is this job as suspicious as it seems?

A reader writes:

I found a job offer on Craigslist. I checked out the company website and it seemed fine. I went in for a group interview where they explained what they did and then we left without being asked a single question. I got called back for a three-day try-out, as did everyone who interviewed.

It’s a computer-based job in a field I am new to. There isn’t a need for much interaction, but it seemed weird that no one talked to each other. I mean, there were two conversations in a day. We were told to eat at our desks and that was the practice for the entire time I was there. No one got a lunch break despite working eight hours or more. I went to the bathroom to find three women sneaking calls to see if their kids were okay because they aren’t allowed to use their phones.

Add to that I was given basic tasks but no concrete instructions, just “match it to other work you find.” I did, and on my last try out day someone in the department said everything was far too short and it should have been done in a program the interviewer didn’t tell us about so everything was half done or wrong. My interviewer was also (to me) extremely late each day, between 15-30 minutes, with only one day having a bit of snow.

When I was offered the job, the first line of the email was an offer. The next two long paragraphs were asking me to apply to a Michigan Works training program “so we pay only half your income.” I looked the company up on Glassdoor, and there were three complaints about bounced pay checks and micromanaging with little direction. I think of Glassdoor as some people just want to complain but three complaints over a few years by employees makes me believe it.

I’m only still considering this job because it could help me find another job in this feild later and the pay is fairly good. Are these red flags that should have me running and stay with my current job with less hours but less odd behavior.

Nooooo, do not take this job.

DO NOT TAKE IT.

These are beyond red flags.

They want you to apply to a state program so that they only have to pay you half of what you’d be earning?? And they’re just casually mentioning that in the offer letter, with no mention of it earlier?

That alone is reason to run.

And then throw in all the rest — the “group interview” that was really a marketing ploy (a time-honored practice of shady businesses), the three-day try-out (was that paid, by the way? I’m betting not), the eight hours without a lunch break, the ban on phones, the lack of any kind of training or direction followed by criticism of something that you couldn’t have known about, the reports of bounced paychecks

You do not want this job.

In fact, you might want to report this job if they didn’t pay for the three days you “tried out.”

You definitely don’t want to sign on to have anything more to do with these people. Run far away.

{ 89 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Well, I’m speculating on that part. Maybe the OP was paid for it … but I would not be at all surprised to hear that they’re claiming they don’t have to pay since it was a “try-out.”

      1. Wrench Turner

        I’d bet a donut they got nothing for their time. I interviewed with a fancypants restaurant in DC and worked as a prep cook in their kitchen for a rude asshat chef – brought my own professional chef’s uniform and knives, even – for a full day. No break. No Pay. A “Oh, you’re still here?” attitude when I tried to approach them at the end of the day. I’m a professional and gave professional results in a strange kitchen; I’m proud of that.

        Amusingly enough, after 3 weeks of hearing nothing, I got a call out of the blue offering a job. I told him that the “interview” was rude, unprofessional and possibly illegal and I would not be accepting the position, thank you.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Have they paid you yet? Michigan law says they must pay you by the next scheduled payday (they may not have told you when that is, but it’s probably within a couple of weeks). Make sure they do.

  1. Sami

    Run! Run fast. Run far.
    And definitely report it. It is probably not legit and Michigan Works will want to know.

    1. Wrench Turner

      I would definitely let Michigan Works know about this with as much information as you can provide, including names, etc.

  2. Workaholic

    I’m not sure what Michigan Works is but i was hired at a company through a state program where the state paid half my wages – For 90 days. At which point the company suddenly informed me it was a seasonal position and they laid me off. That was the first I’d heard of it and it seemed oddly convenient. I agree with the “run away” comments. But if you took it I’d expect them to kick you out the moment MW stopped paying half your wages.

    1. Natalie

      From what I could find on the internet, this sounds like a similar program that would only pay the employer for a short time. And for whatever it’s worth, it sounds like the LW’s prospective employer is abusing this program as what they’re doing wouldn’t generally meet the bar for this type of assistance.

      1. Anna

        Definitely. The program they are referring to is part of the WIOA federal law and is intended to encourage employers to bring in people they may need to train more, or people who are switching fields because their jobs have been outsourced, or they were laid off for whatever reason. It is not intended as a way for employers to get the state to foot half the bill. This is most likely an attempt at fraud. Please please report it.

