Blanchard & Walker Weekly

Topic of the Week  Avoiding Teen Job Scams

Avoiding Teen Job Scams, Executive Summary:

  • Avoid big cash, little work.
  • Avoid unsolicited opportunities.
  • Avoid payments in advance.
  • Always check their references. 

You're Not Paranoid, They Are Out to Get You: Avoiding Teen Job Scams

As tough as it is for many adults to get a job today, it's even tougher for teenagers. Despite all those ads on the Internet and signs along highways that say that teens can make "$300 a day" or "$10,000 during the summer," only one in three teens has a job this summer. But to make things even worse, there are lots of scammers out there who are trying to take advantage of teens who just want to work. Which reminds me of bank robber Willie Sutton. He famously said that he robbed banks, "Because that's where the money is."

Which is why teen job scams are so outrageous, because kids often have so little money to lose. According to the Federal Trade Commission some of the most popular job scams include: envelope stuffing, applying for government grants, mystery shoppers, wiring money and paying for lists of pre-screened jobs. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. That's why I'm going to provide four strategies for not getting burned when you look for work this summer.

Avoid big cash, little work. I guess I'm old school, I believe that work should require some work. So when someone tells you that you can get paid a lot for just showing up, you should be very skeptical. You are probably not going to have that kind of payday for little work until you become CEO. Until then, you need to remember the phrase "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and walk away.

Avoid unsolicited opportunities. Jobs don't usually come looking for you, you've got to find them. So you should be very skeptical if someone offers you a job over the Internet who you've never even met. Or someone on a street corner. Sure you look smart, but the best advice I can give to someone when someone you don't even know offers you a job, walk away.

Avoid payments in advance. Legitimate companies don't ask for pay up front. Not for supplies, for product samples or for wiring money on their behalf. This scam even touched my family when my niece got a check mailed to her. She cashed it and then wired money. Only one problem, the check never cleared and instead of making money on the deal, she lost a lot.
Always check their references. Most of us are used to reference checks, on us. But you also need to check their references. Especially before you fill out a job application for a company that you know nothing about. Most of us would never give just anyone our social security number, because we know about identify theft. But we'll fill out a job application and give away the store. That's why we all need to be more careful with our personal information.
Lily Tomlin once said, "No matter how cynical you are, it's never enough." Clearly she was looking for work as a teen job seeker, because that's exactly the attitude that you need to adopt.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via


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