Looking for a job during the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be much harder than in normal times.
Last April, 20.5 million jobs were wiped from the U.S. economy. And a year after the pandemic began, the country is down roughly 10 million jobs.
But if you are searching, consider this: Is the job you're applying for even real?
The FBI is warning job seekers about scammers who post fake job listings and profit from applicants during the process. The bogus job posts appear on popular online job boards, where scammers impersonate legitimate employers looking for potential hires, the FBI said in a recent statement.
Security experts say various forms of scam and fraud have risen during the pandemic, including scammers touting fake products and services to consumers frightened by the virus. Other tactics include hacking people's personal information and blackmailing them for direct payments.
Cyber criminals pose as real employers and interview applicants, eventually asking them for their personal information and payments, according to the FBI. Personal information can be used to open new financial accounts or even obtain a fake driver's license or passport.
"Cyber criminals executing this scam request the same information as legitimate employers, making it difficult to identify a hiring scam until it is too late," the FBI said in its statement.
In 2020, more than 16,000 people reported being victims of employment scams, totaling over $59 million in losses, according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Overall, nearly 800,000 complaints of suspected internet crime -- from phishing scams to non-payment/non-delivery scams to extortion -- were reported in 2020, an increase of about 300,000 from 2019 that amounted to $4.2 billion in losses, the FBI's 2020 Internet Crime Report shows.
Employment scams are not new, but they are particularly challenging when so many people are vulnerable to job losses.
To protect against employment scams, the FBI recommends researching the company by its name only. If multiple websites with similar names show up, that may indicate the job listing is fake. Also, companies typically ask for bank account information after hiring applicants, not before.
The FBI is also urging people to never provide credit card information to an employer and to only disclose bank account details after verifying the company's identity.
People who have been scammed are encouraged to report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, provide the website where the job was posted and the company the scammers impersonate.