8 Ways to Tell Whether That Ad on Craigslist is Bogus


I subscribe to job postings on a number of freelance job boards (Guru, Elance, iFreelance, etc.). Guess what job I see posted far more often than any other?

Craigslist Poster.

These scammers are looking to hire someone (usually for the equivalent of about $2/hour) to post the same ads on Craigslist over and over.   The qualifications generally include something along the lines of being able to have the posting last for at least a couple of hours before it’s reported as spam.  I see probably 5-10 of these gigs per day, just on the few sites where I have subscriptions.

On the flip side, I also subscribe via RSS to the Craigslist job postings for Milwaukee.  I think I see maybe one legitimate job opening every two weeks (and most of those are for babysitters).  I’m hearing from a number of people who are fairly new on the job market and are finding it difficult to determine which Craigslist postings are scams.  Here are some clues:

  1. The English is lousy. If the word choice and sentence structure seem odd, that’s a clue.  Companies (usually) have people with reasonably decent writing skills handle their job postings.  If you’re seeing something where the language is noticeably weird, it was probably posted by one of those $2/hour overseas freelancers.
  2. There’s a bunch of jibberish at the bottom. If you ever open any of your spam email, you’ll sometimes see a couple of sentences about whatever they’re selling (Viagra, credit repair, some weird berry that’s supposed to make you skinny).  Then, a couple of lines down, there’s a string of random words.  That’s there to try and beat spam filters, and they use it for the same reason on Craigslist.  Legitimate employers with legitimate job postings do not need spam-filter-beating crap at the bottom of an ad.
  3. The email address doesn’t match a company. If there’s an email address listed, it should be somebody@realcompanyname.com.  If it’s a web-based email address (like somebody@gmail.com), beware.   Even independent recruiters (good ones anyway) have a professional-looking email address, because it doesn’t cost much to get your own domain name.  There are few good reasons to use a disposable email address in an ad, so real companies almost never do.
  4. It’s a work-at-home job. If there were lots of legitimate jobs you could do at home, I’d be doing them, instead of writing this blog post.   There aren’t. In fact, there are hardly any.   If this job involves working at home, everything else about it needs to scream legitimacy.  In one full year of monitoring the Milwaukee Craigslist postings, I’ve never seen a valid work-at-home opportunity.
  5. The pay is whacked out. Lately I’ve seen a posting come up repeatedly for a recruiter job.  It requires little experience, you can do it from home, and it pays $75,000/year.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Employers don’t post high pay in ads (on Craigslist or anywhere else) because it just increases the number of unqualified applicants to sort through.  They only post when the pay is LOW, to ensure that you know that it’s low up front and don’t waste their time applying if you won’t work for the wage they’re offering.  High pay listed on any job posting is a huge red flag.
  6. There’s no real company name. If you can’t tell who the employer is, there probably isn’t one.  If it’s a name you don’t recognize, Google it and find out who these people are before you apply.  Legitimate employers don’t have a reason to hide their identify from you.  Back in the day, employers occasionally ran blind ads when they planned to fire someone and needed to find a replacement first.  Now employers can easily fill those jobs by networking, so they don’t need blind ads anymore.
  7. They just want your click. Postings with very vague details and few job requirements that ask you to “click here for more info” are almost always scams.  They just want to get you to click through to their website so they can work you over.  Real employers have no reason to do this, so they’ll post their full ad right there on Craigslist.
  8. It’s open in other cities. If you find a posting that, after all this, still looks legit, check Craigslist for other cities.  Scammers often post the same ad in multiple cities (in fact, I’ve noticed that they usually post in alphabetical order, which is kind of funny).  That $75,000/year recruiter job has appeared in every city I’ve checked, over and over, for weeks now.   There are some jobs for which you’d have a good reason to post in multiple locations, but if you find the exact same wording for the same administrative assistant job, that’s a clue right there.

Bottom line—be careful out there.  If you have any doubts about an opening, proceed with caution…and remember that there is NEVER a reason to give out your Social Security number, date of birth, or driver’s license number to anyone unless you’ve had an in-person interview.

Photo by sekimura

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