How to recognize job listing scams on craigslist

As unemployment rates steadily climb, more job seekers are turning to online job postings to find their next paycheck. The problem is that many job posting sites allow scam postings. One of the worst offenders is craigslist, which features a higher percentage of scams than almost any other job listing site.

So before you send your resume and personal information to a supposed potential employer, protect yourself from identity theft with a few simple tips.

First, if the author of the job listing includes a free e-mail address as the primary point of contact, the chances of the listing being a scam are very high.

Many current scam listings ask job seekers to send an e-mail to a address. Gmail e-mail addresses are free and not associated with a specific business. Legitimate human resources employees will often list an e-mail address ending in a domain name owned by the company they work for.

For example, a legitimate listing for a job with Microsoft will not list the point of contact as, but rather or another address ending with the domain.

Second, if the job listing is advertising a “work-from-home opportunity,” “paid research study,” or other non-traditional sources of income, the chances of the listing being a scam is extremely high. Ignore these listings.

A corollary of this rule: Ignore these any listings that feature graphics that look like pop-up ads.

Third, if the pay rate seems abnormally high for a job based on the job description, it’s very likely a scam. In fact, any time compensation is listed, it’s a red flag.

Fourth, scroll to the bottom of the ad and look for a string of random numbers and/or words strung together. Here’s an example lifted directly from a scam listing:


closely invoice and with 100 required with and including agreement it management service appropriate include skills new and management the

So, in review, here’s what to watch for when browsing the craigslist job boards:

  1. Listing authors use free e-mail addresses, such as those ending in
  2. Alleged work-from-home opportunities, paid research study, or other non-traditional income sources
  3. Abnormally high pay for type of job and/or public disclosure of compensation
  4. Strings of random number and/or words at the bottom of the listing

Fifth, if you think the listing checks out and you decide to reply, never send your resume or any personal information other than your name and e-mail address with your first response e-mail, regardless of what information the listing asks for.

I have a form e-mail I send out to potential employers to “sniff out” whether the job listing is legitimate or not. In the e-mail, I ask for the name and location of the company, as well as the schedule for the position advertised. I make a point to include a sentence explaining that I take precautions when applying to jobs advertised on craigslist.

If the job posting is legitimate, there’s a very good chance a representative of the company will write back with answers to your questions. I’ve sent this e-mail out many times. On the rare occasion that a job listing is legitimate, I’ve received an e-mail from an understanding (and often sympathetic) Human Resources department employee with answers to my questions. No one has ever taken offense at my precautionary “first contact” e-mail.

If the job posting is part of a scam, you’ll likely receive a form e-mail containing a link or a message thanking you for submitting your resume. If you followed my suggestion and didn’t send your resume with your first e-mail, that alone should tip you off that the listing is a scam. At that point, you can flag the posting on craigslist or disregard it and move on to the next listing.

If you receive an e-mail with a link, do not click it. These links often follow the format http:// domain name . com?##### where # represents a random number. Again, do not click the link. Disregard the listing and move on.

In summary, trust no listing on craigslist at face value. If you think a listing may be legitimate, send a “first contact” e-mail without your resume or any personal information. If a listing seems to be good to be true, it very likely is a scam.

Bonus tip: If the listing includes a phone number to call, use the WhitePages Reverse Lookup to look up the person or business who owns the phone number.

In closing, here are two examples of scam listings, with “red flags” marked in bold:


Account Executive – Independent
Reply to: [?]
Date: 2009-02-13, 2:26PM CST

-We are a Nationwide Internet Marketing/Advertising Firm,
seeking qualified Acct. Executives who have both the
attitude & aptitude for outside sales. Our clients are your
local small & medium size business owners.( or larger).

-Experienced A/E’s typically earn in excess of $100,000/yr.
-Average A/E’s will experience aproximately $ 50,000/yr.
-P/T A/E’s are also welcome .

-We pay 50 % straight commissions on all sales , and on
all renewals…monthly/qrtrly/etc.

-Stock options in our publicly traded parent company are
also part of the compensation. Work from home 60 % of
your time.

-Those experienced with yellow page ads, or ad sales
of any variety to any type of business, will be calling on
clients right away. First week range of earnings is
$1250 – $1700…..

-Inexperienced A/E’s will be trained w/i 2 days.

-Contact w/i 24 hours of receipt of brief resume (incl. Ph.#),
w/interview following, by Regional or Area Sales Mgr..

* Compensation: 50 % Straight Commissions
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.


Call Center Representative (removed)
Reply to: [?]
Date: 2009-02-11, 10:35AM CST

You will be working in a fast paced call center environment and will be responsible for the following:

• Answering continuous in-coming phone calls
• Assisting callers in a courteous professional manner
• Completing timely follow-up calls
• Entering notes about calls into computer system
• Other clerical duties as needed.
• 2+ years customer service / call center experience preferred
• Ability to type 40+ WPM
• Proven customer service skills
• Proficient PC skills
• Excellent communication, organization and time management skills
• Proven customer service and multi-tasking skills
• Ability to multi-task and pay attention to detail
• Ability to work independently as well as in a team-oriented environment

* Location: removed
* Compensation: $15 – $18/hr.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

I hope this guide is helpful to my fellow job seekers.

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