Anyone who has tried to find a job online has no doubt come across hundreds of work-at-home scams.
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Does this crap look familiar?
You’ve probably seen similar headlines at some point in your search for work-from-home jobs.
Easy money, little pay, no experience, millions of dollars.
Sure, it sounds great. But it’s actually just an attempt to rob you of your cash.
Today, we explore work-at-home scams that are just waiting to trap you and we’ll give you some tips on how to spot a scam so you can avoid them.
How Do Work at Home Scam Artists Operate?
Here’s how the typical scam works.
Scammers either post a work-at-home job opportunity or cold contact people through emails or phone calls from illegally obtained contact lists to offer these job opportunities.
When you look at these job posts, they may seem like any other ordinary job post.
But when you answer these ads, take their cold call, or click a link in their unsolicited email, they’ll try to trick you into paying for something that’s free, making regular payments without getting anything in return, handing over your financial and personal details so they can drain your bank accounts and rack up charges on your credit card, or clicking a link that leads to a malicious site that steals your information for them to use or sell.
However they do it, the ultimate goal is to steal as much money from you as they possibly can.
How To Spot Work At Home Scams
Victims of scams should never be blamed for being scammed.
But we can avoid being victims ourselves by being more vigilant and scrutinizing opportunities instead of taking them at face value.
Here are some things to watch out for when you’re considering a work at home opportunity.
The job offer seems too good to be true.
Sometimes, your gut instinct will be enough to set off alarm bells.
If it feels like a scam, it probably is.
For instance, you may see ads for jobs that pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month to do very little work, such as placing flyers inside envelopes.
No legitimate company will do that. It just doesn’t happen.
You have to pay to work.
Some legitimate job boards do charge membership fees for you to start applying to companies that have listings with them.
What I’m referring to is different, though.
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When a company you’d be working for directly needs you to pay some amount upfront by giving them your credit card information before you can start working, that’s not a good sign.
Employers are supposed to pay you, not the other way around.
There’s little information about the company or it doesn’t seem to exist.
Legitimate companies nowadays have an online presence. Even small businesses know that you have to have at least a website to harness online marketing.
So if you do a simple Google search for the company who posted the job or who contacted you, and you can’t find a website or a social media page, that is a huge red flag.
If you do find a website, but it has very little information on what they do, who the employees are, or even where their headquarters are, it’s a pretty good sign that they’re running a work-at-home scam.
Negative reviews exist on the internet.
Other people who have experienced work at home scams from a company will probably post their experiences on the internet to warn others.
When you research the company, you’ll probably find these negative reviews. Read through them carefully to know if applying or taking the job is a waste of time.
The contact information doesn’t feel right.
You can actually look up the number you’re given to call or where you receive phone calls from on online services such as ShouldIAnswer and check whether they’re listed to the company.
If they say they’re based in California but you see that the number they’re calling from is a mobile number or it’s not a California phone number, that’s a big sign that they’re scamming you.
Similarly, if you receive emails from generic email addresses that end in gmail[dot]com, hotmail[dot]com, yahoo[dot]com, or aol[dot]com, it’s a likely scam.
Their communication skills are poor.
Emails from legitimate companies are generally well-composed, with a professional tone, very few (if any) typos, proper grammar, and correct punctuation.
If you receive emails that have plenty of misspelled words, weird grammar, punctuation not properly placed (for instance, spaces before periods and commas, semi-colons where they’re not supposed to be, etc.), it’s quite possible this is a scam.
11 Most Common Work at Home Scams Today
1. MLMs That Are Actually Pyramid Schemes
Multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses aren’t all scams.
Companies like Amway, Avon, and Herbalife are all legitimate MLM businesses.
However, MLM businesses that become pyramid schemes are one of the oldest work from home scams you can find online.
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If the MLM company earns mostly from sold products or services, it can be a legit MLM company.
This doesn’t matter if the products being sold seem useless, are questionably priced, or if the company engages in deceptive sales practices.
MLM companies become a pyramid scam if the revenue stream comes from membership fees of new members/sellers.
Even legitimate MLM companies will give you a bonus when you recruit new members. However, if it seems like the company’s earnings are only coming from recruiting other people, you’re in trouble.
Pyramid schemes are those that push you to recruit more people into the company instead of emphasizing the benefits of their products and training you on how to sell them.
