Avoiding Online Employer Scams
October 20, 2008 2:55 AM   Subscribe

What are some reliable ways to check the authenticity of companies that advertise for jobs on craigslist and other such websites?
posted by mannequito to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've often wondered this myself. My personal rule is not to apply or give personal information if they don't post the company name and an actual contact (and not just a gmail addy).
posted by All.star at 4:39 AM on October 20, 2008

I know legitimate employers (clients of mine, in fact) who use Craigslist and other public boards like that as an open-call specifically so that they do not need to post their business name/details in for-everyone space. They also use throwaway addresses, so they're not spammed with thousands of applicants from India, for years and years to come based on some old cached ad. But they do of course provide identity/contact/verifiable details in the first response to those inquiries that they respond to.

My point being that some employers use the anonymity of Craigslist as a quick and dirty first-screening process, so I wouldn't write them off for that alone, or you'll miss legitimate opportunities, too. Judge them based on the info you get in the first response, instead.

It works both ways, so you can always inquire without full information yourself. The ones I just mentioned, for example, would be quite happy to get a short e-mail saying "I'm a Fortran programmer with eighteen years experience working in experimental dance, how can I get more information about this position?" (Again, all part of weeding out the undesirable responders, and when they want resumes, they ask case by case after engaging the interested party one on one.)
posted by rokusan at 5:02 AM on October 20, 2008

I relocated recently and found my house, my job, a good bit of furniture, and a guitar teacher for my son via CL. For all of them I used a throwaway email to start with, and gave relevant information but no identifying information of my own while asking for a non-anon way of learning more about them.

My bullshit-meter was already pretty finely tuned but even so I was snowed by a couple of very creatively written ads. Their response to my first inquiry was basically to ask for my resume address phone etc. without giving me the same info.
posted by headnsouth at 6:32 AM on October 20, 2008

Best answer: Google is your friend. Use the name of the company along with words and phrases such as "sucks", "motherfuckers", "fraud", "scam", "rip off", and the like. Basically what you're looking for is people who've been ripped off and who are complaining about it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:00 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

In addition to Google, use archive.org to see how long their website has been around, and if it matches up with their story. Use google maps to see if the address exists, and street view (where available) to get an idea of whether the address is bogus. If you don't have enough information to do this research, ask for it. In fact, asking questions is a good way to circumvent the flood of resumes -- if you've established a rapport with the poor HR flak running the posting, they'll likely spend more than the 20 seconds reading your application/resume the average resume is given.

Of course, if they're asking for SSN or banking info, that does raise a bright red flag. Otherwise, there isn't much a quick google search won't bring up.
posted by pwnguin at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

As someone who has posted jobs on CL, I'd MUCH rather have a response that's a personal, clearly-worded request for more information (especially if it touches on some detail of the posting that specifically interests you) than the typical responses that are often:

- Nothing more than "Please see enclosed resume." with an attachment, like you didn't even read the ad. Toss.
- "I am writing in response to [YOUR POSITION HERE]" form letters. Toss.
- Poor grammar/incomprehensible writing. Check resume (I hire programmers after all), but usually toss.
posted by mkultra at 9:33 AM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Your local library may offer online access to ReferenceUSA or similar business search databases. A quick search could give you some basic info like number of employees, SIC code (i.e. what kind of business are they), are they owned by another business, etc. If you're really curious, they should have print materials for research as well.
posted by gimonca at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2008

The other problem with CL is that job postings get bombarded with responses, and a lot of people stop reading after the 300th and just take the first one that comes in. So if you are sending a feeler email to find out who the company is, they may or may not reply back to you.

I think the only thing you have to worry about is if you're doing work on spec or as a freelancer. If you're replying to job postings, what's the worst they can do with your resume? If you're that concerned, then send one that only has a name and an email address, omit the snail mail and phone number.
posted by micawber at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2008

Seconding everything MKultra said. Any cover letter that was clearly NOT written for the job in question gets deleted by me, attachments unopened and unread, and I know some employers who deliberately solicit communication with an applicant rather than generic letter + resume specifically so that they can evaluate them properly.

(Likewise a two sentence e-mail with three spelling mistakes, but that's another topic.)

So, again: they're not necessarily scams just because they try to engage you.
posted by rokusan at 10:33 PM on October 20, 2008

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