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Is That Work-From-Home Job a Scam?

Topics: Career Advice

More employers have gotten the memo that telecommuting is good for workers and organizations, but not every company will let you work from home. The solution for some would-be remote workers is to find a new job. But, the commonness of work-from-home scams makes it hard to tell legit jobs from frauds.

work-from-home scams

If you’re considering a move to full-time telecommuting, but you’re concerned about getting duped, the first step is to trust your gut.

“As with most situations in life, one of the single best ways to avoid a job scam is to listen to your instincts,” writes Brie Weiler Reynolds at FlexJobs, a job search site focusing on flexible work. “…If something just feels off, or you feel uncomfortable for any reason (e.g., the job recruiter is pushy or demanding, or you don’t have a clear understanding of the job responsibilities), don’t think twice about walking away from it.”

Beyond that, watch out for these signs of work-from-home job scams:

1. It sounds too good to be true.

“You won’t get rich quick (really),” writes Alison Doyle, job search expert at The Balance. “Avoid listings that guarantee you wealth, financial success, or that will help you get rich fast. Stay clear of listings that offer you high income for part-time hours. They will do none of the above.”

2. The listing doesn’t reflect professional standards (or the contact person behaves unprofessionally).

The ad is riddled with typos, and is vague on details. The hiring manager is willing to give you a job over the phone, without ever meeting face-to-face, or never asks for your references.

Job interview processes can vary at different employers, but some things are constants — for starters, the fact that companies tend to take the hiring process pretty seriously. It’s expensive to replace an employee, so they want to get it right. If it seems like they just don’t care, that’s because they’re not expecting to have to deal with you once the scam is complete.

3. They want your personal information right up front.

Never give out your bank account number, social security number or any other personal information early in the hiring process. Personal info shouldn’t enter the picture until a background check, which takes place once the company has decided to extend you an offer — generally after multiple in-person interviews and enough time for you to do your own research on the organization. Bank info shouldn’t come up until you’re seated at your new desk, filling out the direct deposit paperwork on your first day on the job.

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4. There’s a startup fee.

Any company that asks you to buy a kit, training or products before you can start earning money is scamming you. Ditto for companies that ask you to work for free, outside the context of an internship or (extremely limited) take-home sample work.

5. The URL is similar to — but not the same as — the company’s real URL.

Brand loyalty is real, and scammers know that. If they can convince you that you’re looking at a legit URL, they’ll win your trust … and be able to dupe you into paying for a startup kit or sharing your personal information or whatever their particular scam is.

For example, a few years ago, CNBC discovered that someone had set up the URL cnbc4newsworld[dot]com, featuring a story that claimed to review work-from-home job sites. The site was in no way affiliated with CNBC, and every link in the article led to a shady company promising an unusually lucrative work-from-home opportunity.

How can you avoid a similar scam? Google the company’s name or go directly to their URL (if you’re a regular visitor) and look for their careers page.

“You can also stick any URL or email address into Google,” advises Carson Kohler at The Penny Hoarder. “Put quotation marks on either side, and search. Articles warning against scams might pop up.”

6. It involves stuffing envelopes.

Any job that involves doing something that a machine could do more cheaply isn’t legitimate. You’ll never make money stuffing envelopes or assembling kits. Again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever run into a work-from-home job that turned out to be a scam? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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I recently started job hunting and last night a company texted me to interview. They had me log onto google hangout and I went through an interview, in which they told me about the company and asked legitimate questions. They offered me the position and now they are sending me a check to buy software needed for the job. I am suspecting this is a scam and I haven’t given them any information that is not public. I haven’t found… Read more »

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