Tips to never fall for a work-from-home scam again
- What is a work-from-home job scam?
- How do typical work-from-home scams work?
- Why do we fall victim to work-from-home scams so frequently?
- How scammers use our hopes and fears against us
- How to spot a work-from-home scam
- Steps to avoid falling victim to a work-from-home scam
- The latest work-from-home scams to avoid
- What to do if you’ve fallen into a work-from-home scam
Are you searching for a way to make an income to support your family by working from home?
Maybe you had a medical emergency or unexpected car repair that quickly depleted your hard-earned savings, so you’re looking for a way to replenish your bank account.
It’s also possible you’ve decided working from home is the best plan moving forward for yourself and your family, for whatever reason.
We know making ends meet is often stressful. Fortunately, many entry-level side gigs and part-time positions can be performed remotely and independently to best fit your schedule and availability.
Yet, like many jobs and positions, not every advertised remote job posting is legitimate. In this article, you’ll learn to spot the difference between a good opportunity for remote work and a fake job posting designed to rob you of your cash and, sometimes, your identity.
What is a work-from-home job scam?
There are hundreds of great reasons people choose to work from home, and when you first start looking, it can seem like the wild, wild west of opportunities. But it doesn’t take long to figure out that many shiny jobs are scams.
Work-from-home scams happen when fraudsters or scammers create fake job listings to steal applicants’ money or take advantage of them in some way.
Most work-from-home scams fall under one of the following three categories:
Financial scams: These scams typically come with associated fees, fake checks, or equipment purchases. For example, the fraudster tells you you must pay them a particular amount as a “sign-up” fee.
Identity theft scams: These scams aim to convince applicants to reveal their personally identifiable information on fake applications so scammers can steal their identities.
Manipulative scams: These scams are less common than the previous two but perhaps even more dangerous. Here, the scammer uses the applicant to perform illegal tasks (without the applicant realizing it).
As technology and online job applications become more popular, job scams continue to increase. According to the BBB Online Scams Report 2022, the number of online scams perpetrated online rose by 87% from 2015 to 2022.
Work-from-home job scams, with exceptional pay and/or benefits, usually sound too good to be true. Another scam warning is when you’re offered a job even though you lack the qualifications to perform the work.
If they offer to hire you even though you haven’t completed the typical steps to obtain a job — interviewing, submitting your resume, or making sure you’re set up with the equipment necessary to do the work — it could be a scam.
But don’t expect scammers to always wave these red flags. When it comes to looking credible, scammers have become very savvy and will create elaborate fronts to entice victims by conducting professional interviews and sending official-sounding offers of employment.
It’s up to you, the job seeker, to act as a detective, so you can separate a legitimate company from scammers. Once you know the telling signs, you can easily sort through scammers to find an actual company to work for.
How do typical work-from-home scams work?
Work-from-home scams usually work as follows:
The scammer posts a fake job listing, often on a legitimate job site such as LinkedIn. The job almost always involves simple labor or easy office work and looks too good to be true.
After the victim contacts them, the scammer asks to conduct a “quick” interview with them over a messaging service such as WhatsApp. They usually prefer text or voice interviews and avoid showing their face.
The victim gets “hired” on the spot or shortly after the interview (sometimes without even having the necessary skills or to supply a CV).
The scammer asks the victim to provide sensitive information, pay a “joining fee,” or do something illegal (something that, as mentioned earlier, the victim might not know is illegal).
As soon as the victim realizes it’s a scam, the scammer cuts off all contact.
And sometimes, these scammers will message you without you even applying for a job. In these messages, they’ll introduce themselves (with a fake name) and tell you about a great work opportunity.
It’s best to simply ignore these messages completely or to respond “not interested” and then block their number.
Why do we fall victim to work-from-home scams so frequently?
It should come as no surprise that, as human beings, we like to feel good. What’s something that makes us quickly feel happy and hopeful?
The prospect of landing a work-from-home job that pays well, includes benefits, and requires little to no effort on our part. Yes, we love to feel happy, but we can be pretty lazy when it comes to making it happen.
So when the opportunity for such great fortune crosses our paths, we’re quick to react with hope and eagerness.
How scammers use our hopes and fears against us
Scammers know how eager we are to find a good job, especially one where we can work from the comfort and convenience of home.
