If you’ve been looking for online jobs and other work-from-home opportunities, you’ve probably come across an online scam or three. While there is plenty of legitimate online work available, there are also plenty of unscrupulous individuals willing to take your money and give you nothing or very little in return.

In some cases, scammers protect themselves by operating out of protected countries like Cyprus. In other cases, the scammers create elaborate return/refund policies that require you to spend even more money before you can ask for your original investment back.

Over time, several common online scam ‘types’ have emerged. By learning how to spot certain work ‘opportunities’ as scams, you’ll be better able to protect yourself from becoming a victim. Here are the top 10 online work scams:

1. Envelope stuffing

Envelope stuffing is always, always and always a scam. Why? Because the method that it proposes for making money from home just doesn’t make sense. Envelope stuffing can be performed far more cheaply and quickly by automated robots. Also, mailing materials to your house, and then having them mailed back to the company, wastes a lot of money.

The envelope stuffing scam operates as follows: You apply to an envelope stuffing company and pay an application/processing/materials fee. The materials are sent to your house along with instructions for stuffing the envelopes. You follow the instructions and send the finished materials back to the company. Some time later, you are informed that your submitted materials did not meet company expectations for quality. Now, you’re out of the money spent on materials plus your time.

In an alternate scenario, you receive a letter that instructs you to send the same envelope stuffing ad you just answered to other hapless individuals. So, you’ll make money…but only after sucking other people into the same envelope stuffing scam.

2. Data entry

The term ‘data entry’ covers a broad range of online scams. In many cases, the scam involves posting affiliate links on ads that you create and then pay to run. So, the actual ‘data entry’ involves you writing PPC copy for Google, Amazon, Facebook and other platforms.

There is nothing simple or easy about writing PPC ad copy. Such copy, in order to be successful, must contain good keywords and calls-to-action (CTAs). Screw up either item and your cost-per-click could go through the roof.

Sometimes, the scammer already has the copy ready to go and is just looking for a sucker to run (i.e., pay for) the ads. You are provided with “copy and paste” copy that you then ‘paste’ into your own Google AdWords or other ads. You won’t make any money unless someone clicks on your ads and buys the item/system/service you are selling. Meanwhile, all those clicks have to be paid for by you.

To add insult to injury, you typically pay a fee for learning about this data entry work ‘opportunity.’

3. Craft assembly

There are work-at-home assembly scams that claim you can make good money at home by assembling crafts and other nick knacks. The scam begins when you pay for the kit, which includes craft-making supplies and instructions. After you’ve completed your craft project, you send the finished product back to the company for payment.

Unfortunately, no matter how well you follow the instructions and/or correct your initial mistakes, you never quite create the ideal craft that is accepted and paid for by the company. Falling ever short of perfection, you end up ordering and paying for more and more assembly kits, then paying to send the crafts back to the company, then learning that these crafts are also not ‘up to company standards.’ It’s a vicious cycle that robs you of your cash.

4. Type-at-home

This scam is frequently featured on roadways signs, by traffic lights, or on bulletin boards. You are promised to make hundreds of dollars by typing at home after you first call a phone number or go online.

Once you reach out to these scammers, you are told that you’ll need to purchase an info packet. That packet might cost $24.95, $39.99, or something in between. Once you receive your info packet, you learn that your ‘job’ involves posting signs, flyers and ads about that same type-at-home ‘job’ you just received to other unsuspecting individuals.

5. Medical billing

Scammers tout medical billing as a viable work-at-home job opportunity. For a few thousand dollars, you are provided with billing software, instructional videos/PDFs and workbooks. Some medical billing training systems even send you weeks’ worth of online instruction.

Unfortunately, what you don’t receive is information on clients or how to find them. Furthermore, medical billing is a competitive business filled with all kinds of federal regulations about patient privacy. Medical clinics either process their bills in-house or outsource to firms, not individual freelancers. Finally, the medical billing software that you are provided with will often not meet the specifications required by your potential clients.

6. “Homeworkers Needed!”

With this scam, you usually pay a few bucks to obtain a list of companies looking for telecommuters. So far, so good.

However, what you end up receiving is a generic list of companies that may or may not be hiring remote workers. Specific jobs aren’t provided, or if they are, they expired a long time ago. The web links go to the company’s main home page, not to any recent work-from-home job(s).

7. Email processing

Similar to envelope stuffing, this scam has you paying a small fee to learn how you can make “as much as $50 per email.” When you receive the information you requested, you learn that you’ll now be emailing provided lists of individuals with the same email processing scam you just signed up for.

Spamming people with emails will eventually result in your ISP being blocked from various mail servers, at which point you’ll have trouble using your email account for sending regular email.

8. “Call this number for more info.”

Scammers often ‘cloak’ a 1-900 phone number inside of a regular number and then ask that you call that regular number for more information about a work-at-home opportunity. When you do, you end up being charged several dollars per minute for your informational call.

Save yourself the headache of being charged exorbitant phone rates by never using your phone to listen to recorded information. Instead, learn about the work-at-home opportunity by going on the company’s website.

