Craigslist Writer / Research Assistant Scams

Freelance Writer, Research Assistant, and Reviewer Scams on Craigslist

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Craigslist is notorious for job scams. There are many different types of employment-related scams on Craigslist including jobs that don't exist, listings that ask for confidential personal information or ask you to wire money or to pay for a background or credit check. One common version of these Craigslist scams is aimed at writers and research assistants.

Types of Writer and Research Assistant Scams

One Craigslist scam involves asking for writing with no intention of hiring or paying. This scam doesn't go after your money. Rather, it’s designed to collect writing to be used for publication without payment to the researcher or writer.

These jobs are listed as freelance writer or research assistant jobs. The applicant is asked to submit writing samples for review. After the first set of samples are accepted, the candidate is asked to submit longer (600 words or more) documents as part of the application process on a very specific topic. The person isn't hired, but the scammer now has content to publish.

In a variation of this scam, the writer is hired, submits writing or reviews to the poster, but is never paid. Readers have posted scam warnings saying things like:

I am a writer. I got some work from He agreed to pay me through PayPal. I have written nearly 50,000 words for his project. When I ask payment he started harassing me, and he used very rude language.

He owes me and my team more than $1000. He calls himself James and said that he was from the U.S. He actually does not have any clients and has a blog of his own. He has claimed that he hails from different countries across many freelancing websites. Writers, please beware of him.

After my first short sample, he wanted a 600-word 'sample' to see if I was 'suitable' but this was on a specific topic with very specific criteria.

After submitting some writing samples, I was "offered" the job, and assigned a project immediately. After 3 weeks had passed, I was told: "payment had been sent". I foolishly waited for payment to arrive. I contacted them again, via email, and was contacted by said, "Alex Flores" who told me that payment would be sent immediately. Despite what I was told, I have not received a single payment.

I have been doing products reviews for the past 4 months for them. They have hundreds of assignments available for writers to do so many of us take the opportunity to capitalize on them doing as much as we can. I have nearly 150 reviews that I did last month that are still pending and what they are now doing is to accept them one by one, without paying me!

Scam Warning Signs

One of the signs that often indicates the listing is a scam is a lack of company or personal information. This basic information may not ever be provided to you, even after email correspondence, a phone call, or a Skype conversation. The lack of information makes it very difficult to determine if a listing is a legitimate opportunity or a scam.

If an employer won't give you a business or individual name, full contact information (address, phone, website) so you can check to be sure the listing is legitimate, you need to be careful, and you should probably not pursue the ad.

Another warning sign is when, after sending the first sample, the applicant is asked for more, lengthier documents. Some legitimate freelance writing positions require applicants to write a sample or two, but if you’re asked for more, you should investigate before agreeing to write any more.

How to Avoid these Scams

  • Be concerned if the contact person won't disclose company or personal contact information
  • Be suspicious of email that looks unprofessional
  • Check out the information in the posting
  • Ask where the writing will be published
  • Ask for references (other writers and researchers who have worked for the poster)
  • Don't submit original writing samples
  • Get payment terms ahead of time and set a short-cycle payment schedule
  • Watch out for payments that are wired (it may be a wire fraud scam)

More Information on Job Scams

How to Avoid Scams
Phony writing jobs are not the only scams out there. Here’s how to tell if a job is a scam, including typical employment scams, and work at home scams. You’ll also learn more about how to avoid employment scams.

How to Report a Scam 
Have you been scammed or almost scammed? Here's information on how to report a scam, including where and how to report an employment scam.

Scam Warning Signs
What's a scam and what's not? It can be really difficult to tell the difference between scams and legitimate job openings, especially when it comes to work at home jobs. Here are scam warning signs to watch for and how to spot a scam.