How to Avoid… Employment Scams

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Going to Work, Sydney, Australia

I was a French teacher for the federal government for four years. Once day, I was having lunch in on the Statistic Canada campus and I was approached by two guys. They introduced themselves and explained there were “working here” and took an interest in the papers I was grading. We chatted a bit and they mentioned they were recruiting people to work on a summer project. Because I was on a federal government campus and because the government does hire students most summers, there was nothing out of the ordinary. They took my cell phone number and said they would follow-up.

I got a call back the following week. The person was very insistent to meet but extremely vague when it came to the job description. Eventually, he admitted he did not work for Stats Canada but for a private company. I pushed for information and eventually learned the job was one of these “multi-level marketing opportunities” that involved paying for training and for products.

I was mad. Mad at me because I’m usually pretty suspicious and never doubted for a moment they were working for the federal government, and mad at the two “recruiters” who misrepresented themselves.

Finding a job is not easy and job-seekers are usually under time and financial constraints. A lot of illegal and barely legal businesses take advantage of that fact.

I already talked about job immigration scams and how sneaky and dishonest scammers can be. But unfortunately, even once in Canada with a work visa, you have to watch your back.

As a general rule, never ever pay to get a job. Sounds logic (why would anyone pay to work?) but some “recruitment agencies” charge job-seekers. They usually use a form of advance fee fraud and should not be trusted, no matter how great the job they are invariably promising is. You can check a list of known job scammers and fake companies here.

Classifieds are still a popular way of looking for job opportunities. But beware of these “work from home, do nothing and make a million bucks in a week!” offers. You guessed it, it’s too good to be true. Scammers charge to hire you (“training fees”), to get you started (“equipment fees”) and pay very little in terms of commissions. Legitimate offers do exist (or should exist) but make sure the company is legit. Have a look at these examples of work at home scams.

Watch out for multi-level marketing schemes and pyramidal schemes. These business models are no sustainable and only the people on top of the pyramid actually make money. These companies are typically very pushy and hire just about anyone. They advertise for “sales opportunities” and couldn’t care less about your resume. In fact, some of them contact you claiming you apply for a position you never actually apply for. This happens a lot when you upload your resume on websites such as These businesses mostly want to hire you because they get a commission for each person who joins the pyramid, that’s all. Have a look at these typical job scam examples.

When applying for jobs, remember that you don’t have to provide all of your personal information until you actually get a proper offer. In other words, don’t give out your SIN number, banking information, security clearance etc. to every single prospective employer.

Finally, get familiar with local labour laws and employment standards. This includes health and safety regulations, as well as employees’ rights and responsibility. This is both a federal and a provincial matter, so you should check your provincial’s Ministry of Labour for specific rules applying to the province you are working in. Unfortunately, some employers take advantage of newcomers who may not be familiar with each province’s minimum wage, as well as regulations regarding sick leave, breaks and public holidays.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I think that this is real good information for prospective employees. In another field, be careful when offered “free” vacations (mostly stating that only “couples” need apply) they only want your money for a “time share” or buy a condo – they will place you in a hotel away from everything and will force you to listen to their long sales pitch. I have never been on one of these but they are advertised around here – mostly for Florida.

  2. @Vagabonde – Ah yes, the free vacation scam… I’m sure a lot of Canadians looking for a nicer winter get scammed every year! 🙁

    @Sidney – You just have to be aware of them, that’s all!

  3. The pyramid schemes (aka “multi-level marketing”-MLM) are the worst of the scams! Primerica and Quixtar are some examples of MLM that are legitimately operating in the US and Canada.

    They are the worst because they are technically not illegal and operate with an air or legitimacy. They prey on people who are desperately looking for a job.

    Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience with this. And those MLM guys… it’s hard to argue with them. Best to AVOID!

    For more info see:

  4. @London Caller – Not particularly good looking… People in Canada are quite friendly so it’s not that rare to chat with perfect strangers!

    @Neeraj – I’m off to read the link you gave me, but I’d be curious to hear about your experience!

  5. I’m usually cautious about scams or anything that looks suspicious. Maybe a bit too much sometimes. Thankfully, the internet is a good wy to do a quick research and verify authenticity.
    Certain scam have been going for many years, yet people still get caught. If in doubt, I don’t trust. Simple as that!

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