9. Pyramid schemes

Many work-at-home opportunities come in multi-level marketing (MLM) formats. In the MLM system, you act as a direct distributor of products to others. Another major source of your income is derived from member recruitment (i.e., your downline). In return for your efforts, you are compensated with shared commissions for each person who signs up under you, as well as any people who sign up under them.

When scams enter the MLM environment, they transform MLMs into pyramid schemes. The pyramid scheme is defined as having no true products, or token products only. Instead, its profits are derived solely from member recruitment. The real purpose of the pyramid scheme is to get as many individuals as possible to sign up and hand over their money. The pyramid scheme runs its course when new members fail to sign up, which collapses the system from beneath.

10. Chain letters and/or emails

This classic work-at-home scam is still ongoing. In its basic form, the scam letter or email asks you to put your name at the bottom of a list of names and send this updated list to 100 or more people. You are also asked to send money to one or several names at the top of the list. In doing so, you are promised to one day receive money from the people you’ve mailed or emailed.

Not only is this format illegal and could end with you being prosecuted for mail/email fraud, it just doesn’t work. Chain mail scams are rigged so that only the scammers make any money from the scam.

Work-at-home opportunities: Proceed with caution

When it comes to looking for and answering work-at-home job listings, you must exercise caution. If you need to pay money up-front for the opportunity, without even knowing what this opportunity entails, you should step back and review the program carefully. It’s always better to err on the side of caution than to find yourself out several hundred or even thousands of dollars, or in legal trouble over mail fraud.

Last Updated: January 17, 2017

Join the Discussion

  • Radiance2017
    Radiance2017
    Reply

    Hi Steve,

    I can relate to many of the scams you posted here, and have gone through some of them with plenty of regret. It’s helpful to know that I’m not the only one out there with these experiences, and that I didn’t just fail because I did it wrong. It seems like most of the “opportunities” out there are just ones that take your money and run. There isn’t much real help, and there is an awful lot of misguidance and falsification. Thanks for the heads up on many of these!

    Jini

    • Steve Razinski
      Steve RazinskiFounder

      Glad to help Jini! Your experiences are exactly why I started this site in the first place.

  • Anthony
    Anthony
    Reply

    Hey there,
    I think it’s very important to teach people and especially the older of us about online scams. Elderly scamming is a pandemic that could be prevented. I’m sure everybody’s grandma gave money to a Nigerian prince or a chain email. Thanks for the advice, I’m sure everybody should send this to their grandparents.

    • Steve Razinski
      Steve RazinskiFounder

      I agree entirely Anthony. There are too many people out there willing to take advantage of not only the elderly, but people down on their luck as well. They target the most vulnerable and it’s absolutely despicable.

  • Wying
    Wying
    Reply

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for sharing about all the scammers in the article.
    The points that you mentioned reminds me about my days back when I has no idea about make money online and was looking one that can make my wish come true.
    I have been fell into almost all the hypes you are mentioning until I realize that there is nothing I can gain if I never put my effort and focus on earning genuinely.
    So I decided to build a genuine website and create quality content that can benefits my reader.
    I am still on my way to be success in this industry and I will make come through!

    • Steve Razinski
      Steve RazinskiFounder

      That’s the big thing Wying. Everyone expects the Internet to be some sort of magical ATM where you can withdraw loads of money without having to put any effort in and the scammers capitalize on this belief. That’s why I started this site. I wanted to help protect others.

  • Ryan
    Ryan
    Reply

    What amazes me is the fact that the scam artists are always the easiest to find and it’s so easy to prey on people’s dream of getting rich quick.
    Do they just market better or is it people’s gullibility that makes businesses like this gain traffic?
    Sending money to receive the opportunity to earn money just sounds shady and always needs to be checked, checked and double checked, wouldn’t you agree?

    • Steve Razinski
      Steve RazinskiFounder

      It’s all in the marketing. They typically target people who can’t afford to lose any money to begin with so they have an audience that is desperate and then they hype up their futures with delusions of fame and fortune that by the time they hit the end of the promotional video, their wallets are already out.

      I don’t see anything wrong with paying to receive PROPER training on how to make money online. Keyword there is proper. You wouldn’t fault a cooking school for charging students for lessons on how to become a chef. The issue is hyping up this industry into something it’s not just to rip people off.

  • MattyB
    MattyB
    Reply

    Oh boy, we should all know about SCAMS. So many scams online that it makes me sick. Thank you for this Post and providing your efforts with this site to expose the nasty people who try to make money off unsuspecting people who are innocent.
    I do have one major question. Are any of the 10 work at home “offers” legit? Meaning are there any typing at home data entry jobs that are real and you can make money from? Or, is it simply that most are scams? What is your business at home work you are offering? Thanks – Mb>

    • Steve Razinski
      Steve RazinskiFounder

      The only real position listed above is Data Entry and it is absolutely nothing like what is advertised online. Typically, you will work for $8-$10 per hour in an office setting. Very few companies hire at home employees for data entry and they certainly do not pay the ludicrious amounts you see advertised online.

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