Approximately 69 percent of all companies conduct pre-employment criminal background checks on candidates, a 2012 study by the Society of Human Resources found. Another 34 percent of employers said they also utilize credit background checks, but mostly for upper management and financial-related positions.
Companies want to know everything about all prospects before bringing them on board, but applicants rarely follow the same protocols. The recession and lack of available jobs have created an environment in which unscrupulous individuals post phony job ads to prey on people desperate for work.
It is now more important than ever for applicants to conduct similar background checks on prospective employers before even sending them an initial email expressing interest.
Never Pay For Play
A Florida company placed an online ad in 2009 (when the recession was at its worst) seeking 2,500 employees to work at its headquarters. The applicants had to pay $24 for the company to run a background check before bringing them on, according to KENS 5 in San Antonio. The scam seemed legit, as the standard fee the Florida Department of Law Enforcement charges for background checks in, in fact, $24. Unfortunately all of the money went into the pockets of the scam artists and nobody got a job in the end.
The Better Business Bureau advises against paying any fees during the application process, no matter how good the job sounds. Granted there are some legitimate employers that require fees upfront, so it’s up to the individual to exercise due diligence.
There are several obvious red flags when dealing with these types of job offers. Typographical and grammatical errors in the initial ad and follow-up emails are the most obvious warning signs. Terms like “get rich quick” or “tell your boss to [fill in the blank]” should also set off the scam radar.
One of the best free online sources for job seekers to learn more about their potential new employer is Glassdoor. The website features first-hand testimonials from current and former employees of nearly every company in the U.S. Simply create a free account to access all the features it has to offer.
The key to using Glassdoor is to take some of the reviews with a grain of salt. Some companies have what appears to be several bitter former employees who wanted to get a few parting shots in. All vituperative reviews should be ignored, particularly for well-known companies, like this jobs page from Lifelock, that post jobs right on their own websites. Focus more on the reviews from current employees. They can be posted anonymously, thus creates a forum for honesty without fear of repercussion.
You can also sign in to Glassdoor via your Facebook or Google+ account to save time.
Website Business Solutions in Phoenix, Ariz. promised customers they would make big money off blogs the company built for them. But in July of 2011, KTVK Channel 3 reported the company was ripping off senior citizens by charging up their credit cards and giving them nothing in return. One woman said the company got her for over $120,000 in two months.
Two months later, the company was bouncing employee payroll checks bouncing and then shut its doors. Workers were out of luck trying to recoup lost wages, but could have saved themselves from this situation with a little due diligence. It was ultimately found that Kyle Winn, the company’s CEO, had served two years in prison for aggravated DUI and had been in the criminal justice system since he was a child.
Granted this situation was a bit extreme, but you can learn a lot about a company not only by how it treats customers and by investigating its leadership. Search public court records for any criminal or civil complaints against the owner and upper management. Look at their LinkedIn profiles and cross reference former companies on Glassdoor. The biggest red flag will be discovering a now defunct company that was owned by the same person running the place you’ve applied to.
Everybody needs a job and will take almost anything in a down economy. But don’t get taken advantage of in the process.