2. Link Posting Jobs
Link posting isn’t a real job, but scammers would like job seekers to believe that it is.
Link posting used to be part of a comprehensive internet marketing plan.
In the world of SEO and IM, backlinking used to help bring one website higher in the search engine results.
In theory, when multiple links of the same URL are posted across a wide range of sites, Google and other search engines would deem that website most relevant to a particular search term.
Another way scammers define link posting is as a tool for affiliate marketing.
With affiliate marketing, you post links to products in hopes of getting a commission whenever a buyer clicks on that link.
It’s a totally legitimate business model and the commissions are real.
However, the way link posting “companies” guarantee payment (when it is impossible to do so), or compute compensation (when you have no control of what links other people would click or not click) are bogus.
Worse, link posting “companies” charge unsuspecting job seekers for “training,” which almost always turns out to be outdated training in affiliate marketing or link building.
Some companies are relentless, though; once they get your email and phone number, they’ll spam you, hoping to get you to pay even more for higher-level training and squeezing even more money from you.
3. Fake Job Agencies
This one can have so many variations, such as agencies for government, military, or nursing jobs.
What they all have in common is that you’ll get contacted by an “agency” or a “recruiter” telling you you’re eligible for a job.
The “agency” then asks you to pay a fee supposedly for admin fees, registration fees, or a guarantee to actually land a position.
Moreover, they’ll ask you to fill out an agency form with all details a reputable agency might ask for, including your financial and personal information, even your social security number. They’ll also ask for a copy of your ID and qualifications.
Once they have that information, they can empty out your bank account, apply for loans and credit cards in your name, and sell your information when they’re done with you.
While looking for work from home jobs seem overwhelming (the web is a massive place), know that you can apply for an online job, get interviewed and hired without paying a cent.
Also, make sure you’re talking to a job agency or recruiter that is legitimate. When in doubt, ask to meet them in person.
Lastly, never respond to unsolicited calls or emails from a job agency you never applied to.
4. Check Cashing Scams
No legitimate company will ever ask you to accept payments on their behalf. End of story.
I bet you received a version of the Nigerian check-cashing scheme via e-mail in the last 10 years.
Or maybe you’ve heard of or received an offer for what turned out to be a car wrap scam.
If so, check-cashing jobs would be very familiar to you.
“Check-cashing scam” is a wide-ranging label and has a ton of variations, but they work the same way. In its oldest form, the scammer pays the victim a bad check.
This is how work from home scams through check-cashing actually work:
- Jobseekers are sent the checks that will be used to pay for a product or service.
- Victims are instructed to deposit the check into their own banks, keep a portion of the “money” and send back the change via wire transfer to the scammers. The check will bounce after it has been deposited because it’s fake.
- Victims not only lose the money that they sent via wire transfer but also have to repay the bank once the check bounces.
Be very afraid of this scam.
It can actually land you in jail.
5. Package Forwarding or Reshipping Job Scams
Here’s another work from home scam that may actually make the job seekers who fall for them become convicted felons.
It has many names: package forwarding, reshipping, package processing, and postal forwarding. The scam is presented as a job offer and is usually done around the Christmas season as there are plenty of packages being sent during this time.
Those willing to do the “job” receive packages, which they will repackage and then send to another location (usually a foreign country).
Okay, doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
- Victims pay shipping charges out of their own pockets.
- Scammers pay victims with a fake check with a huge amount as reimbursement for the shipping fee and compensation for a job well done.
- Once the paycheck bounces, they must repay the bank (or face fraud charges).
- On top of it all, the products have been bought and paid for using stolen credit cards.
Basically, you’ve accepted goods purchased with a stolen credit card and identity, and then you shipped them overseas to an anonymous scammer.
Victims of these work from home scams can be criminally liable, especially if they forwarded packages abroad and lied on U.S. Customs Service forms.
6. Social Media Job Scams
The premise of social media job scams is simple:
Anyone with a phone who could spend x amount of time posting, liking, or commenting on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media platform can make $300, $500, $900 per day online.
Here’s the catch: you have to sign up for a scam company’s “system” or “program” that comes with a monthly fee to be able to start earning.
7. Handicraft Work Scams
Handicraft work scams have been around for years but continue to victimize people from around the world. Here’s how it works:
- Scammers advertise their need for workers to create crafts, assemble items, and produce other materials by hand.
