Working from home offers many perks: no commute, no office attire, and more control over your schedule.
But did you know that there also has been a corresponding rise in the number of work-from-home scams? Criminals are finding new and creative ways to capitalize on those who are interested in opportunities that allow them to work from the comfort of their homes.
What is a work-from-home scam?
A work-from-home scam is typically what happens when someone creates a fake job posting with the goal of stealing your personal or financial information. In some work-from-home job scams, the scammer could go so far as to create a fake company. In other cases, they might use an existing, legitimate company name.
While some work-from-home scams may be easy to spot, fraudsters are getting more and more creative, and their job postings can look very professional. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to discern a fake opportunity from a real one.
What do common work-from-home scams look like?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lists a few examples of work-from-home scams that you should look out for.
Approach any jobs looking for quality control managers or virtual personal assistants with a healthy dose of skepticism. Once hired, these job scams ask you to receive packages at your home, throw away the original packaging and receipts, repackage the product, and then ship it to the address they provide. Sometimes the address will be overseas. The products you are asked to repack are usually high-priced items like electronics that are purchased using a stolen credit card.
You are promised a paycheck in return for your work, but it never comes. If you try to contact your employer, you will find the phone number is disconnected and the website no longer exists. If you were asked to provide any personal or financial information with the guise of needing it for payroll, this could lead to identity theft. The bottom line is repackaging products is not a real job.
Reselling merchandise scams
This scam typically involves a stranger reaching out to you with a job opportunity (this should already be a red flag). They propose that you can make good money by purchasing name-brand products for less than the retail price, and then selling them for a profit. However, after you put up money to purchase the product, the package never comes.
Unfortunately, these scams happen often and, as scammers become more sophisticated, can be hard not to fall for.
How to recognize a work-from-home scam
When you’re searching online for a work-from-home job, there are some key things you can look for when trying to decide if the posting is real. These include:
- The job posting is full of errors. If a job posting contains spelling or grammatical errors or is just really poorly written, this can be a sign that it is a scam.
- High pay for limited skills. We all want to make good money, however, if you find a job posting that requires very little in terms of skills, education, or training, but is offering a high salary, it’s probably too good to be true.
- They find you. If a company or recruiter seeks you out through email or text offering you an amazing work-from-home job opportunity, this could be a question of concern. Most legitimate companies aren’t actively emailing random people to offer out jobs. Always ask recruiters if you can have direct contact with the company they are representing to verify their legitimacy.
- There is no interview process. Most legitimate companies want to know who they are hiring before they just hand out a position. If the work-from-home job you are interested in has no formal interview process (this can be over Zoom or Skype), then steer clear.
- They request an upfront fee. Some job scams will request money for the purpose of job training, equipment, or an application fee. Anytime you are asked to pay for something, especially before getting hired, it is a red flag.
- They use high-pressure tactics. Scammers want to create urgency. They want you to feel pressured to make a decision quickly so that you don’t take the time to stop, think, and do your research. If you feel like you are being pressured to make a decision, use this as a cue to dig a little deeper into the job and the company.
- There isn’t a lot of info on the company. If the company lacks a social media presence or you just can’t find very much info, then this can be a sign that the company might not actually exist.
What happens if you fall for a work-from-home scam
If you are the victim of a work-from-home scam, I’ll remind you that it is not your fault. You are not stupid or gullible. It can be really difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate job posting and a scam.
In 2020, the FTC received more than 2.1 million fraud reports resulting in losses of more than $3.3 billion. So, know that you aren’t alone.
It’s especially hard to spot a scam if you are in a position where you really need to find a job quickly in order to pay your bills. In more desperate situations, we tend to overlook certain cues that we might be more attuned to if we didn’t need that job so badly. Scammers know this, and they prey on people’s fears, emotions, and vulnerabilities.
If you fall victim to a work-from-home scam, it’s important that you report it so that other people don’t suffer the same fate. This is also true, even if you don’t fall for a scam, but you think you’ve identified one.
To report a scam you can visit the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. When you report a scam to the FTC, you will be asked to provide as many details as possible. So, it’s a good idea to document as much information about the scam as you can while it is fresh in your head. Once you report it, the FTC will share it far and wide, reaching over 3,000 law enforcers across the country. You can also report a scam to your state’s attorney general.
Quick reminder for avoiding work-from-home scams
Here are a few reminders:
- Slow down. Especially when you are looking for work-from-home opportunities online, slow down. Remember, scammers like to create high-pressure situations. They want you to feel like you have to make fast decisions so that you can’t overthink things.
- Do your research. Google the company, and search their social media accounts. Search the Better Business Bureau website. If something feels fishy, google the company name and the word “scam” to see if anything comes up.
- Protect your passwords. Change your password for all of your sensitive accounts at least every other month.
- Trust your gut. You know the saying, “if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.” This goes for a lot of things in life, and it applies especially well to work-from-home jobs. If you find an opportunity where the pay is just too high for the job, take a second look and follow up before jumping on it.
- Watch where you click. If you receive a text message or email from an unknown source, don’t click on any links. Just don’t do it.
- Don’t overshare. Never share your personal or financial information using email or through a text message. Before you share any information with a potential employer, be sure you know that they are legit.
There’s no way around it – we have to be so wary of the information we find online, with scams popping up absolutely everywhere.
Approach all work-from-home jobs with a critical and investigative eye. Do your research, and if you feel like you’re being pressured to do something, disengage.