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.
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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.’
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.
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.
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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.