation by email.
  • They ask for information that they should already have (Name) or information that is too sensitive to be provided outside of a legitimate company application tracking system like address, phone number, banking information, or social security number.
  • It has grammatical or spelling errors. A very common attribute of scam emails is that they don’t bother to spell check or grammar check their outgoing emails.
  • They are calling themselves a “reputable company”.

Were you to reply to this email, the scammer would follow up and further the scam.

According to the Better Business Bureau:

These companies often get resumes from real job sites to operate the scam with people known to be searching for employment. They often even go as far as to conduct phone “interviews” to further the scam.

Some of these scammers are also known by BBB to use the names of real companies operating locally and regionally to add credibility to the scam.

Multiple consumers were asked to deposit the check, use some of the cash to buy needed employment “supplies,” then wire a large portion of the cash back to the scam company or a third party.

In any case, the checks are fake and leave consumers financially responsible for the entire amount of the deposited fake check plus non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees charged by banks.

To perpetuate the scam, the checks are often sent bearing the names of real companies and are drawn from national, recognizable banks such as Chase, Capital One or Wells Fargo Bank.

These scam companies have also requested “employee” information such as banking information and Social Security numbers under the ruse of Human Resources information to later commit identity theft.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid these and similar check scams:

  • Start with Trust®. Check with the BBB before doing business. You can also check with the Rockwell Career Center or University Career Services
  • Verify that checks received in the mail are real. Anytime you receive an unexpected check in the mail, verify that it is from a valid bank account. Take the check to your local bank and have them call the bank to verify the check is valid.
  • Do not wire money until the check clears the bank. If you’re dealing with someone who requires you to wire or send money immediately after depositing a check, without waiting for the check to clear, this is a red flag. Do not pursue the opportunity.
  • Exercise Caution on the web. When using social networking sites like Facebook and online employment sites, be sure to check the actual Web site of the company posting the position to verify it actually exists.
  • Protect Personal Information. Job seekers should never provide their social security number or birth date until they have verified the position is legitimate. Additionally, job seekers should never provide bank account information for direct deposit setup until they have officially been hired.
  • Avoid work-at-home offers. Most jobs that imply you can work from home or rake in cash are a ploy to trap you into giving away your credit card information, cashing fake checks, or paying for training that should be free. Job seekers should understand employees working from home generally go through the traditional in-person interviews and hiring process, often have prior experience in what they are doing, work for a salary, or have spent time and money developing the market for their work.
  • Report fraud. If you find a job scam or internet fraud, report it to BBB Scam Tracker and contact the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center at 800.251.3221 or go to

If you are unsure of an email that you receive about a job offer without applying to a position, contact us. We will be happy to help you! 

Be safe and happy job hunting. 

Troy Hopkins, JD, PHR, SHRM-CP
Director of Undergraduate and Accountancy Career Counseling
Rockwell Career Center, C. T. Bauer College of Business
University of Houston

By Troy Hopkins
Troy Hopkins Director, Undergraduate Career Counseling Troy Hopkins