    2. eplawyer

      Sounds like both your company and this one were trying to game the system. Get work done for half wages, the rest comes from the State Program (paid for by your tax dollars), it’s a win-win for the company. But I’ll bet the program has rules against this very thing.

      Report it immediately.

  3. Anxa

    OP, I hope this isn’t too personal, but are you in other way difficult to employ? I know that sometimes agencies will pay companies part of an employees wages when that person is registered in some sort of program or is unemployed. I’ve seen incentives for workers on SNAP, TANF, those who are long-term unemployed, registered with an employment commission, those on UI, and people with criminal records.

    It seems kind of backward to me that they are trying to get the extra funds for someone whose employment status was indicated during the hiring process? I dunno, just seems backwards and kind of sleezy. I mean, there are plenty of valid criticisms about employers getting money to pay workers in the first place, but that at least has some sort of system in place.

    Speaking of unemployment, it sounds like maybe money is serious issue for you, as you don’t have enough hours and you’re considering overlooking these red flags for more pay. If you ARE on some sort of UI I know you can’t technically turn down jobs, but there could be an exception for something SO shady. I know I was able to keep UI when I turned down a job after there being some really off-putting performance aspects of the job that didn’t verge near sex work but it became apparent that my main qualification was being a marginally attractive 23 year old because it wasn’t considered suitable or reasonable.

    Another thing is that I think this job has a very good chance of not lasting a long time. I think the fear of things not working out can be paralyzing and prevent people from taking reasonable risks and little leaps of faith, but this has so many red flags already I don’t think would be surprised to find that they flaked out later. If you can make ends meet on the current job, it may be safer. And if you’re on UI (I know I keep coming to this and it may be totally a nonissue but the Michigan Works made me think it was a good possibility) you could end up forfeiting it for this new job, and then may have a hard time requalifying. Something to consider.

    1. Landshark

      +1. This is a great perspective and, given the facts you gave, OP, if you’re on unemployment, I honestly can’t imagine any reasonable program complaining that you turned this down.

    2. Chrissy

      Not too personal of a question, no I’m not in any type of state program. Sometimes I’ve been required to fill out questions like that in applications for retail stores but it’s very transparent and upfront. This one wasn’t and I’ve never heard it phrased like it was in the offer.

      As for the money it’s not fantastic money but a lot of hours added up was very good. My current job is somewhat seasonal and work is sporadic during winter, and a few surprise emergency expenses hurt last month. What you’re saying was my entire reasoning, I know it looks bad-but can I really turn it down? Turns out, yes.

      1. Gaia

        The ones you fill out for retail stores are a bit different, though. Those are usually questionaires to see if you qualify for any programs (like work release, etc) but paperwork for a specific program that will pay half your wages.

        Definitely turn this down. Dollars to donuts it will turn out that this job is “seasonal” too once the state stops paying half your wages.

  4. Former Job Center Employee

    It’s been a while since I lived in Michigan, and a bit since I worked at an American Job Center (not in Michigan!), but the “hot” thing with retraining was on-the-job training. So instead of providing assistance with going back to school where it can takes years to get people back into the job market, the push is to get people into positions ASAP where they can be trained and use funding to subsidize the employee’s wages for a set period of time (time and subsidy varies based on the job) until they are skilled up. At that point the company is supposed to keep the employee on and take over all the payroll costs, and instead of having someone out of the workforce for a few years you have a person who has a new skill and has been earning money within a few weeks or months.

    I’m assuming that’s what this MichiganWorks program is, or likely some variant of WIOA, which is typically based on income or unemployment status. (MichiganWorks appears to be the branding Michigan American Job Centers go by. It varies by state.)

    Anyway, OP, PLEASE report it to the State of Michigan — they NEED to know this information. Doubly so if this employer has posted any ads through Michigan’s job posting system. And then do talk to your local MichiganWorks office. You might actually qualify for assistance getting the training you want with a legitimate employer.

    1. Mookie

      +1 to this entire comment. This sounds like a textbook case of an “employer” defrauding legitimate work subsidies. Please do report them.

      1. LJL

        Check a local community college. Many have partnerships in which you attend classes while you work at the partnering company. Your retraining can be paid for by state or federal subsidies. It’s worth asking to see if there are programs like this for your chosen field/employer. Good luck!

