Here are two ads from Craigslist, each advertising a work-from-home job:

Web Content Writers Needed Part Time, Full Time, freelance writers. VRO Websites is hiring writers who can rewrite vacation rental descriptions into the VRO Website format. You will incorporate keywords into the content to help with search enging placement. We have a specific process and format that you will follow to create the property descriptions. We will pay $20 per property. A skilled writer can complete one property in an hour or less; once you have a firm understanding of the format. This is a work at home job, or can be a full time job, hourly job, if you would like to join our staff. We have offices in SE Portland near the corner of Morrison and Grand Ave. Please submit a resume and writing samples. We will contact qualified clients. We need immediate help, so please list your availability as well.
* Location: SE Portland
* Compensation: $20 per Property Description
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a part-time job.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
Consumer Driven Health Care#1 Leading Health Care Provider Company in the United States is seeking Health Representatives that want to work from home.
Our company has been in business for 14 Great Years with well over 1.7 million satisfied members and still growing
* Compensation: commision
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a part-time job.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!

The one on the left is for a legitimate job, by which I mean an arrangement in which a company or individual pays you a predetermined sum in exchange for your time and/or skill. The one on the right is a “hook” for Ameriplan USA. I’m not saying Ameriplan is a scam because I haven’t tried it, but it’s definitely not a job that will bring you a known figure in exchange for a known amount of time. You can learn to identify the “hook” ads in three seconds or less. Here’s how: pretend you’re in an interview.

What if you were in a job interview and the interviewer kept making vague statements about how much money you’re going to earn? What if you asked what kind of work you’ll be doing and he said, “You’ll be helping people achieve financial freedom,” or a similarly vague answer? You’d know something is not right. So take that interview mentality with you when reading work-at-home ads. The following are red flags in part because you’d never see or hear them at an interview for a real job. Individually, they don’t automatically indicate a fake job or “hook ad,” but ads containing more than one of them are almost certainly selling you something other than a job.

  • General job description: After reading the ad on the left you know exactly what you’ll be doing. What kind of work will you be doing for the ad on the right?
  • Exaggerated titles: If a title uses any combination of the following words: money, income, freedom, unlimited, earnings, or success, proceed with caution. Surprisingly, if a title has the phrase “work at home” in it, it’s most likely a scam. Real employers tend to use the phrase ‘telecommuting employees.’
  • No specifics about pay: You’ll earn “commission.” Next time you fill out a credit application, write “commission” in the Income line and see how far it gets you. Real employers know exactly how much they’re willing to pay you.
  • Talk about Big Money: While they never give specifics, hook ads do often tantalize you with large numbers. $500/week! Part time! Up to $100 per hour (like the one below)!
  • Exclamation points!!! The hook ad on the right doesn’t have any, but they very often do. Truly exciting job opportunities don’t need exclamation points. That they’re exciting should be self evident from the detailed description.
  • A hyperlink in the ad. Sure, legitimate companies can link to their business Web site, but they often do not. Hook ads need the link because they’ve got to get you to the pre-sell page. Look at this ad, for instance; it contains ONLY a link (and to an unidentifiable short url, at that):

    SIMPLE Data-Entry-At-Home: up to $100 Cash Per HOUR
    (get paid to shop)

    * Location: anywhere
    * Compensation: see website
    * Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
    * Please, no phone calls about this job!
    * Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

  • Insistence upon the job’s honesty and legitimacy. Here’s an actual current headline for another Craigslist hook ad:

    Work From Home $1,500 to $3,000 PT or FT Legitimate & Honest Job!!!

    Here’s the thing. Do you believe the guy at work who says he was the funniest and best-looking dude at last weekend’s company picnic? Of course not! By the same token, it never occurs to legitimate employers to tell you that they’re legitimate. If you doubt me, go to your next job interview and ask, “Is this a legitimate job or a scam?” It’s a quick way to end the interview and the funny look on the interviewer’s face might be worth sabotaging your chances.

There are others, but these are the ones we see all the time. With practice, you can learn to identify them at a glance and you will no longer be wasting time pursuing leads that only end in somebody asking you for money.

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