With MediaPiston shutting its doors for good and other content mills scarce on work, a lot of freelancers have hit the digital bricks in search of more sources of work. Craigslist, long a standby for those in search of day labor, clerical work, and other service industry jobs, is an obvious stop in the freelance job process. This nationwide classified ads site is divided into towns and metro areas by state, and offers up everything from old couches to questionable companions to free kittens. That disparity should automatically put searching freelancers on notice for scams, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to – they keep popping up, which means they’re still getting victims.
Here is a little guidance for anyone searching for freelance jobs on craigslist.
1.) Google it!
Snag a sentence or two from the middle of the post and toss it in Google, using “ “ type quotes around it. This tells Google to only return searches that use that exact phrase, and it will instantly tell you if that craigslist poster is putting up identical posts across multiple states and cities. If the same post shows up in a rural craigslist and a metro craigslist that are right beside each other, this probably isn’t cause for concern – so long as they’re in the same state. If a Pennsylvania craigslist ad shows up under the Chicago listings? Skip it – it’s more than likely a scam.
2.) If the post passes the Google test, take a long look at it.
- Is there an affiliate link in it? Affiliate links will usually show up as a few numbers or letters after the usual web address, such as Awebsite.com/afflink/12345. While this isn’t *always* an immediate full stop, it’s a hell of a red flag.
- Does the text appear as an image instead of typed words? Meaning, can you highlight the text by clicking and dragging your mouse over it? If the answer is no, skip it – this is a scam that’s trying to get by filters and astute Googlers by using an image that isn’t “read” by Google’s robots.
- Does it give very little information, instead using very strong “salesy” language to get you to go to a scammy-looking site, watch a video, or download a program? Walk on by – they’re up to something!
- Does it use phrases like “potential to make” , “make as much as”, “work from home”, “opportunity”, or “paid training”? Does the text or phrasing sound foreign? These are key tip-offs that something is amiss. Remember: a real, legitimate job will not make you buy start up kits or uniforms, encourage you to sell to friends and family, demand information for a “credit check” (this is actually illegal!) nor make you pay for your own “background check.”
3.) If you decide to check out a post by emailing it, hit Google again when you hear back from the poster.
Google the names, company names, and even phone numbers of the person you’re corresponding with. (Keep a notebook nearby during phone interviews for this purpose) Do not give out any personal information such as a phone number, email address, and especially your physical address or social security number until you have verified the company is 100% legitimate. The only place you should ever reveal this information is on a W-9 IRS form, and even then you should be very cautious about who you surrender it to.
If you find a scam, feel free to report it to Craigslist directly by “flagging” the post, and drop a comment on our SCAM page here on the Freelance Writers Guide. You’ll be protecting fellow freelancers from falling prey to these slimy faux clients.