July 24, 2011 @ 06:13 PM

If you are starting out as a freelance writer looking for opportunities to earn a little cash, you may find that there are many jobs posted on Craigslist. These jobs can vary from one-time projects to ongoing work with content companies, web development firms and private people who just need some articles or blog posts. Pay rates also vary widely depending on the scope of work and what hiring companies deem as “fair” wages for custom writing.

While Craigslist can be a great source of custom writing work, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when applying for work there. Why? Because oftentimes scammers use this free advertising website as a place to steal information from job seekers. Craigslist is a place where people of all types post information annoymously. This means it can be a playground for unscrupulous scammers who use email as a way to gather information on citizens.

So what do you look for to avoid being scammed as a freelance writer?

1. Does the job sound too good to be true? If the job advertisement says something like ” Work from home part time and earn full time wages” or “Make $50 an hour in your spare time”, chances are you’ve found a scam ad. Do not apply to it, but rather promptly flag it so Craigslist will take it down.

2. Does the advertisement ask you to click on a link that takes you to a work from home website? If so, you may be dealing with a scammer who uses Craigslist to get traffic and steal information online. Again, avoid it like the plague and flag the ad as spam.You won’t get a job there.

3. Does the ad ask you to write a “sample” and send it in for approval (with no mention of pay)? This is a common ploy that some scammers will use to get free content to use as they please. You do the work, and never get paid. Instead you get a blanket email that says “thanks for your sample, but you are not what we are looking for”. Do yourself a favor, and never work for free. Get payment terms in writing before you send an unpublished writing sample in. Or send in something you’ve already published online under your own name.

4. Does the ad ask for your personal information (social security number, birthdate, home address, etc)? This is clearly a scammer who acts like a potential hiring manager but who is actually an information thief. Never send your personal information to anyone online, especially through email. Keep your resume neutral and leave off your personal information until a job offer is made by a real person.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Craigslist is not a bad place to find custom writing gigs. In fact, it can be a very good source of work on a regular basis. Other career-oriented advertising websites can also fall prey to online scammers. The point is to be cautious when applying for any work online. Check out the company further by reviewing their website, pick up the phone and actually call to speak to a hiring manager whenever possible, and protect your information at all times. By following these “rules” you can avoid becoming a victim of online scammers.