How To Avoid Work-From-Home Job Scams
The ubiquity of the internet and the rapid growth of the digital economy have created a world where you don’t need to commute to the office every day for you to earn an income.
Today, you can remain at home and still do the same work you would have done at the office, and a lot of people have been quick to take advantage of this ability to work from home.
According to a compilation of data done by FlexJobs, about 4.7 million people in the United States (3.4% of the population) work remotely today, up from about 3.9 million five years ago.
These numbers are from the period before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, and considering that the measures taken to control the spread of the virus have led to an increase in the number of people working from home, you can expect that the numbers are even higher today than they were before the pandemic.
Working from home has several benefits, including reduced commute time, savings on fuel/transport and meals at the office, greater control over your schedule, lack of office distractions, a custom work environment, increased work-life balance, greater productivity, not having to deal with office politics, proximity to family, and so on.
Owing to these benefits, a lot of people today are looking for opportunities that allow them to work from home. Unfortunately, this increased demand for work-from-home opportunities has also led to an increase in the number of work-from-home job scams.
Work-from-home job scams are con games that are meant to dupe desperate job seekers into thinking that they are getting a legitimate employment opportunity, while in real sense, the people behind the scam are simply trying to steal the job seeker’s money or personal information.
Work-from-home scams come in many forms: paid online surveys, envelope stuffing, mystery shopping, multi-level marketing opportunities, payment processing, data entry jobs, and so on.
The problem with these work-from home scams is that many of them mimic legitimate job opportunities. For instance, there are many legitimate paid online surveys or data entry jobs available online.
However, there are equally as many fraudulent paid online surveys and data entry jobs.
To ensure that you do not end up falling victim to these work-from-home scams and lose your money and probably have to deal with identity theft, below are some tips that will help you avoid work-from-home scams.
KNOW THE TELL-TALE SIGNS OF A WORK FROM HOME JOB SCAM
The first and most effective strategy for protecting yourself from work-from-home job scams is to know how to identify a scam from the get-go.
While scammers keep changing their tactics from time to time, there are still some common warning signs that are present in most work from home job scams. These include:
- Promises of overnight riches: Scammers prey on people’s emotions to make them suspend rational thinking and fall victim to their scams. They know that everyone wants to get rich, which is why many work-from-home scams promise quick riches. However, getting rich takes time and requires lots of hard work. If an opportunity promises you quick riches for little work, it is most probably a scam.
- Upfront requests for money: The aim of many scammers is to steal some money from you. Therefore, most will be quick to ask you to send money in order to qualify for the opportunity. The money might be disguised as training fees, money required to purchase software that will make it possible for you to work remotely, and so on. However, legitimate opportunities don’t charge for training or ask you to send them money to purchase software that is crucial to the job. If your prospective employer is asking you to pay some money upfront, run and don’t look back.
- Exaggerated claims about potential for passive income: In the last couple of years, people have become wildly obsessed with building passive income streams, and scammers are taking advantage of this by promising people opportunities to make tons of money passively. However, here’s the thing. Most passive sources of income have a very modest rate of return. You cannot expect to make hundreds of thousands passively within a few months from an investment worth just a few dollars. Therefore, if an opportunity has wild claims about the potential for passive income, or if it is full of testimonials from several other people who supposedly went from rags to riches within a few months, you are definitely dealing with a scammer.
- Shallow job description: Scammers posting work-from-home job scams do not actually have any job opportunity, and therefore, the job descriptions for many of these scams are quite shallow. Instead of focusing on what the job entails, the job description will focus on what you stand to gain (quick riches), or how easy it is for you to get the job.
- Asking for financial information: Since the scammers are only interested in swindling you out of your money, they might ask for personal financial information – such as your bank account details, your social security number, your date of birth, and your phone number – during the early stages of the interview process. If you notice that requests for certain information look suspicious, you’re better off ignoring that opportunity.
- You don’t speak with a real person: Scammers know they are committing a crime, and therefore, they will be reluctant about revealing their identities. This means that most of the interaction between you and them will be done through email. They will be very reluctant to conduct a video interview or do anything that would reveal their real identity. While not every interview being conducted solely on email is a scam, if you feel like the interviewer is going to great lengths to hide their identity, you are very possibly dealing with a scammer.
