How to spot fake job ads

If you’ve ever posted your resume on sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, or Craigslist, you’ve probably received emails in response to your resume, no matter how highly targeted your resume was written, or at the other end of the spectrum, how badly it was written.

In fact, sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a resume! I had a recent blog post where I outlined some of the biggest mistakes in posting your resume on Craigslist. I decided to also post that as an article in the RESUMES section of Atlanta Craigslist, since that was where I got my inspiration for the article and wanted to help those people who were making those specific mistakes.

This was an article, not a resume, so I was a little surprised (or was I?) when I started receiving emails “responding to my resume on Craigslist”. Craigslist does try to fight fraud by including the following in every email sent through their system:

** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info:

How to spot fake job ads

So here’s what happens. Some companies search through resumes posted online, not because they are seeking candidates for “legitimate” jobs, but to build their email lists and also for recruiting purposes for Network Marketing and MLM business opportunities. Many of the Network Marketing and MLM opportunities are, in fact, legitimate, but not exactly what most people are seeking when they post their resumes.

I’ll address the latter one first. If you get an invitation to a meeting about a “business opportunity”, to “get in on the ground floor” or something similar, it’s likely to be a network marketing or MLM opportunity. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, provided of course that the opportunity is a good fit with your goals, skills, and desires. What I don’t like is the ones who are vague about the “opportunity” and don’t tell you what company it’s for or anything in advance of the meeting. In my opinion, being up front about an opportunity is crucial. It gives the person a chance to look into the opportunity further before investing, spending, or wasting their time (depending on their viewpoint and the opportunity) traveling to a meeting and sitting in a packed (or nearly-empty) conference room in a cheap hotel with other people who were led to the meeting by the same purposely vague invitation method.

Worse are the scammers who prey on the desperation of frustrated job seekers who are at the point where they’re open to ANY opportunity that comes along. These often include “work-from-home” opportunities and money transfer opportunities.

First, a disclaimer: these are actual responses I’ve personally received, and while I have changed the company names and other contact info, I cannot absolutely guarantee that the “job opportunities” below are not actually legitimate opportunities and assume no liability whatsoever. That being said, each one I’m including in this post has at least one major thing about the ad that, to me, looks like it is fishy at best; an outright scam at worst. The point of this post is to encourage you to exercise your own critical thinking as part of your job search so that you don’t fall victim to one or more of the many scams out there, and don’t waste your time by pursuing fake opportunities that are designed to part you from your money.

Exhibit “A”:

After reviewing your resume at XYZ website (site name changed) we are sure you fit our requirements for a financial manager position.

My name is Rip Meoff (Name changed) and I am working in Money Transfer Ripoff Opportunity Inc. (Company name changed)

It’s a large company, headquartered in the USA. Main field of our business is financial services, including escrow services provided for customers of online auctions.

Position we offer is part-time, with flexible schedule. You are to spend 2-3 hours on average a day (except Saturday and Sunday, no tasks during weekends) working at home.

We require: Internet access and e-mail availability.

Money Transfer Ripoff Opportunity Inc. covers all expenses, no need to invest your own money!

After we sign the contract, you’ll be employed for a month of a trial period. During this timeframe, you’ll receive all the necessary instructions and training from your supervisor. One week before the trial ends, supervisor will be making his/her decision regarding the employee. Termination of contract can be recommended.

During the trial period you’ll be paid 2.3k$ a month. Also you’ll keep 8% from every money transfer processed. Total income, considering the current volume of clients, will be up to $4500 per month. After you successfully pass the Trial Period, base salary will be increased up to $3000 per month. Furthermore, you may ask for extra hours or even a full time job.

If you are interested in this job offer or would like to learn more, please forward your filled form to our e-mail: (email address changed)


First name:_______________________

Last name:_____________

Country of residence:_____________________

Contact phone:____________________

Preferred call time:____________________


We promise to reply promptly!

We found your resume at (name of site where you posted your resume). This letter confirms that your resume has been duly processed and your skills completely meet our requirements for the Financial Manager vacancy.


Rip Meoff, Chief Ripoff Artist

My take:

  • Obviously, this looks and smells like a rip-off. As the old saying goes, if it looks like a duck, and smells like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
  • It’s EXTREMELY unlikely that the resume of anyone but a Financial Manager would “completely meet our requirements” for a real, legitimate Financial Manager job opportunity.
  • Another tipoff: the sender asks you to send information that they should already have from your resume (clue #1) to a gmail, yahoo, hotmail, or other non-corporate address (clue #2). Now a gmail or other free account doesn’t necessarily mean the opportunity isn’t legitimate – many hiring managers choose to keep the company confidential until the talk or meet with you, for various reasons (such as looking for a replacement for an existing key employee who doesn’t know they’re going to get axed).
  • This type of response is often from companies that either have acronyms for names (though, again, this is not a true test of the validity of the job – IBM, CBS, ABC, and many other real, solid companies use acronyms as company names) or some legitimate-sounding name that sounds like either a name you’ve heard or one you might have heard. Common words used in these company names (though, again, this isn’t a true test of legitimacy) are National, American, Federal, Global, and other words that sound big, strong, or important.

