Job Scam Alert - Phony Job Ads on Craigslist

Crooks Victimize the Unemployed with Phony Job Ads on Craig's List

Special Guest Post By Kim Brittingham
On Craig's List, it's really getting out of hand.

Every day, hundreds of advertisements for job openings are posted nationwide at  The problem lately, though, is that the majority of them are fake.

A particularly low breed of cyber-criminal is targeting the vulnerable, despairing throng of the unemployed across America.  They use the convenient no-cost ads on Craig's List to lure desperate job seekers to respond to postings, only to rip them off or attempt to steal their identity.

There are a number of scams currently working through these job ads.  

One scam directs the job seeker to an online "job application".  The form collects personal information (including social security numbers), providing the scammer with a perfect collection of identity-stealing tools.  Some even use the job descriptions on the resumes they receive to help craft realistic-looking job ads.  

Another scam requires job applicants to submit a credit report as part of a "job application", then directs the unfortunate jobless sucker to a site where he or she can purchase that report.  There is no job opening in this equasion.  The scammer is merely pocketing cash on those credit reports.   

Some scammers are simply collecting e-mail addresses so they can spam you later.

It is indeed sad that on any given day, a job-seeker can click into a single category of local jobs on Craig's List, and find one legitimate opportunity out of a dozen total job listings.  The others?  Lures.  Every one.  Criminals are trying to increase the odds of getting what they want by casting a wide net.  

Craig's List employs people behind the scenes to delete illegitimate ads, in any category.  Unfortunately, this latest problem has gone so far that these monitors obviously can't keep up.  

In some areas, frustrated job seekers are taking a vigilante approach.  They're trying to confirm as many illegitimate job ads as possible, and then posting warning messages on Craig's List exposing the phonies.

Some would-be victims are posting disgusted editorials on Craig's List, asking publicly why Craig's List isn't doing more to screen job posters.  And it's an excellent question.  

One simple way to discourage fake job posters would be to charge a fee for listing employment opportunities.  It would weed out the majority of scammers.  In some large cities, Craig's List does charge a $25 fee to advertise a job opportunity.  However, for every geographic area in which there's a fee, there are at least a dozen suburban areas in which the advertising remains free.  With no fee, it's ridiculously easy to post hundreds of these ads, all over the country, every day.  And that's exactly what the scammers are doing.

Meanwhile, job-seekers continue to do their best to discern the few real ads from the many fake ones.  It isn't always easy, but here are some tips that might help:

PROTECT YOURSELF:  Spotting Phony Job Ads on Craig's List

.  Many of these fake ads reveal bad grammar, poor punctuation, incorrect capitalization, sloppy spacing, and inappropriate use of "big words".  Most people who post real job ads -- office managers and recruiters -- are capable of composing an ad that's grammatically correct and to-the-point.  If it reads like it was written by a moron, it's probably a fake.

-- BIG WORDS & FLOWERY VOCAB.  As more job-seekers catch on to these scams, scammers are working harder to fake us out.  Consider it a red flag when the ad contains unnecessarily fancy, "business-y" vocabulary.  If it reads like they're trying too hard, they ARE.  They're trying to scam YOU.

-- OVERLY DETAILED, LIKE A RESUME.  If the job description seems overly detailed to you, pause.  Does it read like the kind of thing a job-hunter would put on his resume, to describe how specifically qualified he is for the job?  There's a good chance that what you're reading was stolen from somebody's real resume.  Scammers collect resumes from suckered-in victims and recycle the text to make their ads sound "real".  They don't have time to do all that composing from scratch.

-- NAME, BUT NO NUMBER.  There's at least one busy scammer who works a real-sounding name into his ads, writing something like, "Call Anne Green to apply", usually at the bottom of the ad -- but there's no phone number provided with which to call "Anne Green".  The name is meant to make the ad sound genuine.  It isn't.  This isn't an employer who simply "forgot" to include a phone number.  This is a scammer who had no intention of ever including one -- he just wants to snow you.  

-- REAL-SOUNDING COMPANY NAME, ADDRESS, OR OFFICE PARK NAME -- This is the newest trick.  Scammers put the name of the (fake) company in the ad to make it sound more real.  If you took the time to google the company name, you'd probably find it was fake.  If it's real, then you can phone that company and ask for confirmation that their ad on Craig's List is legit.  If it isn't, that company's got a great legal case against that scammer -- you should tell them about it.  

Variations on this technique include "casually" naming a company address (example: "We need a secretary for our office at 13 Corporate Circle in Jerseyville") and throwing in the name of an office park -- all done to take advantage of you at this high point in your life.  Besides, think about it -- most legitimate employers don't want to be flooded with phone calls and drop-in applicants.  They tend to be more protective of their identities and locations until they're sure about who they want to interview.  

-- ASKING YOU TO HURRY.  Any ad that encourages you to apply quickly is probably a scam.  Believe me, unemployment is so high right now, NO employer needs to ask applicants to rush.  The minute an ad hits the web, it'll have more responses than the advertiser can handle.  So phrases like "Apply immediately" and "Send resume right away" hint at a fake ad.