- There’s little information about the company: You find this amazing work-from-home opportunity from some supposedly big company, but when you search online, you cannot find any information about the company, or if there’s any information, it’s very little. The company has no website, there are no articles about the company, it is not on LinkedIn, and you cannot find anyone who seems to work there. If you are having trouble finding information about the company online, this is because the company probably doesn’t exist, which means you are dealing with a scam.
- Poorly written job description: Actual companies will want to appear professional, and therefore, their job posts will be professionally written. Scammers, on the other hand, are not very concerned with professionalism. They only want to post their scams and dupe as many people as they can. Some are even run by people from other countries who may not be native English speakers. This means that many of these job posts by scammers will have lots of spelling mistakes and glaring grammatical errors.
- Personal contact information: Sometimes, in an attempt to dupe you, scammers will pretend to be people from a company you already trust. However, since they don’t have access to the company’s systems, they will ask you to get in touch with them through personal channels. For instance, a scammer might post a work-from-home job from a company like Slack or Microsoft, but then ask you to email them on their Gmail address. This is a clear sign that the person behind the job post is not from the company they are pretending to be from.
- The job requires you to recruit other people: This is very common with a lot of work-from-home scams. You come across an opportunity that promises you good a good income, but then for you to actually make money, you have to recruit other people and have them pay the sign-up fees. If an opportunity requires you to recruit other people in order to make money, this means they are just a pyramid scheme without any real products. Such schemes are sustained by the sign up fees paid by new members, and once they get to a certain number, they will inevitably collapse.
RESEARCH THE COMPANY
Before interviewing for any position, it is important to research the company in preparation for the job interview. Researching the company is even more important when it comes to work-from-home opportunities.
However, in this case, the aim of your research is to first and foremost find out if the company exists and if it is legitimate. Search for the company on online review sites and find out if there are any complaints against the company.
If you realize that the company doesn’t have an online presence, that’s a bad sign.
Remember, any company that allows you to work remotely (over the internet) will definitely have an online presence.
However, even if the said company has an online presence, but then you notice lots of complaints against the company on review sites, this is another indicator that the job is a scam.
AVOID JOB OPPORTUNITIES FROM UNSOLICITED EMAILS AND SEARCH ENGINE ADS
At a time when unemployment levels are high, recruiters often receive hundreds of applications from interested candidates.
With so many applicants per opening, most companies do not find it necessary to pay for ads and send unsolicited emails to attract applicants.
Scammers, on the other hand, are trying to reach and dupe as many people as they can. Therefore, if you come across work-from-home opportunities being advertised on search engines or as unsolicited emails, your scam-detector should go off immediately.
To avoid falling for these scams, only search for work-from-home jobs on trusted channels, such as legitimate job boards and job search engines. Note, however, that some scammers might also have penetrated some of these channels.
The best way to confirm the legitimacy of such jobs is to check whether the job is listed on the company’s website or social profiles.
For instance, if you come across a work-from-home opportunity from a certain company on search engine ads, unsolicited email, or even trusted job boards, but then realize that the same opening has not been posted on the company’s website or official social media pages, there is a high chance that the job is a scam.
Either ignore the job post, or reach out to the company through official channels to confirm the legitimacy of the job opening.
NEVER PAY ANY MONEY UPFRONT
We already saw that one of the main tell-tale signs of a work-from-home scam is being asked to pay some money upfront.
Regardless of how the upfront-fee is presented (training fee, processing fee, application fee, start-up costs for a business, etc.), do not make any up-front payment to a company in exchange for the promise of getting to work for the company or making money in some other way.
DON’T GET PRESSURED INTO MAKING A DECISION
Many of these scammers know that given enough time, you will uncover that their work-from-home opportunity is a scam. Therefore, they will try as much as possible to get you to act quickly.
In addition to making a lot of promises about making tons of money, they will also claim that the opportunity is only available for a short period of time.
Their hope is that the hope for quick riches, plus the pressure of a closing window of opportunity will pressure you into taking action quickly without taking time to think about any warning signs that you are being scammed.
The truth is that any company with a legitimate work-from-home opportunity will not pressure people to make a quick decision.
If the opportunity is legitimate, there are probably lots of people interested in the opportunity, and therefore, there would be no reason for them to pressure anyone into taking the opportunity. If you feel like you are being pressured to make a decision, it is best to forego the opportunity altogether.
CHECK THE JOB LISTING URL
Scammers will try as much as much as possible to convince you that their bogus work-from-home opportunity is legitimate, and sometimes, this means that they will impersonate a brand or company that you trust.
Some will even go ahead and create websites that are identical to those of the company they are impersonating.
