How was anything done before Craigslist came along?

With a few simple clicks, you can find an apartment, get some free furniture , find a neighbor to teach you how to play the guitar and maybe even meet up with that person you caught eyes with on the train last week. As all independent workers know, it’s also a great place to find short or long-term gigs.

But any resource that allows for such innumerable possibilities has to have a dark side, right? Since Craigslist doesn’t charge for job postings in most states, the site has become very attractive to spam artists and other unsavory characters on the internet.

Working for yourself presents enough issues: rapidly fluctuating levels of income and a scarcity of affordable health insurance options, to ensuring that you’re paid on time (or at all), or finding inspiration to complete the task at hand. You don’t need more issues, so don’t let a job search become one of them.

It’s important that we all know how to sift through the spam. Knowledge of what to look out for could save you that hour you would have spent on that writing sample, or even from identity theft.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you take your job hunt through the jungles of Craigslist and other similar sites:

Keep Your Eyes Open

No, it’s not deja vu: Craigslist scams are generally posted at least 2-3 times a week, and sometimes numerous times a day. Sure, it’s sometimes hard to find the right fit for the job, but if you feel like you’ve seen a posting many, many times before - it’s probably not worth your time.

Don’t Fall Prey to Flattery: Unfortunately, finding a job isn’t that easy nowadays. That being said, it feels pretty good to receive an email in response to a job application. Still, a few things should be considered: Have you received numerous emails from a “Staffing Assistant”? Do they seem desperate for you to join the team without having met you? Did these exchanges mention anything specific regarding your previous work experience or job skills? If not, I wouldn’t hesitate to delete that email.

Could you be any more vague?: Scams are meant to have mass appeal. Read the job description again - does it provide you with any specific duties? At the same time, does the posting give you any information that would allow you to research the organization or position further? Is there a company name or a website? Does the post mention how much the position pays? If a posting is suspiciously vague it could be a scam, or just an offensively low-paying job. Either way, you can do better.

Develop a plan of attack

Unsure? Write an email: All employers appreciate questions. They like to know that you’re interested, curious, and motivated. If the advertisement lacks a website, company name, pay rate, or just seems intentionally vague, don’t hesitate to write them. At the same time, if a post seems curious, an email that includes specific questions is a good way to test your theory. Chances are scammers won’t take the time out to respond to your pointed questions.

Too much information: Have you been asked to fill out an online application that includes your social security number or bank information? Upon applying, were you immediately asked to provide personal information for a “background check” ? Have you been offered a position without actually meeting the employer? If so, approach with extreme caution.

**Trust your gut: **You know what feels normal and what doesn’t - Does it sound too good to be true? Do you have a lingering feeling of insecurity because the client purported to be out of the country or unavailable to meet with you?

All gigs aren’t created equal and neither are the marketplaces you find them in, but with a little common sense and mindfulness, you’ll be able to find work that's worth the time it took to find it.