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What does a scam look like?

Financial and phishing scams are happening more frequently on job posting sites or via email. These scams impact Penn State students daily and it's your responsibility to research and work with trusted offices to avoid falling prey to sophisticated scams.

They look legit

Scammers are incredibly sophisticated and aren't always easy to spot. They pose as actual recruiters from valid companies, as organizations that work to provide you opportunities like international internships, or want to offer you a dream work-from-home scenario. Common scenarios that students see are:

  • Unsolicited Job Postings Emailed to Student
    Fraudulent employer sends student an email with legit looking job and asks to call, text or email back.
  • Fraudulent Person Posing as a Legitimate Employer
    Company or Recruiter name maybe legit but email address and contact information does not match legitimate employer.
  • Posing as Another Student, Faculty or Staff of Penn State University
    Email may come from and provide a job offer or work study opportunity and asks for further personal information.
Unsolicited emails

Offered a job without applying? Penn State NEVER gives out your contact information to an employer. The only way an employer can access your information is if you apply to a posting through Nittany Lion Careers.

Asking for financial information

Being offered money or asked to send money prior to starting? Don't give out your credit card, banking, or PayPal information. Valid employers will never ask for you to pay prior to hire.

Direct deposit should never be setup before you start working. This should be done with an actual HR professional during your first week on the job, often with a voided check. Never share your personal financial information digitally. 

Scammers will often offer to send you a check to get started or set up a home office. These checks are fraudulent and can compromise your account. You should never deposit these checks.

Never forward, transfer, or wire money to an employer. 

Pressuring you to act

Scammers know that if you feel pressured you are more likely to make a hasty decision. Legitimate employers follow guidelines that allow you time to make an informed decision. If they set unrealistic timelines that require immediate action you should be suspicious.

Think something seems off?

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is but some due diligence can help you uncover the truth about an offer or posting. Take some simple steps to make sure you're making a sound decision and not becoming a victim.

Research the organization

Search magnifying glassJust a few minutes...

That's all it takes to protect yourself from a potential scam. Don't ignore your instincts. Take control of your career by being vigilant.

  • Review the employer's website
    Look for a mission statement, contact information, an about the organization section, and other pieces that are often found on legitimate organization pages.
  • Google it
    Do a search on the organization. Check sites like GlassDoor or to see what others are saying about working for the organization. Try to find the recruiter on LinkedIn and verify that their title aligns with the email or posting.
  • Check if others are complaining
    Check with your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General's office, and federal websites to see if any complaints have been filed about the organization in question.
  • Still not sure? 
    Reach out to your career office to see if this is a reported scam or something you should be wary of. Often times you're not the only student to receive an email.
Review the email or posting critically

Search magnifying glassBecome a detective...

Often the email or posting will have clues that indicate if it's real or not. Take some time to look for the signs of a scam to avoid making a mistake.

  • Inspect the email address
    Does the email appear to be coming from a company domain? Hover over the actual email address. Is the spelling a little off or are there extra numbers or letters? 

    Generic emails from accounts with a Hotmail, AOL, Gmail, or Yahoo addresses are often a sign of a scam.
  • Trust your gut and your grammar
    Look for awkward wording, misspellings, and grammatical errors within the title or body of the email or posting.
  • Suspicious opportunity via your Penn State email? 
    Forward it to for validation and to learn if it's legitimate.
  • Still not sure? 
    Reach out to your career office to see if this is a reported scam or something you should be wary of. Often times you're not the only student to receive an email.

What to do if you've been scammed

It can happen to anyone but it's important to take immediate action if you think you've been scammed. It is important to act immediately.

    Report the incident to, your campus security, and to a Career Services office immediately. This prevents others from being harmed and allows professionals to investigate the issue.

    If you've provided your banking or credit card information, contact your financial institution right away to stop activity on the account. Let them know you've been compromised.
    Discontinue any further contact with the fraudulent party. Block any email addresses or phone numbers related to these postings.

What is Penn State doing to help

Job and internship scams are an ongoing issue. In response, Penn State has created a team of career professionals from a variety of offices and Commonwealth Campuses to address these issues. The Employer Relations Protocol team is responsible for vetting employers, responding to and addressing scams, and communicating issues in collaboration with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Job Posting and Company Verification Disclaimer

Job Posting and Company Verification Disclaimer

Penn State Career Services and related offices exert all reasonable effort to check the legitimacy of employers and validity of posted jobs and internships. However, due to the volume of job postings received, Career Services is unable to fully research the legitimacy and validity of each organization or person that posts a job vacancy or to guarantee that all jobs are still available.

Penn State Career Services and related offices make no guarantee about positions listed and are not responsible for safety, wages, working conditions, or other aspects of employment. It is the responsibility of each individual job seeker to research the integrity of the organization(s) to which they are applying and verify the specific information pertaining to the job posting. Job seekers should exercise due diligence and use common sense and caution when applying or accepting any position.

For your privacy and protection when applying to a job online, it is advisable that you do not give your social security number to a prospective employer, provide credit card or bank account information, or perform any sort of monetary transaction.

All concerns and issues related to job or internship opportunities on Penn State posting boards should be addressed promptly via email. 

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Avoiding Scams


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