13 Sure-Fire Signs Your Craigslist Dream Job Is A Scam

By Karen Nielsen
November 28, 2012

With more than a million new job listings every month, Craigslist is flush with opportunities in every industry.

Seasonal retail jobs, research assistants, project managers, tanning salon sales associates -- the list goes on.

There’s something for everyone, it seems. There are good jobs to be had, but spotting a scam might not be as easy these days. In the telecommuting and flexible job industry (envelope stuffing, craft assembly, mystery shopping and the like), for every one real job listing there are 60 to 70 scams, according to Sara Sutton Fell, chief executive and founder of FlexJobs.

Scam artists are preying on desperate job seekers, using surprisingly creative techniques to con them on free job posting sites like Craigslist.

After checking in with employment experts, we’ve compiled a list of 13 "red flags" that your dream job may not be all it’s cracked up to be:

1. Generic and/or vague job titles. Look for descriptions that fail to list a location and include misspellings or awkward sentences. See if the position has been posted repeatedly in other cities -- especially if it has a generic job title, says Amit De, chief executive and co-founder of Careerleaf.

[InvestingAnswers Feature: 10 Outrageously Weird Craigslist Jobs You Won't Believe Are Real]

2. Big pay for little jobs. Steer clear of  envelope stuffing, craft assembly, mystery shopping, data entry, pyramid and sales schemes, shipping/package management and rebate/forms processing, Fell advised. Too much pay for too little work usually means the gig is a scam, so tread lightly.

3. Open to a limited number of people. Most real jobs don't require you to "act fast," said Linsey Knerl of 1099Mom.com, a site with advice for work-at-home parents.

4. Upfront payment for a kit, membership or supplies. Coughing up cash before you even start is a warning sign.

5. Testimonials. They aren't necessary for a real job. If they are included, be wary.

6. Bad grammar, lots of !!! or $$$. Professionals don't use punctuation like enthusiastic second-graders.

7. Instant messaging interviews. Be suspicious if a potential employer contacts you by email (using a generic greeting like "Dear job seeker") to set up an interview via instant messager. Scammers try to gain your trust through IM and follow up with requests for "processing" money. Job interviews should be conducted on the phone or in person, not by nstant message.

8. Commission-based jobs. There are plenty of legit base-pay-plus-commission jobs that aren't scams, but be sure to ask how much cold calling, soliciting and hitting quotas are required before you are allowed to pocket a commission.

9. Too much, too fast. Run away if they offer you the job on the spot with very little consideration or pressure you to leave your current position ASAP.

10. Getting too personal. You might be asked to complete a simple application form with all your personal details, including your date of birth, address, mother's maiden name and, of course, your bank details so they can pay you. Real employers only ask for your bank details once they offer you a position -- after the interview, said Christopher Delaney, founder of EmploymentKing.co.uk.

11. Irrelevant details. Your pet's name or your past five years worth of addresses is nobody's business. The answers can be used to answer security questions on your accounts.

12. No legit email address. A company with a vague name and a Yahoo! or Gmail address doesn't jibe.

13. Troublesome keywords. "Work from home," "unlimited earning potential" and "need model girls for business venture" are all suspicious, said job searcher William Richards, who successfully used Craigslist for jobs before landing permanent employment.

[InvestingAnswers Feature: Craigslist: 3 Used Treasures to Look For, 3 Duds to Avoid]

If you're still unsure if a listing is safe, run it through Google and see if it pops up on other websites, including the company's site or social profiles, something you want to see. Once you've done your homework and the company appears reputable, then it's probably safe to apply.

The Investing Answer: Be skeptical. If a job sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. When applying for jobs, quantity doesn't trump quality. Research the company before blindly replying to every job.