  5. Joanna

    I’m not sure doing it because you think it will help you find other work in the field is a good idea. It doesn’t sound like you’re going to get a chance to learn many skills or much industry knowledge. It’s also very likely that this company has a bad reputation with others in the sector and you may not fully find that out by googling.

    Also, in the unlikely event this is not high turnover and/or a scam, it’s unlikely that things will get better and very likely worse. If this is how they treat you when they are still sorta trying to win you over, what are they going to do when you’re used to them?

  6. Aloot

    Since you are considering this job so that you can use it as a springboard into another, actually good job in the same field, how long are you planning on staying with the company before moving on?

    I’m assuming a year or two – are you sure you are going to be able to endure the job for that long? (Please don’t underestimate how a bad job can make your life absolutely miserable. It’s not so easy to compartmentalize and be all relaxed and happy on your free time, since the job’ll already have sucked the soul out of you.)

    Are you sure that the job is actually going to employ you for that long?

    Because the “you must apply to work training program so they’ll cover part of your salary” is a pretty big indicator that they care way, WAY more about how little they can get away with paying you for the work you do than the actual work you put in and the skills you have.

    In which case, they’ll probably fire you once the money flow stops, because even if it results in a high turnover they still save money by only having to pay their employees half their salary.

  7. Allypopx

    Question: Is Craigslist considered a legitimate source for job hunters? We post on Craigslist for part time positions and have decent luck with it, but we also post on local non-profit sites and I feel like you could cross reference our ads for some level of legitimacy if you had doubts. How trustworthy are Craigslist ads? Are people encouraged to look for jobs there?

    (Note: I got my current job through Craigslist when I started as part time, but though I casually browse job sites I haven’t actively job hunted in like 4.5 years so I have a bit of a blind spot here.)

    1. boop the first

      I’ll check craigslist if I’m particularly desperate, but for the most part it seems like such a waste of time, as most of the ads never mentioned pay, or specific location, or even what the heck industry it pertains to. I’d have to be really desperate and REALLY mobile to apply to secret mystery jobs, most of which were inexplicably fake.

      Unless craigslist has evolved in the past decade and I don’t know about it yet?

      1. Lori

        Actually secret mystery shopping jobs are NOT fake if you are contacting a reputable company. But you are right, the ones on Craigslist are fake (even if they reference a reputable company, the contact info will be the scammer same as phishing emails referencing a real bank, etc.).

        For a list of reputable companies, see volition.com or mysteryshopforum.com and read the new shoppers information.

    2. Cobol

      I actually got a real job through Craigslist, and an interview at another real one through there. I also know of a company that is really good that was posting their jobs there. All that being said, I think I’ve just listed every job I’ve seen on Craigslist that’s real, compared to 1000s of fakes.
      *The things I’d look for. It’s actually a real ad, maybe even with an image that was copied and pasted from a
      more reputable site, and gives all the info you expect to see (website, normal how to apply, etc..)
      *You can find the job elsewhere. Some places have a might as well put the job on Craigslist attitude.
      *The company has all the information you expect to find about it publicly available

    3. Rob Lowe can't read

      In the past four years, I’ve gotten one job that I found on Craigslist and interviewed for another that was legitimate. Both were super part-time, like 5-10 hours per week at most, which was what I needed then. I don’t think it would be useful to me now, though, as I’m at a point in my career where I only want full time work, and most employers in my field use field-specific job boards.

    4. LawCat

      I found out about my current job via a Craigslist advertisement. I then looked it on up the employer’s website, found the posting, and applied.

      It’s a legitimate place to advertise. It certainly takes filtering by job hunters. I would look at it once a week and weed through it. Things I didn’t bother with:
      – Ads without a clear description of the job.
      – Ads that did not identify the organization advertising the job.

      Other web places I looked at: my school’s jobs site, the site of a professional association I belong to, Indeed, and government sites (I work in government and was hoping to stay in government.)

      1. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, IF the company lists what company it is, then you can check it out, do your due diligence, etc. Blind ads are worrisome. I know some places use them because they don’t want people calling, but I only apply to them when I’m desperate to fill the UI weekly sheet.

