Internship Scams: How to Spot Them [Students]

Internship Scams: How to Spot Them

Ahh the internet – the best friend, and worst enemy, of every job-seeker. A world of information at your fingertips, and an unparalleled number of fraudsters and schemers lurking just beneath the surface.

If you’re using the internet (and of course you are) to track down internship opportunities, be prepared. You’re going to see some awesome opportunities in your field of choice. You’re also going to see some scams. Here’s how you can tell the difference.

concept of fraud word on wooden background

Sound too good to be true?

It is. Any opportunity that promises money beyond what you’d traditionally expect from such a role (remember, many internships are unpaid, and others usually aren’t providing salaries equivalent to full-time workers) deserves some skepticism. Be careful, because the promise of easy money is a serious temptation, even for savvy students. This goes for commission-based positions too – be wary of internships that promise commissions in exchange for successful sales.

And if any position is asking for money from you to apply, run away…fast.

Do some digging

This is where your e-detective skills become truly valuable. Check the forums, the third-party review sites, and social media pages. What do other internship candidates and employees have to say? Look up the names of the primary contacts and check them out. Do they have bios on the company page? LinkedIn profiles? If you can’t find a significant web presence in an era of near-constant web documentation, something is likely amiss.

Ask the right questions

If the supervisor or site manager doesn’t require an interview, that’s a red flag. You should, for the employer’s benefit, at a bare minimum be expected to discuss your interests and credentials over the phone. For your benefit, you need an opportunity to clarify a few points, including:

  • What transferable skills you can expect to learn on the job
  • What’s expected of you in order to earn credit or obtain a reference
  • What your average shift or day of work will entail.

If you’re not in a position to ask these questions, or don’t find that the answers are satisfactory, walk away. This is not the opportunity for you.

Be excited about  internship opportunities, but be smart! Ask the right questions, check out the right people, and make sure that everything sounds, and feels, legit.

Looking for an internship in RI? Start your search at, Rhode Island’s resource for connecting students with employers.


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Bridge is a program that focuses on connecting employers and students in Rhode Island. The goal of Bridge is to match Rhode Island employers with talented students looking to gain valuable professional experience. Applying knowledge and skills acquired in college to a professional setting is a vital component of a student’s college education. Students who gain relevant internship experience are better prepared for full-time employment after graduation. By hiring interns, employers gain qualified, career-driven young professionals as employees. Student bring with them exposure to cutting edge practices and technology, new insights and philosophies, flexibility and a thirst for knowledge. bRIdge has a particular focus on connecting students and employers from specialized fields such as Business, Science, IT, Technology, Health, Design, Engineering and Manufacturing. The bRIdge website allows employers to post paid or unpaid internships online and directly reach out to a vast and talented pool of students. College students and recent graduates can sign up and start looking for an appropriate professional learning opportunity in minutes. bRIdge is a program of the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) and RISLA’s College Planning Center of Rhode Island. RISLA has joined up with Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island (AICURI), the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education (RIBGHE) and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to bring together academia, business and community. If you have any questions about this program or if you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.

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