The Rise of Scam Recruiters – How to Make Sure You Don’t Get Swindled

By Sarah Ellinwood
March 9, 2023

You know it, and we know it – times have been tough in the biotech and biopharma space lately. It seems every day we hear about a new round of layoffs as companies reshuffle their portfolios, have a hard time raising capital, or receive negative clinical trial data.

Scammers, unfortunately, also know this. And they’ve been coming out in droves to take advantage.

While these “scam recruiters” have more commonly been seen in the tech industry with recent layoffs from Meta, Twitter, and others, the life sciences have certainly not been immune.

What is a scam recruiter?

A scam recruiter is someone who pretends to be a legitimate recruiter, but has ulterior motives. They may try to steal personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account details, or they may try to get you to pay them money for services that they never intend to provide. Some scammers may even go so far as to arrange fake job interviews or offer fake job positions in order to extract money or information from job seekers.

You might think that you’re savvy enough to know how to spot them, but be warned – just like bacteria adapt to evade our immune systems, scam recruiters are getting increasingly smarter.

Tips to help you avoid becoming prey to life science scam recruiters

  1. When a recruiter drops into your LinkedIn DMs or inbox, research the recruiter and the company they represent before responding to their message or submitting your application. Check their website, read reviews, and look for any red flags or warning signs. Check to see if the recruiter has a legit company email address rather than a “” or other random garble. Poor grammar is also a big indicator that the recruiter is a phony.
  2. Never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account details, until you have verified that the recruiter and the company are legitimate. Be wary of recruiters who ask for this information upfront, as it is not usually necessary until later in the hiring process.
  3. Be sure to ask questions about the position and company culture, and pay special attention to how the recruiter responds. While recruiters are not necessarily always scientific experts, if they are good they should still know enough about the role to be able to give you informed answers. If their responses are very generalized, take note.
  4. Keep mind of the process – have you had five conversations with the recruiter and still have not been connected to an employee at the company you’re applying for? Is the hiring manager somehow always too busy to jump on a call or Zoom? Do you feel like you’re going around in circles and not making any traction?
  5. As the saying goes, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use attractive job offers to entice job seekers into giving up personal information or paying money. Be suspicious of any job that promises high pay for little work or that requires you to pay money upfront for training or other services.
  6. If you receive a job offer, check it over for obvious grammatical or spelling errors. One or two isn’t surprising, but if the offer is littered with issues you should be wary. Before accepting a “job offer”, verify that the job and the company are legitimate. Check the company’s website and contact them directly to confirm that the job offer is real, especially if you never actually talked to anyone at the company during the process. Be wary of recruiters who pressure you to accept a job offer immediately, as this is a common tactic used by scammers.
  7. And finally, trust your instincts. If a recruiter makes you uncomfortable or is hardcore pressuring you to make decisions, don’t ignore that feeling. Listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to walk away from a potential job opportunity if you suspect that something is not right. Even if the recruiter is legit, acting like the world is on fire is still not a great tactic.

With these tips in your toolbelt, you can navigate the job search process with more confidence and find a legitimate job opportunity that will help you take that next step.