7 Tips for Spotting Work-at-Home Job Scams
Not all work-at-home job opportunities are what they seem—make sure you know what to look for and how to avoid falling into a scam
One unfortunate truth when you’re on the hunt for a telecommuting job: There are a lot of scams out there! In fact, it’s estimated that for every legitimate work from home opportunity on the internet, there are at least 60-70 job scams. To help you not get duped, FlexJobs.com (a site that lists telecommuting and other flexible job opportunities) founder and CEO Sara Sutton Fell offers her expert tips on how to spot—and avoid—work from home scams.
1. Be very cautious of the actual URL, a.k.a. website address. Scammers today have gotten savvy with the use of web addresses to trick unsuspecting job seekers. For example, you may think you are on CNBC.com applying for a job, but if you look closely, the web address is actually “http://cnbc.com-index.in/.” The fake page may look mind-bogglingly real, so double check those URLs! In addition to the fake CNBC scam (that has since been exposed), there’s now a clever scam that makes you think you are being contacted by LinkedIn. When in doubt, do a fresh keyword search for the company’s name and the word “careers” to find their real careers website, and see if the job is listed there. If it’s not, it was probably a scam.
2. Make sure you’re dealing with a REAL company. Oftentimes scammers use a well-known company name to “hide” behind. Last year, for example, numerous telecommuting job ads appeared for Google Money Tree, Google Pro and Google Treasure Chest. Job seekers saw “Google” and assumed it was associated with the top search engine site. The gist of the scam was purchasing a $4 “work at home” kit, guaranteeing them to earn $100,000 in six months. Though $4 may not sound like much, once the scammers had consumers’ credit card info, they continued to bill them $72 monthly. The FTC had to mail $2.3 million refund checks to 93,086 consumers who were taken in by this scam!
3. Never give out sensitive information. Though it may seem like a no-brainer, never give your credit card or bank account information. One popular scheme we’ve seen is making someone go through the entire interview process, landing what they think is the perfect work from home job, only to be told they need to purchase a company laptop. Pay particular attention if a job requires you to pay for or purchase anything.
Also, do your due diligence in researching a company because when you accept a job, you will have to provide extremely valuable information (that criminals would love to have) including your social security number and your bank account in the case of direct deposit. Always ask yourself, ‘Do I have the information I need to report them if, in fact, they are a scam?’ If not, that is a huge red flag.
4. Be cautious of money laundering schemes. In addition to not paying for anything, do not accept payment if you’re not doing any work. Hands-down one of the top job scams is the mystery shopper. After being hired, new “employees” are wired a check to do their “shopping.” Many victims cash the check as they are instructed and soon find themselves in jail for what appears to be money laundering! While some mystery shopping jobs are legitimate, ones involving check-cashing are not. Scams involving check-cashing, money wiring, and Western Union are plentiful and should always be avoided.
5. Don’t trust generic e-mail addresses. Who exactly is the person on the other end you’re emailing with about a job? Is the email address company-sponsored, like firstname.lastname@example.org or is it a generic Joe@gmail.com (which may be more difficult to trace)? What is the phone number and physical address of this business? With an actual phone number and a company associated email address, versus “@gmail” or “@hotmail”, etc., you can Google that company and the word “scam” to see whether anyone has reported them yet. Though that’s no guarantee, it’s an essential step to ensuring yourself it’s not fraud.
6. Be skeptical about job interviews over IM. Another recent scam involved conducting job interviews over the online chat program, Yahoo Instant Messenger. Similar to fake email addresses, it’s very easy to create a fake IM name. Let’s be clear: Almost no reputable employers are conducting job interviews over IM. One of the biggest red flags for this scam is that after a very short interview, the job seeker is offered the job on the spot, and asked for an immediate decision. If an employer ever pressures you into accepting a job immediately, or offers you a job after a very short interview over IM, they’re most likely a scam.
7. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, pay attention to the job description itself. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it likely is. For example, if you are promised you will get rich quick with very little work, that’s just not realistic. To find legitimate work, familiarize yourself with what a standard job posting looks like. Legitimate jobs do not overpromise and are looking for specific skill sets and job requirements. Too many “$$$$” or “!!!!!” should forewarn you that it’s likely not a legitimate opportunity.
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