        I applied to one once and they called me and it was the non-profit I used to work with, the one I got fired from! It was on my resume, too–on the second page! Clearly the person who called me didn’t get that far, haha. We had a good laugh about it but I think she was really embarrassed.

      2. SimonTek

        Ads that do not clearly state job description. Check usajobs.gov amazed how many vague jobs the govt post.

    5. Two-Time College Dropout

      If the posting names the company and a precise location, I’ll assume it’s probably legitimate. Bonus points if the company has a website and I can apply for that job there.

      If it’s something like “Chocolate teapot company in Big City area”, I’ll assume it’s a scam and/or way far away– I live very close to Downtown Big City, but “Big City Area” almost always means “small town 20+ miles outside Big City Proper”.

    6. Koko

      5-10 years ago I routinely got jobs on Craigslist, but to me it seemed that around 2011 or so the work-from-home and “I’ll overpay you and you send me the extra” scams had risen so much in volume that the real jobs were fewer and far between.

      I know a few legitimate employers first-hand that use Craigslist, but I’d say I know fewer places using it every year, and they all cross-post to other sites – usually an industry niche board or two and often local university job boards (there are at least a dozen universities in our metro area) when it’s suitable for current or recent students.

      Craigslist is viable, but definitely always do further research.

    7. Landshark

      In my most recent job hunt and in my area, it was pretty much garbage. You could easily tell the legit jobs (I saw a few, but not in my industry) from the fakes, but the ratio was so high and most of the good ones were cross-posted that it was a better use of my time to use Indeed, Monster, etc.

    8. NoCalHR

      We post all positions through supervisor level on craigslist here (SF Bay area) and have successfully filled about 95% of them through that source. A couple of specialized positions are advertised elsewhere, and we have used temp-to-hire agency placements as well. However our craigslist positions provide the name of the company, city, salary range and a listing of essential functions and required skills. We list “desired/nice to have” qualifications separately.

      So although YMMV, checking craigslist and cross-checking for employer websites can be a good deal!

    9. Episkey

      I found my current job on CraigsList — and my previous job before this one.

      I’ve been at my current job almost 4 years now — and it’s actually a great job that I love. The previous job was also legit, but was miserable (though I guess any job can turn out like that, even applying through more respected channels).

      In my experience, CL is good if you are specifically looking for a part-time position. When I first applied to my current job, it was advertised as 4 days/week, about 4 hours a day. It has since expanded so that I basically work full days Monday-Thursday, but generally still always have Fridays off. It’s great for me, and I think looking at CL if you want a similar type of position can be helpful.

    10. Wrench Turner

      Yup. I use Craigslist for all kinds of things. Found a job in my new field through it. Use some common sense and “trust but verify” and you’ll do alright.

    11. Recruit-o-Rama

      We only use Craigslist in the areas where they have a fee for posting the job advertisement. Any place where they allow you to post for free is so cluttered with crap ads that we don’t get much traction in terms of applicants. We post our company name, pay ranges and a link to our career site though, so all very transparent and we only post for our more entry level hourly jobs on Craigslist.

    12. K.

      I can name three big national staffing agencies off the top of my head that post their jobs on Craigslist. There’s a lot of crap to sift through but you can find “real” jobs there.

    13. Gaia

      It really depends on the area. In my current area no one posts jobs on craigslist except gas stations and scammers. Real, actual, non-shady professional and even service and retail jobs are not to be found there. But in my last city that was the most reliable site for them.

    14. Chickaletta

      I approach everything on Craigslist with caution, not just jobs. I haven’t looked on Craigslist for a job in years because in my area most of them are like the OP’s experience. That said, my church has posted for jobs there because the cost of posting to career sites makes them use Craigslist first, and I know a couple other local 501(c)’s that use Craigslist too to keep costs down. But the quality of applicants is really poor, I don’t think we ever hired anyone who found the job on Craigslist.

    15. H.C.

      I’ve gotten gig-based jobs (catering, event bartending, etc.) from Craigslist, but nothing that stretches longer than a week or two.

    16. tink

      I check it occasionally/rarely, and it’s decent for some fields and mostly garbage for others? I think YMMV based on location, honestly. Locally it seems like businesses have issues with reposting every 3-7 days but not removing the ad once they’ve hired someone… I’ve gotten several “Unfortunately, we’ve just filled this position,” replies in response to queries on ads that are seemingly less than a week old when I’ve expressed interest.

