Coronavirus Security

Avoiding Scams: Remote ‘Jobs’ on Craigslist

I love Craigslist! I have gotten more than one real, legitimate job from there, both W-2 and 1099, non-remote jobs.

But Craigslist can also be a hotbed of scammer activity. And now after COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns have brought Depression Era-levels of unemployment, millions of people are desperate for jobs — especially jobs which can be done from home.

This is a scammer’s paradise.

So here I’m going to help Hawaii remote job seekers break down 3 examples of work-from-home scams found posted on Oahu Craigslist in May of 2020. By ‘scams,’ I mean shady non-jobs — I didn’t dig any further once it was clear these offers were not what they appeared to be. They could be toeing the line of legal activity, but they are postings masquerading as remote job opportunities.

By the time we are done here, you will likely easily spot these types of posts in the future.

Craigslist search results

First I ran a search:

Searched Oahu jobs using keyword “remote”

What resulted was a mish-mash of job postings, mostly jobs mislabeled as “telecommute” like janitorial and landscaping, and duplicate postings of questionable legitimacy. I circled four postings and investigated.

Screenshot of search results. The last two are the same company

Posting #1

“Work From Home Online” is a pretty telling title in and of itself — it is not informative at all, like “Customer Service Agent Wanted.” It is actually more like an ad, trying to attract a buyer. But someone desperate for remote work might click on it, and would see this posting:

Some of the wording in this post (underlined in red) should ring alarm bells

I won’t address the photo, except to say that the “employer” felt that this was an acceptable first impression of the company.

Compensation listed is “The Skies The Limit” — which is a typo that should read “Sky’s.” Lack of a normal listing such as “D.O.E.” (depending on experience) or a range like “$20-28/hr” also gives a hint that this might be a commission-based job. But even then, legitimate jobs will usually state that up front, and reveal the percentage of the commission.

The posting further goes on to offer not a job, but a “business opportunity” and claims to be “looking for distributors”. So they are clearly not looking to hire staff, but rather looking for business people. I was leery of clicking on that link, so I used a web service which shows you a snapshot of a website:

Using Shrink the Web’s service to get a snapshot of a dubious website

“Turning your dreams into reality” and a “business vehicle” — it’s a form to capture your name and e-mail address, not a job application. When a remote job posting offers to “turn your dreams into reality,” it probably will not. That’s the “if it sounds too good to be true” rule!

Posting #2

This was a very tough one. I’ve come to the decision that this is not an outright scam, but it is certainly very far from being a job posting.

Once again, working from home is dangled before us like a carrot, in the title of the job posting. “Work from home as a Software Engineer — Train with us 100k” — I first noticed this posting appear in Oahu Craigslist over a year ago. I had checked it out for myself, thinking I might get some job training, but grew suspicious at the poor quality of their websites. Imagine my surprise to see the same posting is still going around:

It should not be posted in the Craigslist job category, but at least this title is a bit more transparent, stating up front that it is a training offer, not a job offer, in the title of the posting.

Still, promising people that they can work from home, with “no prior technology experience,” and earn $75-100k, does not pass the smell test. There is also slight pressure to act quickly, with words like “limited” spots open. Add in wording about a job “guarantee,” and it certainly does not pass the “if it sounds too good to be true” rule.

But let’s say in your excitement, you missed those red flags, and you still think there is some sort of job available here. There are still more flags that you might want to stay away from this company. The logo image at the top says “IBG Global Consulting”…

Hovering over their links show different domain names

…but the company also refers to itself as “IBG Training.” They then proceed to list Insta accounts under two more names (ibginstitute and traptechusa). Hovering over some of the links in the post reveals they also have a website called “IBG Software”:

Hovering over the links again reveals still other names

Using multiple names and domains is no crime, but the way it is presented here shows either shadiness or a very poor level of organization (or both). IBG offers us a YouTube link to some news coverage, but it leads to a recording of a “webinar” where only one individual speaks and there is no evidence that any other participants exist. (I found they actually did have some news coverage which shows that they have/had a brick-and-mortar location.)

I was able to find zero evidence that IBG Training placed anyone in any job, save 3 nameless and faceless Reddit and Google reviewers. One of their three Twitter accounts claims that they are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, but they are not listed under any of those names at the IRS’ website. The state of North Carolina lists a business with an extremely similar name registered by an IBG instructor as “suspended.”

Nothing blatantly criminal here, and they do appear to offer some sort of training courses, but at best, this company 1) has extremely disorganized branding, 2) is not very good at building professional-looking websites, 3) over-promises on job placement, and 4) is murky with anonymous owners/founders. It is enough to tell me I should stay far away.

Posting #3

This third one might be familiar to some of you. On the mainland it is as familiar as Amway.

Yet again, we are promised that we can “Work from home part-time,” but the actual job is a bit of a mystery!

Work from home — but doing what? Why so mysterious?

“Flexible,” “most [people] don’t have any experience,” “incentives available”…does this sound like any job in Hawaii that pays $17?

And what does “$17 base-appt” mean? I don’t know, but it sounds too good to be true already.

As with the other postings, there are duplicate listings of this same “job”: “Part Time Openings — Apply TODAY — Work from Home (Honolulu)” and again “Part Time Help – Customer Sales/Service – Work from Home (Pearl City).”

Sometimes that alone — duplicate postings — can give you a whiff of fishiness. By copying an entire sentence from the posting, you can also see just how many duplicate postings there might be in other cities: search engine results show this “remote job” is posted in Vancouver and San Diego as well

So this “remote job” is posted on Craigslist in Vancouver and San Diego as well. Nothing wrong with that! If we hover over the link inside the postings…

Mystery solved by hovering over the link! The link is the same in San Diego and Oahu Craigslist, both posted 4 days ago, but the pay offered here is lower

…we see the company is Vector Marketing. A very quick web search reveals that this is part of Cutco. So you will be trying to sell expensive kitchen knives.

Now during COVID-19, finding anyone in Hawaii who can afford to part with hundreds of dollars for some kitchen knives is going to be extremely difficult — you will have to slave for that $17.25! But hey, at least it’s remote work, right? Well, maybe not: has reviews by former Sales Representatives who don’t seem to have been able to work from home

Perhaps those reviews were all pre-coronavirus lockdown. So now all these demonstrations could indeed be “virtual,” as the posting claims. Great! So you start thinking you can sell some expensive knives, or at least give it a try! But who are your customers?

Wikipedia says Vector Marketing wants you to shakedown your circle of friends and family first

Yes, you will be selling a set of knives for $300 to grandma or auntie, who cannot afford it, but who will smile and squeeze it on their credit cards because they want to help you through college.

Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked

None of these three postings are what you probably had in mind when you began your search for a legitimate remote job. So the search continues — don’t get sidetracked or bogged down. If you found these examples too easy to identify, please pass this article along to a student or young person who might benefit from these warnings. Use the above examples to train your critical eye into a laser-focused, searching machine, so as not to waste your precious time, energy, or money on shady non-jobs.

Have a job posting you are not too sure about? Send me a link and I’ll check it out! And check out these jobs which I have already vetted as belonging to real companies.