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How to Avoid and Identify Work From Home Scams & Find Real Remote Work

— August 21, 2020

It’s common to see jobs for stuffing envelopes or taking paid surveys. The pay is low or non-existent and often involves hiring other people.

Work from home scams offer jobs that are too good to be true, often with dire consequences.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused many Americans to be out of work and struggling to find employment opportunities. Now more than ever work from home jobs seem like the perfect solution, allowing people to stay home while earning a paycheck.

Data compiled by FlexJobs shows that in early 2020, 4.7 million Americans worked from home on a full-time basis. That’s an increase of 3.9 million jobs since 2015. Many employers prefer remote workers as it eliminates the expense of renting office space or running a brick and mortar location. Additionally, it allows employers and employees to work from anywhere. Many other individuals have developed home businesses or operate as “solopreneurs” or subcontractors for established companies. No matter what your industry the trend in remote work over the last few years offers freedom for the worker and eliminates the hassle of commuting.

What is a Work From Home Scam?

A work from home scam offers a job that can be performed at home or from any remote location. Legitimate work from home opportunities exist; however, work from home scams outweigh the real possibilities of making a living from home.

A "work from home" sign hanging in public.
Example of marketing for a pyramid business. Public domain photo by Hellno2, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The end goal of the scam is to take money from unsuspecting or desperate job seekers. Some scammers phish for information such as their victim’s social security number, bank account, or credit card numbers. Other variations of this scam are designed to coax the victim into signing up for subscription services that are impossible to cancel or paying large amounts of money up-front for low-quality or non-existent products.

Many scams fall into one of two categories:

  1. Manual labor and menial tasks.
  2. It’s common to see jobs for stuffing envelopes or taking paid surveys. The pay is low or non-existent and often involves hiring other people.
  3. Start your own business. The “proven program” usually entails sending money for a start-up kit or certification. The information provided by the company is fraudulent, useless, or worse it ends up being a MLM (multi-level marketing) operation, which often end up being pyramid schemes.

How to Identify a Work From Home Scam

Identifying a work from home scam isn’t always easy, but the following are red flags that a job may not be real or may even be illegal:

  • The company asks for money upfront for materials, training, software, or other expenses. In exchange, the worker will make an unrealistic return on the investment. The FTC warns that if a job opportunity “promises of a big income working from home, especially when the ‘opportunity’ involves an up-front fee or giving your credit card information, should make you very suspicious.”
  • All communication takes place over email or instant message. Even if the hiree speaks to a person on the phone, it may be a scam. Scammers can spoof phone numbers from real businesses or use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to create untraceable phone numbers. The Better Business Bureau says a job offer without an interview is a red flag.
  • The company uses a generic email account (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.), and the website seems poorly created or doesn’t exist.
  • The job offer is all fluff and gives no real information about the position or the company.
  • The company emphasizes the importance of you finding other recruits from your network to do the same job as what you’re interested in.
  • The company uses high pressure tactics and makes it seem like you’ll be losing out on an incredible opportunity if you don’t immediately take the job they’re offering.

Stay Alert

Scams affect us all in one way or another. Some fraudsters target specific age groups while others cast a wide net to see who will take the bait. Victims of scams may not report being tricked, especially if money is involved. Education and awareness prevent scammers from committing theft, whether its theft of money, time, services, or identity.

Work from home and remote job opportunities can offer freedom, security, and peace of mind. Choose carefully and happy hunting.

Please click here for the rest of the story, which includes tips on protecting yourself, what to do if you are scammed, and places to find legitimate remote work. Thank you to CallerSmart for permission to publish this excerpt from their guide.

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