Looking for Jobs on Craigslist and How to Protect Yourself

Free to post job listings and free to search, Craigslist is often the first stop for any jobseeker. Luckily, there’s usually no shortage of options: Craigslist receives more than 1 million new job listings each month.

The question is how to intelligently navigate Craigslist.

Craigslist can be a great way to discover companies, but it’s also a free posting board for individuals. Freelancers and private contractors who respond to those ads are most at risk for scams, dangerous meetups and risky payment plans.

How to Protect Yourself

You shoot your résumé and samples to the anonymous Craigslist email URL, and they want to hire you? Hold on, tiger. Don’t buy it. Since Craigslist is unregulated and free for all, Craigslist scams run amok. Be smart and follow these tips.

Ask questions, and feel out if you’re a victim of a scam. If your contact ignores your questions but responds with vague wording and immediate instructions, it’s probably a robot programmed for identity theft.

Research the employer’s name. If your contact claims to run local businesses or be an active community member but doesn’t have a shred of online presence or media coverage, get out. Follow your instincts, and never proceed with anything unless you’re 100 percent confident the employer is legit.

Watch out for ridiculously high wages, easy labor, telecommuting, and employers who are “currently out of the country” and can’t meet or talk on the phone.

Above all, don’t give out personal information (especially bank account or social security information) or unpublished samples; only include your email and phone number on your résumé. Don’t ever send money for training kits or pay for background or credit checks. A good rule of thumb is don’t agree to anything or begin a project before you meet.

Arrange a Safe Meeting

Follow these safety precautions when meeting a contact from Craigslist.

Have a phone conversation prior to meeting. Get a feel for the person’s personality, and record your observations. Male or female? Young or old? Make sure the individual you meet matches your phone contact.

Tell several people about the meeting: where you’ll be and when you plan to be home. Arrange to have someone check in with you.

Meet your contact in a public place and bring a friend if possible. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel pressured to sign anything or complete hiring information.

It’s never too late to say, “No thanks” and get the heck out of there. Take that coffee to go, and have an exit strategy.

Lastly, don’t ever get in a car with a stranger. Your mom was right.

Ensure an Enforceable Payment Plan

Freelancers and private contractors working with individuals have no legal recourse to collect payment for their services without a contract, so make sure to cover your bases.

Draft a payment agreement with specific terms and clear project expectations for both parties (including method of payment and deadlines). Have it notarized. After all, this contract is your main source of employee protection as a freelancer or private contractor. Don’t compromise.

Use secure payment methods like PayPal, and don’t accept checks.

Agree to collect payments frequently if paid by the hour, and don’t complete the next week’s work until you receive payment for the previous week (include that in your contract); if you’re getting a flat project payment, remember the third-third-third rule: require a third of the payment up front as a deposit of good faith; a third when it’s halfway completed; and a third upon completion.

Keep records of everything: meetings, contacts, payments, hours, projects, etc.

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