- Scammers promise to pay per piece, as long as the final product is of quality made from top-notch sewing machines or other equipment.
- The catch: “workers” have to buy equipment and materials from the scammers. In most cases, the scammers close up shop after you’ve bought the materials and equipment, never to be heard from again.
- In other similar schemes, the scammers continue to fool the victims by letting them work on the orders only to reject them for “low quality.”
8. Self-Publishing Scams
The self-publishing industry blew up when Amazon encouraged everyone to write and sell a book on its platform.
Now, the self-publishing industry isn’t exclusive to Amazon. There are plenty of self-publishing services and indie publishing houses to choose from.
However, you might stumble upon fake “indie publishing houses” that target aspiring authors hoping to get published.
These scammers may charge unnecessary fees. For instance, they might charge reading fees, which aren’t charged by legitimate publishers.
Scam publishing houses may also hide their scams in the fine print in your contract.
For instance, require authors to sell a certain number of books within a certain time period, or else authors are then required to pay back the book production costs. This is not standard practice for publishing houses.
Or they may bury a statement or a clause in your contract that you sign away your rights to your own book.
Know that there are legitimate publishing houses that can help independent authors, and you should always do your research before signing up with a publishing house.
Check out AbsoluteWrite and find if a self-publishing company you’re looking at is a respectable company.
Or go through this list of legitimate self-publishing companies first.
9. Data Entry Scams (and other Jobs with Easy Tasks for Huge Gains)
Data entry job scams are so appealing to job seekers because it involves very simple tasks in exchange for big paychecks.
The fact is: data entry is real, but the job doesn’t pay even half as much as what these scammers promise.
In some cases, scammers sell their victims a one-of-a-kind data entry software for thousands of dollars.
Job seekers who desperately want to work from home eventually take the bait, and find out there are no jobs after all.
Data entry job scams work very similarly to other work from home scams like mystery shopping, medical billing, e-mail forwarding, and so on.
The common element of these scams is the selling of a dream lifestyle. Most claim you can do the job anywhere (even on the beach) and earn either thousands of dollars or a passive income while doing so.
The saying, “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is” holds true with these types of work-from-home scams.
10. Investment scams
Everyone knows there is money to be made online, but dealing with scrupulous people or groups will definitely shatter your dreams. Below are a few samples of work from home scams that involve some sort of investment:
Investors are duped into paying for a package that includes a website, hosting/domain, and maintenance for manning the online store.
The promise is a fully functional website with investors taking home a percentage of the transaction after every sale.
Unfortunately, no sales ever happen and the scammer never really did intend to maintain your ecommerce business.
There have been plenty of cryptocurrency scams cropping up because the terminologies used are not for the ordinary person.
You’d have to be well-versed not only in finance but also in technology just so you can understand what cryptocurrency is all about.
While there are legitimate cryptocurrencies around, the scams are bigger in numbers. I’ve talked about this more comprehensively here if you’re interested in investing your hard-earned money in cryptocurrency.
11. Envelope Stuffing Scams
This work-at-home scam has been around for years, yet people still fall or it.
Scammers post ads for workers who are interested in stuffing envelopes and earning a living from it.
People who respond to the ad are asked to pay a small fee (around $15 to $40) for a start-up kit or simply as a processing fee or a “good faith” fee. You’ll also be asked to send in a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Once you send the payment, you’ll receive a starter kit that simply contains even more flyers for you to stuff into envelopes in. Chances are it’s the same flyer that alerted you to this job.
The starter kit often doesn’t even contain envelopes, in which case you’ll have to spring for the envelopes yourself.
Even if there’s a money-back guarantee offered, you’d have to fill an absurd number of envelopes before they even consider giving you your money back.
Don’t Fall For Work at Home Scams!
As long as people are looking for jobs where they can work from home, the will be scammers who will take advantage and will try to milk money from as many people as they can.
Hopefully, the information in this post will help you not to fall for these scams so you can find actual, legitimate work-from-home opportunities that are worth your time.
Wondering where to start?
Start with trusted resources such as FlexJobs, Upwork.com, Working Solutions, and Rat Race Rebellion.
Or begin going through our list of legitimate work from home jobs
Have you ever been the target or the victim of a work at home scam? How did you deal with it? Share your story with us in the comments!