When we show our desperation, they know we’re on the hook, and all they have to do is reel us in. Unfortunately, the 2020 pandemic made us even easier to target.
In 2023, working from home has become of crucial importance for employment decisions.
In other words, many employees will largely base their decision to work for a company on whether the company will allow them to work remotely.
Unfortunately, this creates opportunities for scammers to target people looking for remote or hybrid work.
How to spot a work-from-home scam
Sometimes our gut will warn us of a work-from-home scam, but we find our hearts wrestling with our better judgment because we want what the scammers are promising. Trust your gut until you can prove it wrong.
Here’s a list of obvious warning signs:
1. The scammer asks for personal information and/or financial information right away
Never give anyone your personal information like a social security number, address, credit card info, or bank information until you know they’re legitimate.
If you agree to work with them, asking for payment through a third party like PayPal or Stripe is acceptable until you feel comfortable doing business with them.
2. The scammer wants to hire you even if you don’t have the skills they listed
Not to be a downer, but companies typically have hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants for each position. If you applied but obviously didn’t meet their hiring criteria, and they quickly offered you the job, take a step back and do some digging.
This is a highly unusual practice for any company unless you have a contact within the business who gave their recommendation to hire you.
3. The scammer promises quick earning potential
If it sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s probably a scam. For example, many scams claim you could make hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a few hours’ work. Be wary of these promises. Remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. The scammer promises great pay for minimal work
Companies never give away money for nothing in return. If they say they do, they’re probably not legit. You can avoid falling into this trap by researching the average salary or hourly wage of a similar position on sites like Payscale.
For example, as of June 2023, call center agents in the US earn an average hourly rate of $14.51.
So, if the company offers you far more than that, that could be a sign of a scam.
5. You can’t find any information about the company online
If the only information you find online is what they’ve provided to you, be wary. Very few companies can operate successfully without an online profile, standard business email addresses, reviews, or news of some kind.
6. The scammer doesn’t provide additional information when you ask for it
If your questions go unanswered or get lost in a flurry of responses, don’t let it go. Keep asking until you get a satisfactory answer.
7. Communication is thin and patchy
This is another way scammers avoid too many questions. They play hard to get, so when you hear from them, you assume that’s all you’ll get and won’t expect better communication.
8. The scammer wants money from you to secure the job
Never agree to pay a business to hire you or train you. If they offer to send you money without any work from you in return, don’t accept!
Sometimes, scammers will send you a check or a wire transfer and ask you to send them money in return, but the original payment they sent bounces and doesn’t clear, leaving your account depleted.
9. There are grammar and spelling errors in the job posting
Companies usually have people they pay to write professional-sounding job listings. If the description sounds unprofessional or poorly written, it might be a scam.
10. The scammer uses an unprofessional email address
Scammers sometimes use unprofessional email addresses. You can easily spot this by looking at the address’s format. Professional email addresses usually end with “.com,” “.io,” “.ca,” etc.
For example, a company email will look like this:
Whereas a personal or unprofessional email will look like this:
11. A second contact can’t confirm the offer’s legitimacy
If you’re suspicious that you’re the target of a scam, you could try to contact someone else at the company the original contact claims to work for.
Legitimate companies will often have the email addresses of several of their employees on the “About” page of their website. Use these addresses to try contacting one or more of these individuals.
You could also try calling the company using the number found on its website.
12. Part of the job involves getting other people to join the company
Sometimes, work-from-home job scams will require you to “recruit” other people as part of your job.
For instance, you may be asked to bring in more members on the premise that you’ll get paid for doing so — but you won’t have an actual salary.
This is known as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme.
Steps to avoid falling victim to a work-from-home scam
Here are five steps you can take to avoid falling for work-from-home job scams:
1. Do an online search to learn as much as possible about the company
You can also search for the contact person you’re working with. Look them up on LinkedIn, too. Most professionals have a social media footprint.
2. Do a specific online search of the business’s history
Enter the company name or a contact’s email address into a search engine and add “scam” or “complaint” to find reports of bad business practices.
3. Ensure the company website functions properly
If they provide a website, click the links throughout the site to make sure they function — they may have a great-looking site, but none of the links work.
