How to Spot Work-From-Home Scams

For many workers, the ideal work scenario is a job where you can work directly from home. Working from home is a good compromise for parents who cannot afford child care but need extra income.

College students with limited transportation options can benefit from work from home jobs.

Working from home has plenty of benefits, but there are some notable disadvantages. Unlike a traditional job, there are more opportunities for scammers to post fake job listings relating to work from home employment. There are many variants of scam job listings, but the overall goal of these listings is either to collect personal information or make you do work without receiving payment. If you are interested in working from home, do not let the prospect of possible scam listings deter you. Once you know what to search for, navigating through fake job listings is easy.

Pyramid Schemes

Pyramid schemes are one of the oldest types of scams. Pyramid schemes have seen a resurgence in popularity due to an increased interest in work at home jobs. Through a pyramid scheme, the seller recruits other employees, instructing them to sell a product with little value. The seller talks up the product, making it sound like it is a must have item, trying to convince you to purchase the rights to sell the item. The fees the seller makes are distributed up throughout the pyramid. Essentially, only the sellers at the top of the pyramid make money by initially selling the products for far more than the products are worth.

Pyramid schemes are inherently illegal, but there is another variant of the pyramid scheme, known as multi-level marketing. The main difference is multi-level marketing sells products with an actual value, with make-up and dietary supplements being common examples of products sold. Distributors use the same tactics as a pyramid scheme, hyping up the product and selling it to you for an expensive entry fee, then taking a cut of every sale you make. While it technically is possible to make money through a multi-marketing job, the majority of the listings are scams.

Fortunately, spotting these types of job scams is easy. If you are required to buy products from your potential employer, ignore the job. On the off chance it is a legitimate job offer, you are unlikely to make much money. In most cases you are lucky if you come close to breaking even.

Working as a Mystery Shopper

Mystery shopping jobs are harder to spot compared to pyramid schemes. Mystery shopper job scams are primarily about stealing your money. With a mystery shopper job, your employer provides you with a set amount of money and instructions to purchase a set of items from a store. Your job is supposedly to observe what happens at the store and report whether the store employees do anything questionable. On paper, this sounds like a great job opportunity, since you are getting paid to go shopping. Employers often make the deal better by saying you can keep the items you purchase.

Your employer either sends you a check to deposit or asks for your bank information to make a direct deposit. If your employer gives you a check, the check is fake. If the employer asks for direct deposit information, he or she uses your information to get into your bank account. Some employers take the scam even further, charging you up front for processing fees or other made up charges.

One of the reasons mystery shopper scams work is mystery shopping is a real job. However, mystery shoppers are hired in person. After all, it would be too risky for an employer to send a stranger money to purchase items. There are no guarantees the person receiving the money would not just pocket it and pretend to purchase the items. In a legitimate job, your employer works with you, giving you instructions before you shop and meeting with you afterwards to discuss your transaction. After the discussion is when you receive your payment. To avoid mystery shopper scams, never accept a job where you do not meet with your employer or where you are paid in advance.

Data Entry Jobs

Data entry jobs are another scam job difficult to spot because there are plenty of legitimate data entry jobs. It is important to note legitimate data entry jobs are office positions. You may work for a company where you are allowed to perform work from home, but if you approach someone through an online ad, it is a scam. There are several possible data entry job scams. Some scams charge you upfront to buy software necessary for the jobs. Other scams make you install malicious software on your computer, used to collect your personal information.

General Tips to Avoid Work at Home Scams

Work at home scams have evolved over time, with new types of scams commonly springing up. New scammers are leaning away from pyramid schemes or data entry jobs because employees are less likely to take the bait. When you are looking through online job listings, no matter what the job type, keep an eye out for the following types of red flags:

  • Is the job too good to be true? If the job is offering an outrageously high fee for simple work, it is a scam.
  • Are there any references listed for the job? If the job offer is legitimate, it must include company information for you to research. The vaguer the job description, the more likely it is a scam.
  • Avoid any jobs where you are asked to send money or submit personal information before you are employed. This applies to any sort of background check or starter kit your employer insists is necessary.
  • Is there a website listed on the job listing? If there is, double check it is a legitimate website and not a scam site. Scammers commonly try and use official sounding website names, but if you check the website, it does not actually link to a company. For example, a scammer may pretend to work with Nike and send you a link to Nike.Jobs.com, but once you go to this link, there are no connections to the official Nike website.

Related Article: How to Find Great Work From Home Jobs

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