-- UNREALISTIC WAGES/SALARIES.  Some scammers are still using this old trick: they advertise wages or salaries that are wayhigher than the going rate.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Remember, their goal is to attract as many people as possible.  They're trying to do everything they can to make you respond to them, including dangling dollar signs before your eyes.

-- TOO HARD A SELL.  Again, the market is flooded with job applicants.  Right now, no employer needs to sell themselves to you.  If the ad seems like they're trying hard to make themselves look like a desirable place to work, it's probably a fake.  Employers have their pick of qualified, educated, desperate job applicants.  They do NOT need to expend so much energy crafting salesmanly language in their job ads.  

-- GMAIL, YAHOO, "ROCKETMAIL" E-MAIL ADDRESSES.  If the ad is asking you to respond to an e-mail address through Gmail, Yahoo, or any other free e-mail hosting service, chances are, the ad is totally phony.  Scammers like to create free e-mail accounts which they can use liberally and hide behind for their scamming activities.  Real employers most likely wouldn't publish an e-mail address.  Craig's List allows them to anonymize their address when you respond directly to the ad anyway.  This is usually a dead giveaway to a fake ad.

-- SCAMMER'S FAVORITE PHRASES.  There are some very prolific scammers out there who tend to re-use the same tired phrases.  If you know what some of them are, you can spot a fake ad instantly.  For example:

    -- Leader in the industry.  One scammer just LOVES to open his ads with the following phrase:  "Over the last decade our company has become a leader in ______ industry. Our reputation has been achieved by having an effective response to our clients needs and by utilizing the proper industry procedures. Now that we are expanding we are seeking some extra help."   If you see this phrase of something similar bragging about how the company is a "leader" in its industry, run.  

    -- Gym membership and company outings.  One lazy, unimaginative scammer still pulls this one: his job supposedly includes a "gym membership" and the additional benefit of "company outings".  If you see that combo, trust me -- it's a scam.  

    -- For every hour?  Another hard-working scammer uses the phrase "$___ for every hour" to describe wages.  People just don'tsay it like that.  For e-ver-y hour?  No.  This is a scammer trying to make his ad sound more wordy and "professional", but if you see this phrase, either in the body of the ad or in the small print towards the bottom, don't respond.

    -- 10$, 11$, 12$...  One scammer has a tendency to put the "$" sign after the number in the hourly pay rate, either in the body of the ad or in the small-print section towards the bottom of the ad.  For example, "12$" instead of "$12". 
When you recognize a suspicious ad, do your fellow job-hunters a favor -- use the "flag" function in the upper right corner of the ad to let Craig's List know it's "prohibited".  In theory, Craig's List will delete flagged ads, although this doesn't seem to be happening lately.  Perhaps the more flags Craig's List receives, the more likely they'll be to act against these scammers.

* * *

None of the above clues guarantees that a job ad is fake, but they're pretty reliable red flags.  

If you decide to take your chances and respond to a job ad on Craig's List, a good guideline is to avoid filling in any electronic forms.  

Also, don't purchase anything that was introduced to you by way of a job ad, especially a credit report. 

When communicating with a potential employer, let them know you'll be happy to provide your resume and other personal information if he or she can provide a way for you to confirm that the opportunity is legitimate.  Ask for the name of the company and the name of someone specific there who can confirm the ad is real.  Then, look the phone number up yourself online, independently, and ask for that person through the main switchboard.  Don't use the number provided by e-mail.  A scammer could have you calling his cell phone and pretending to be anybody, and say anything.  

You might consider writing to Craig's List and suggesting ways that they might fight back against this problem.  They have become the primary tool for these crooks, and it's in their best interest to stop this.  People will eventually stop using Craig's List as a resource if its reputation is so badly eroded by crooks.  

Finally, if you know how, consider promoting the cause of catchingand prosecuting these soulless people who are preying on the unemployed.   

Good luck, and be safe out there!

-- Kim Brittingham
"Crooks Victimize the Unemployed with Phony Job Ads on Craig's List" originally published on Kim Brittingham's Blog.  Be sure to check out the comments there to read about people's experiences dealing with these scams, and even more information about how to recognize and avoid them.
About Kim Brittingham
Kim Brittingham is a dynamic writer and all-around creative spark.  She's a hilarious essayist and left me in stitches with "Fat Is Contagious" and wanting to learn more about her other "social experiments" and her self-described "anti-diet" stance.  She has a new book out this year from Harmony Books called Read My Hips.  We hear you, Kim - Loud and clear!


# Deb 2012-09-25 20:50
My suggestion would be for all job posters be prompted that those choosing to reply to the ad will not provide contact info other than email. A true employer will be local to the ad posting and provide the true company name and local telephone number to call. The unemployed would best be advised to use a specific email other than their primary one so that spammers dont invade the primary email. Since the FTC doesnt do anything to stop the fake ads and 800 and 866 calls received from telemarketers start pouring in at all hours, dont provide your phone number, period. An example is 866-674-9620 who calls several times day and night. They post fake ads on CL and are promoting fake education grants to get private info to commit identity fraud. A true employer will understand why phone number are omitted and will contact with a legit local number and company name.
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