Even if the links do work, it’s not hard to create a professional-looking website. There are online tools available to discover the age of a website which helps identify scam sites.
4. Check with the Better Business Bureau
Search the Better Business Bureau site and use their BBB ScamTracker.
Use the name of the company and any contacts within the company. Scammers often get busted using one name, and a new name pops up with the same scam.
5. Avoid clicking unknown links
Don’t click unknown links sent to you through email or via text for work-from-home opportunities, especially if you didn’t request information.
The latest work-from-home scams to avoid
Here are some of the latest work-from-home job scams you need to look out for:
These types of scams often occur during the holidays, when many packages are being shipped. Your “job” is to receive the items, inspect the goods, and ship them to the “buyer.”
However, if the scammer illegally purchased the goods, such as with a stolen credit card, this would make you an accomplice to a crime.
“Start your ow`n business from home” scams
This type of scam usually involves a fake business coach or recruiter who asks you to buy educational materials (which you’ll never get) or sell stolen goods.
While many people start online businesses, there’s no “easy” road to success. So if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Though there are legitimate survey jobs, survey scams usually require the participants to provide personal or financial information that a typical job doesn’t require.
Envelope stuffing scams
This type of scam is a pyramid scheme that requires you to pay upfront to join. You must then send solicitation mail to get others to join the scheme.
Virtual assistant scams
These scams typically involve a potential employer that needs an assistant to buy something for them. The scammer sends money to the assistant and requires them to return some of it via a different payment method. Then, the original payment will bounce — leaving the victim with missing funds.
What to do if you’ve fallen into a work-from-home scam
Here are four potential actions you can take if you are a victim of a work-from-home job scam:
1. Call your financial institution
If you’ve given away any financial account information, call your financial institution immediately and tell them what happened. They may be able to cancel charges to your account, or they may have to close your account and open a new one.
2. Contact law enforcement
Contact local law enforcement to report the crime if you’ve given them money. Even if you didn’t lose money, you should alert the proper authorities.
3. Contact the credit bureaus
Notify the credit bureaus so they can freeze your credit report.
4. Contact the Better Business Bureau
Notify the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Find legitimate work-from-home jobs with Jobcase
Even though the job-hunting landscape seems riddled with work-from-home scams, there are still thousands of real opportunities and legitimate employers hiring remote workers.
You can protect yourself while looking through job opportunities by taking a step back and not letting your hopes and dreams of the ultimate online job carry you away. Think realistically.
You’re looking for work, not gifts from strangers. Before you start looking online, network with friends, acquaintances, and family to learn about legitimate work-from-home jobs.
If you do look online for work-from-home jobs, start by looking for work on reputable job boards. Job boards will help screen out scammers and will often provide ratings and reviews for the company you’re researching.
Research companies before applying. You won’t fall for scammy opportunities when you know as much as possible about a legitimate employer.
Enter the hiring process with caution, and make sure it follows expected procedures. Don’t be too eager to enter into an offer of employment without doing a little digging to learn about the company.
Never give anyone your personal or financial information until you are certain they are a legitimate company. While it’s possible to undo the damage this causes, it’s typically not quick or easy.
Avoid scams and start looking for real opportunities and work-from-home jobs right now with Jobcase. You can also read our guide on finding a remote job to help you find a work-from-home job — one that’s not a scam — quicker.
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The scammers called me stating they found my resume online. That's possibly true! They identified with a well-known company which is all over the USA and in my city. What was an immediate red-flag was the general interview, the second red-flag was a package was supposedly sent to me from HR with employment documents, etc., but of course, it did not come the next morning so I called the home office immediately the next day and found out immediately this scam was years old. The scammers contacted me soon thereafter, and I told them GAME OVER. It never felt right.
I am looking for a part time WFH job making my own hours or with flexible hours. I have a full time job now and I am disabled. Need to make extra money to pay for my caregivers. Any help would be appreciated.
I am in search of work from home job, if you can help me find one , will be appreciated.
Thank you for sharing!!
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I would love to work from home both of my sisters are working from home and always talk about the benefits....you can save money on gas, eating out, travel time and you can still interact with coworkers via zoom.
Carol Hart Thank you for your information. I learn a lot! I will apply my knowledge!
Work from home but how do you find the ones who supply the equipment used to do the job?