Exhibit “B”:

Your resume was reviewed and passed on to our office. Your experience as (your most recent job title) was of interest. If you are still seeking a professional or executive career in the Business Development sector or other fields, with pay between $60,000 and $500,000, please update your information here…(link to their site)


My Take:

  • Firstly, I hadn’t posted an actual resume!
  • Secondly, the sender didn’t include any real information about the “job opportunity” and the pay range listed is so wide that my internal scam detector alarm went off so loudly that my house nearly started shaking.
  • The link wasn’t actually directly to their site – it went to some link with a long series of numbers and letters after the beginning of the URL – obviously a tracking link so they’d know you visited the site even if you didn’t enter your information once you got there.
  • The only clue they provide about the type of position is “professional or executive career in the Business Development sector or other fields.” One can get a little more vague than that, but not by much.
  • No company name, no recruiter name.

Exhibit “C”:

Dear Jobseeker,

After viewing your resume on (job site), we have decided to contact you regarding an offer. We are looking for a Representative in the United States.

The Representative will work closely with our Financial Department to manage and process payment orders and to serve as the key conduit for those requirements.

§ § Representative will be tasked to receiving payments, processing these transactions and keep records as well as making the necessary money transfers

§ § Opportunity to work at home: maximum one hour each business day

Requirements :

§ § Attention to detail and organized, with good communication skills both verbal and written

§ § US citizen or permanent residence/green card holder

§ § Clean criminal record


§ § Attractive bonuses and commissions with each order

§ § No contact with our clients

Salary and commissions:

§ § Guaranteed commissions totaling up to $6000.00 every month + $1,600.00 basis monthly salary + 10% commission from every processed order

Please let me know if you are interested.

Hiring Department

My Take:

  • Again, Payment Processing positions are EXTREMELY likely to be scams designed to get you to give your bank account details so that the scammers can steal money from you.
  • “Representative” is too vague – Account Representative, Marketing Representative, and so on are much more common in the real world.
  • “Representative” is more commonly used in client-facing positions – after all, a “representative” is representing their company, and if there’s “no contact with our clients,” what’s the point in calling you a “representative”?
  • “Guaranteed commissions” ?? BIG red flag.
  • “totaling up to $6000.00 every month” – “up to” is purposely vague and designed to stimulate your greed gland, make you salivate and respond to them. If they do guarantee commissions in the first place, how much do they actually guarantee? This sounds really fishy to me – especially with a “maximum of one hour each business day.”
  • Guaranteed commissions, plus a monthly salary PLUS 10% commission from every order? So you’re getting 2 commissions? One guaranteed and one based on each order? Even fishier.
  • Bad grammar, e.g. “Representative will be tasked to receiving payments,” is another clue, though bad grammar and spelling are so prevalent that misspelled words and grammar mistakes alone aren’t a true indication of the validity of an opportunity, but excessive mistakes can be a tipoff.

Exhibit “D”:


We currently have a position available.

If you are intrested (sic) in taking the job please contact (email address) for further information.

Thank you

(name of company)

My Take:

Send this one straight to your trashcan!

  • They don’t say anything about what kind of job.
  • Though you can’t see it because I removed the email address and company name, it was a free email account and the address didn’t match the name of the company – it was a company with an acronym in the name, and the email address had a slightly different acronym.

I do hope this helps all you job seekers out there. There are lots of great opportunities out there, including some legitimate “work-at-home” opportunities, but also a lot of bad people who will do anything to steal your money, your identity, or whatever they can get their slimy little paws on. Or in the case of “work-at-home” scams, they’ll steal your time, labor, and effort for their gain, not yours.

It’s a jungle out there – know how to spot the snakes and you’ll have a better chance of not getting bitten.

To your success,

David B. Wright
Author, Get A Job! Your Guide to Making Successful Career Moves

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. revealer says is a fake website. The modus operandi is simple. they fish out data of existing job seekers who have posted their resume in some jobsites, position themself as a good superior website only for senior management, charge you a non refundable fee and walk off. No calls, et al. They say that prospective employers will call you directly….beware !!


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