How to avoid work-from-home job scams
Learn how to identify work-from-home scams—even ones that may not be so obvious.
For many people craving a more flexible work schedule working from home is the dream, right?
Even if you don’t get to work poolside with a margarita in hand, working from home lets you balance work and family, create your own office vibe and achieve the kind of autonomy that can bring peace of mind. (Aka, no boss or coworkers breathing down your neck). Plus, it’s not a bad commute!
Today, 43% of the American workforce spends at least some time working remotely, according to a recent Gallup report. That’s partly because technology makes telecommuting easier than ever, and party because employers recognize it’s what workers want.
But with a rising mobile workforce, work-from-home scams are also becoming more common these days, and they come in many forms: wire transfer schemes, claims processing, envelope stuffing, refund-recovery work, and other fraudulent offers.
We want to help you identify the ripoff from the real, so you can focus your time and energy on pursuing legitimate remote jobs you’ll love.
Spot the red flags
Since work-from-home scams have become so prevalent, identifying common signs of a fraudulent job has actually become easier than ever.
“You can root out ninety percent of scams with just a few simple rules, says Rob Holmes, a private investigator at IPCybercrime, a Texas-based intellectual property investigation firm. “If they are using Gmail, it is a scam. If the only interview is done by online chat, it is a scam.”
Never take a job if you haven’t at least interviewed by phone or video conference; and if possible, do your interviews in person. Make sure to ask the name of your interviewers so you can research the people you’ll be talking with to ensure they’re for real.
Make sure the job description sounds legit
Sometimes, the job description is a give-away that the job’s not what it seems. For legitimate positions, job descriptions almost always include a detailed list of responsibilities and required experience to help you determine whether or not you’re qualified (and interested!) in applying.
If the description only includes a few bullet points, or makes it sound like getting the job will be quick and easy, it’s most likely a scam.
“If a potential employer cares very little about your qualifications for the position, they probably aren't legitimate,” says Stephanie Foster, career expert at Home With the Kids, an online resource for stay-at-home and work-at-home parents. “Real employers want highly qualified people.”
Research the company
Before you say yes to any job, whether it’s remote or in a traditional office setting, researching the company is a must. There are so many ways to find out what a company is like (or if it even exists) from review sites like kununu, or you can simply check out a company’s website or social media presence.
“Look at reviews, check online business complaint sites, and try to reach out to people working for the company,” says Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer at BeenVerified, an online background checks company located in New York City.
If the company doesn’t have a website, any presence on social media, or a single review? Most likely a scam.
Ask questions early and often
If you’re invited to an in-person (or video conference) interview and are still uncertain whether or not the position is legitimate, make sure to ask the right kind of questions, so you’ll feel confident about taking the job.
“Learn the exact details of the job and ask a lot of detailed questions about their expectations of you,” says Foster. “Find out how you're earning your pay and how the company makes money. If these don't make sense, there's probably a problem.”
A tactful way to phrase the money questions might be, “What are the company’s top revenue streams?” That way, you’re getting your answer and simultaneously showing interest in how the company operates.
Another non-imposing, smart investigative question to ask is: where is the home office or corpoate headquarters? This will help you research whether or not it actually exists!
Never, ever shell out any money
Don’t forget to ask “What type of training will I receive?” If it prompts a discussion about you, the candidate, paying for your own training, it’s most certainly a scam.
“Any job that requires you pay a fee to get the job should be an immediate red flag,” says Lavelle. “Honest employers train employees on their dime. You don’t have to pay for training or any other fee such as an application fee, or a processing fee. Any job that requires you to give your bank information or credit card or financial information should be fully vetted before turning that information over to them.”
Now, before a fear of scammers causes you to abandon your dreams of working from home, here’s the good news: There are legitimate work-from-home opportunities. And we’ve got a ton that you can check out here.
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