    17. Stranger than fiction

      I actually found my current job on craigslist 5.5 years ago, but they had posted on monster as well (which was still decen at that time I think) I checked out their website and ratings though and it ended up being totally legit. Some friends teased me the first year saying “why are they always posting?” but we were girls through a huge growth spurt at the time. It’s not perfect, for sure, there’s a bit of typical small company dysfunction, but overall I’m paid well and they recently started taking our input more

    18. Aphrodite

      When I was looking for work I found CL to be nearly useless. Way too much scam and spam, and the legitimate ones rarely responded even with a rejection. It was so much silence!

      But … I now work at SBCC (California), and I have posted hourly jobs on our local CL site. I am careful when I do that to be specific about the employer, the wage, the responsibilities, the training, the hours and the fact that these jobs will not become permanent. (Of course, anyone can apply for permanent jobs as they come up but hourly jobs stay hourly.) I notice that UCSB do this too, and I often see jobs there. What makes our two educational employers different is that the jobs are very specific so you know they are not scams.

    19. Moonsaults

      They recently started charging to place ads on Craigslist to weed out the scams.

      I think it depends on the industry you work in. I’ve found countless legitimate finance jobs in my last couple job hunts. My current job, my boss advertised on CL as well as other job sites.

      I work with small businesses with working owners, so they often use that kind of platform because it’s basic and well known.

    20. katamia

      It varies based on location. Where I am now it’s good, but I’ve also lived in places where it’s terrible. It does require some due diligence and weeding out the scams and bad jobs, but all places do.

    21. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo

      Yes. I got my last 2 jobs through Craigslist. In Chicago Craigslist does charge a fee to place a job ad – not a large fee, but enough that it weeds out a lot of the scammers.

    22. Hnl123

      I actually got two excellent FT jobs via Craigslist. And my current job (which is a really awesome one) was posted on Craiglist as well (though I was hired when the company reached out to me directly.)

      I have posted jobs on Craiglist too. It is much cheaper than posting to LinkedIn, which I find to be more ‘reputable’ and safe.

      However I will caveat that Craiglist has a lot of spam-looking, shady-sounding jobs as well. It’s like shopping at Ross – ya kinda have to sort through the piles.

    23. Alyssa

      I used Craigslist for job hunting when I first moved to a new state. Most of the jobs aren’t great but I had a few that ended up being major companies looking for workers anonymously. You never know what you’re going to find. It’s not my first choice for job hunting but I always include it with the other job boards.

  8. Beautiful Loser

    I sure hope you did get paid for the time you put in. The 8 hours of work with no break let alone a lunch break I believe violates both state and federal employment laws. I agree with AM, you don’t want this job.

    1. Allypopx

      When I first moved into the city and I was job hunting I took a few jobs doing political canvassing (the people with the clipboards on the streets) and one of those jobs specifically told me they were paying for my training time and then didn’t, and completely cut me off when I tried to talk to them about it. I still wish I’d pushed harder or reported them (especially since I really needed the money) but I was very young and timid and I decided to drop it.

      OP I strongly advocate standing up for yourself if this is the situation.

    2. Rebecca

      Unfortunately, Michigan law provides a rest period of 30 minutes after 5 continuous hours for juvenile workers only, and does not mandate break times for workers over 18. Many states are like this, including my home state of PA.

      1. oh my...

        This sounds so backwards. Young people have energy! I would think the older you get, the more breaks you would need.

        1. Rebecca

          Yes, it does, and if people are working long shifts, it could be brutal. I don’t know of any employer in my area that doesn’t allow unpaid breaks during the day, but rules here are “Pennsylvania employers are required to provide break periods of at least 30 minutes for minors ages 14 through 17 who work five or more consecutive hours. Employers are not required to give breaks for employees 18 and over. If your employer allows breaks, and they last less than 20 minutes, you must be paid for the break. If your employer allows meal periods, the employer is not required to pay you for your meal period if you do not work during your meal period and it lasts more than 20 minutes. A collective bargaining agreement may also govern this issue.”

          In my experience, forcing someone to work for 8 or more hours without a break is not productive. People are not machines, they get tired, need to rest their eyes, stretch their legs, etc. and just take a mental break from their work.

