Updated: Mar 30, 2024

7 Most Common Job Scams on Local Classified Ads: How to Spot Them

Learn about the most common job scams that are posted on local classified ads and online listings, including how they work and what you can do to avoid them.
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Whether you’re having trouble finding a job or you dislike your current job, it’s easy to be tempted into looking for a new job.

But, the truth is:

Classified ads are a common way for scammers to find new victims.

They’ll post some type of fake job advertisements to lure people in before taking what they want and disappearing.

If you’re looking for a new job, keep these tips in mind.

Common Job Scams

Here are some of the most common job scams out there.

1. Work from home/telecommuting

You read an advertisement saying that you can do 100% of your work from home by telecommuting.

Sounds like a great deal, right?

Get all of the benefits of a full-time job without the commute, annoying office mates, or other bothers of office life.


There are very few jobs that promise 100% work from home -- especially from the very beginning of the job.

While the number of work from home jobs is growing, it’s rare for companies to advertise full-time jobs as work-from-home out of the gate.

Instead, work from home is a perk that you can take advantage of after getting to know your coworkers and showing your value.

2. Data entry

Data entry jobs are popular because they seem reasonable to most people.

Enter data from physical or digital documents into a database so that the information can be tracked, manipulated, and used for research or other purposes.

Best of all, these jobs require little more than the ability to read and type.

Unfortunately, these same things make data entry jobs popular among scammers.

If you’re looking at an ad for data entry jobs, do your due diligence to make sure it's legit.

3. Multilevel marketing

Multilevel marketing sounds like a great deal.

Make your own hours. Own your own business. Make money from the work of people that you bring into the fold.

In reality:

Multilevel marketing programs only make money for the people at the very top.

You’re more likely to lose money by buying the products you’re responsible for selling than you are to make money.

4. Government positions

Government jobs are a dream come true for many people. Amazing benefits. Incredible job security.

A steady wage and a clear path toward raises and promotions. Employment can’t get much better, right?


The very aspects of the jobs that make them appealing are what makes them a popular target for scammers.

The thing to remember is that all information about government jobs is available for free and you never have to pay a fee to apply.

Many scammers will promise to help you apply for a government job or place you in one for a fee, only to run away with your money.

5. “No experience necessary”

Most jobs need some form of experience, whether it be experience in an office of any type of experience with a specific job.

Seeing the words “no experience necessary” can be highly appealing to someone who is looking to get into a new line of work.

Unfortunately, jobs that advertise themselves as not requiring any experience tend to be a scam.

Look at it from the employer’s point of view.

Why hire someone with no experience when you can find someone who already has an idea of how to do the job.

In the worst case:

You’re likely to be working with a scammer who tries to scam you instead of giving you a job.

In the best case, you’re likely to wind up in a job that you don’t know how to do, getting paid far too little because you have no experience.

6. Mystery shopping

Mystery shopping is a completely legitimate job and many retailers hire mystery shoppers to help gauge their customer experience.

Plus, doesn’t the idea of getting paid to shop, and getting to keep the things that you buy sound great?

Because part of the point of mystery shopping is to not tell anyone what you’re doing, this makes mystery shopping jobs a common scam.

You’ll get a “job” as a mystery shopper and be told to visit a store and buy a product. You’ll receive a promise of payment after you make the purchase, only to find that the scammer never pays up.

Alternatively, the scammer could send a fake check that "overpays" the amount owed to you. Then, the scammer just asks that you refund the excess -- only for the check to bounce.

The result: You don't get paid and you voluntarily gave money to the scammer.

Also, be sure never to pay for licensing or an application to be a mystery shopper. That is a sure sign of a scam.

7. Personal/administrative assistant

Many people need administrative help for their personal life or small business and look to hire online assistants.

If you take one of these jobs, the work might start out pretty reasonably. You’ll help make schedules or do other small tasks.

Where the scam comes in is when the person you’re working for asks you to help with financial transactions. You might have to deposit checks and then send payments to the person’s clients or partners.

Once again:

Usually, these checks will bounce, and you’ll be out a bunch of money. Plus, you’ll never get paid.

You might also be asked to help ship or reship different boxes. Often, these boxes will contain illegal products, which you’ll be on the hook for putting in the mail.

In the worst cases, the scammer could be trying to launder money through your bank account, putting you at risk of legal trouble if their scheme is discovered.

Warning Signs of a Scam

Keep an eye out for these warning signs of a scam.

Paying for certification, supplies, tools, or application

Some jobs do require certification or providing your own tools, but these industries are few and far between.

Any time an online classified ad asks that you provide an application fee or pay for some type of certification, you should be wary.

Simple requirements

If a job seems too good to be true because it seems like anyone can do the work, it probably is.

Remember that many people spend years in college or trade school to learn how to do difficult jobs. If anyone can meet the requirements for a job, it’s likely to be a scam.

If it isn’t it probably isn’t the best job out there.

Fine print

Make sure to read the fine print for any job that you apply for if it exists.

Multilevel marketing schemes often hide things like “results may vary” in their fine print.

If you don’t know exactly what you’ll be doing and how much you’ll be paid, it might be a scam.

Lack of an interview process

If your employer seems incredibly eager to hire you, and there’s no professional contact or interview process, you’re probably getting scammed.

Any employer will want to make sure you’re a good fit before giving you a job. If something seems to easy, it probably is.

Collection of sensitive info

Similarly, if your new “employer” seems too eager to get your personal information or financial information, be worried.

Think about interview and hiring processes you’ve been through in the past and expect the new job to have a similar one.

Use of your personal bank account

Any job that asks you to use your personal bank account for anything other than receiving your paychecks is a scam.

Don’t jeopardize your relationship with your bank and your personal finances, even if the job seems like a good fit.

Do Your Homework

As with all new jobs, you should do your homework before signing on with a new employer.

Online research

If a job advertisement includes phone numbers, company names, or a recruiter’s name, do quick online search.

You might find that the company that’s supposedly looking for employees doesn’t exist or that the recruiter is a known scammer that other people are talking about.

Contact the company

If you find a job listed in a classified ad, don’t be afraid to contact the company that is supposedly looking for new people.

Scammers will often use real company names to make their scams sound more legitimate.

Going straight to the source, whether it be checking the company website or actually calling or e-mailing, to confirm that the job exists, is a good safeguard against scams.


While many people find jobs through online classified ads these days, you can never be too careful when it comes to avoiding scams.

Use your common sense, be on the lookout, and do your due diligence and you can find a good job while avoiding scams.