The only problem for the scammers is that they cannot use the URL of the real company website. However, their problem is your lucky break.
If you suspect for some reason that the work-from-home opportunity you are considering is fraudulent, the best course of action is to examine the URL provided in the job post.
Is the URL the same as that of the company’s main website? For instance, if the company’s main website is www.company.com, but the link provided in the job post is www.company.jobs.com, then this is a red flag.
To avoid falling prey to such tactics, you should avoid clicking on links in job posts from non-reputable sites. Instead of clicking on the link in the job post, search for the company on Google, navigate to their main website, and then navigate from there to their careers page and check whether the job opening is posted there. If not, you are dealing with a scam.
Another easy way to identify such scams is to copy the URL provided in the job post and search it on Google, with quotation marks on either side of the URL.
For instance, if the URL is www.company.jobs.com, type “www.company.jobs.com” in the search bar and hit search. This will help you find any articles related to that URL, and if the website is involved in scams, you will probably find some warnings about the URL.
EXAMINE THE JOB DESCRIPTION THOROUGHLY
We already saw that a poorly written job description, or a job description that appears shallow are some of the tell-tale signs of a work-from-home scam.
Therefore, before sending your application to the enticing work-from-home job you just came across, take some time to scrutinize the job description and check whether it looks and sounds legitimate. Is the job description full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? Does the job description provide a good breakdown of the tasks and responsibilities, or does it only focus on the huge amounts of money you will supposedly make?
If the answer to one of these questions is yes, don’t go ahead with your application.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
If you are still suspicious about the position, now is the time to confirm or allay your fears by asking the right questions.
Of course, you have to do this tactfully so that you do not end up antagonizing the interviewer, only to find out that the position was actually legitimate.
A good way to evaluate the legitimacy of the company is to find out how it makes money. For instance, during the interview, you could ask something like, “What are top revenue streams for the company?”
The answer given by the interviewer can help you figure out whether the company is legitimate or if you are being taken for a ride.
You can also ask about things like the company’s headquarters and so on. You can then use this information to find out whether the company actually exists.
AVOID ANYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER SIGNING UP FOR
Did you just receive an update about an open work-from-home position in your email, yet you do not remember signing up for any job updates? Did you receive a job offer, yet you do not remember sending any application?
If the answer is yes, you are most likely dealing with a scammer.
Legitimate companies will never reach out to you with job offers if you did not initiate the interaction. Anyone doing that is a scammer trying to harvest your information. If you come across such an email, ignore it, and most importantly, do not click on anything contained in the email.
CHECK THE OPPORTUNITY ON BETTER BUREAU SCAM TRACKER
If you come across a work-from-home opportunity you think might be a scam, you are probably not the first one to encounter it.
The good folks at Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker keep track of most job scams, and if you feel that a work-from-home opportunity seems suspicious, you can head over to the website and enter the keywords related to the opportunity to see whether it has been determined to be a scam. You can also read about other common job scams on the website.
Even if the work-from-home opportunity you are suspicious about has not been listed on the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker yet, you can tell them about it and leave them to investigate and determine whether it is a scam or not.
USE YOUR COMMON SENSE
We might try and cover as many ways of identifying and protecting yourself from work-from-home scams, but we cannot possibly cover them all since scammers are constantly inventing new ways of duping unsuspecting job seekers looking for work from home opportunities. Therefore, protecting yourself ultimately boils down to using your common sense.
If a job opportunity promises you that you will get rich within a few months working on your phone for just a few hours every week, you are probably being taken for a ride.
If you cannot figure out how the company promising you a work-from-home opportunity makes money, you are probably being taken for a spin.
If a company offering work-from-home opportunities appears to be trying too hard to convince you that it is legitimate, that’s probably because it is not.
If a company is trying too hard to convince you to take up its work-from-home opportunities, this is probably because the people behind the company are trying to scam you. At a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, no company will beg you to work for them.
Basically, if something about a work-from-home opportunity doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t, and therefore, you should at least spend more time doing some investigations before you end up the hapless victim of a work-from-home scam.
With demand for work-from-home opportunities increasing, it is inevitable that work-from-home scams will also keep increasing.
If you are a job-seeker looking for opportunities that allow you to work remotely, or if you are simply trying to find something to supplement your main income, the tips provided in this article will help you protect yourself from these work-from-home scams.
Ultimately, however, the best way to protect yourself is to always be on your guard and to always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
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