          I hope the OP in this case takes everyone’s advice and runs the other way, and reports this company to the Michigan Dept of Labor or whomever the governing body is. This sounds so shady. I also suspect once the half pay funding runs out, the job would end, and that the pay would probably be more like OP gets 1/3 of the money and the company would keep 2/3. It all sounds so very shady.

        1. Erin

          That’s what I’ve been told by multiple employers in Michigan, because Scheduling breaks is apart of my job. I just assumed since so many employers had almost identical rules that it was state law.

  9. Elizabeth

    Please report it to Michigan Works as well as the state DOL. Wage subsidy programs are NOT supposed to cover the wages of people whom the company was going to hire anyway.

  10. TheExchequer

    As someone who had to deal with bounced checks from a company in California, I echo Alison: Run fast and run far! No work is worth that kind of hassle and heartbreak.

  11. Chrissy

    I asked the question.
    I was told it is a paid tryout. Nothing about MI works was mentioned before the offer. I really was only considering the job because the number of hours would be good money.

    I’ve found two other nice jobs on Craigslist in the past because the owners didn’t know about sites like indeed. I know what usual fake postings look like and this place looked legitimate at the time.

      1. Chrissy

        Yes, I didn’t think to check glass door until after the 3 day try out where I found that. The complaints were from 13 and 15 so it’s been a while, but it sure gives me pause if I’m getting this check.

        1. neverjaunty

          Two separate complaints, one of them was at most two years ago, and those are only the people who complained on Glassdoor. That would be a huge red flag if the company were otherwise sterling. This one… isn’t.

          I can offer to pay people all kinds of money if I’m going to screw them out of actually getting it.

        2. Natalie

          Take with as much salt as needed, but as far as I’m concerned one incidence of bouncing paychecks is plenty. An employer should know that getting paid is super important and they should take it seriously all the time.

    1. Anna

      The fact they asked you to apply to the program AFTER you were brought in for a try-out is weird to me. The way I’ve usually seen it work is that the Worksource/state employment office you’re working with let’s you know about the program, or the company is working with the employment office to recruit people in the program. If a company brought me in on a weird interview, brought me in on a “try-out” and THEN told me they want me to apply to this program, I would be suspicious.

  12. Landshark

    Any one of those things feels like a red flag. Together, you have a flashing red neon banner screaming “Run!”

  13. fishy

    It doesn’t matter how good the pay is supposed to be if there’s a good chance they might not pay you at all (see: multiple complaints about bounced checks).

  14. CAA

    I know you want to find another job in this field later on, but if this company is known in your area for having shady hiring and employment practices, then the experience may not help you that much in the future.

  15. Chrissy

    I appreciate everyone’s comments and advice. I’ve only one full time job before which was in a very different field. I thought this seemed weird but I’m not experienced enough to know how different industries opperate.

    I have a part time job now and I’m going to stick with that and keep looking for something else.

    1. Observer

      That’s your best bet.

      And, I agree with the others, you may want to report this. It sounds like what they are doing is, at best, quite shady.

  16. Lawyerette in Canada

    Ugh, DO NOT TAKE IT. My BF got one of those jobs when he was just out of college. They basically asked him to straight-up lie so he could get a government program to pay for half his income (but only told him after he had accepted the position). All the other employees apparently were part of this scheme. He refused. They did not pay him (at all) for the two months he worked there. He finally quit and complained to our local labour board, and what do you know, they eventually sent him a cheque worth two months’ salary. I still cannot believe companies get away with this.

  17. Suzanne

    Several years ago, my daughter had to take a day off at her really horrible job to do a day trial as a receptionist. (She was desperate for a new job after she came to work & found the boss’s bra & panties on the copier) Seriously. A day trial for being a receptionist. She got a much better offer elsewhere & did not take that job and when she turned them down, the HR woman was very rude to her. She’s thankful to this day that she turned them down.

    So, don’t take the job. Sounds bad. If they are that screwy in the interview phase, it can only get worse.

    1. Observer

      I can see why your daughter was desperate enough to do the trial, though. That’s sounds like some insane place!

  18. Megan

    Not sure if it’s been covered, but I read it as they wanted you to sign up for the program so that they only had to pay half your income, and the other half would be paid by whatever this program was. Not sure?

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