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Although there are lots of legitimate opportunities to make money from home, work from home scams unfortunately still pop up all over the internet.
And you need to know how to spot these scams, or you could end up compromising your personal information or losing money you never get back.
From fake job ads to pyramid schemes to companies that promise big earnings “in exchange for a start-up fee,” work from home scams prey on innocent job seekers.
7 signs of a work from home job scam
So what are the signs that a work from home job is a scam and not a legitimate opportunity? Here are seven red flags to watch out for.
1. Promises of high earnings for little work
We all love the idea of winning the lottery or getting a huge bonus check out of the blue. But for the vast majority of us, money doesn’t just fall into our lap for no reason.
If you come across an ad for a work from home job making promises that seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Some of these ads offer big earnings for minimal work that you can do flexibly from home — but if they were true, wouldn’t everyone be pursuing them?
Unfortunately, the desire to believe an offer like this can cloud your good judgment, especially if you’ve been on the job hunt for a while with no luck or are in a tough financial situation.
But listen to your common sense, because if you fall for overblown promises that are too good to be true, you could end up in a worse financial situation than when you started.
2. Vague or unclear job description
Another big red flag is a job description with barely any details. Legitimate employers state exactly what kind of employee they’re looking for and what their job entails.
But scammers often post a vague ad that’s light on details about what you’ll actually be doing. Or they ask you to complete a small project up front, promising that you’ll find out more once it’s done.
If they’re dangling a carrot in front of your nose like this, they’re probably trying to manipulate you into doing work for free or worse, into sharing your personal information or money.
You should get full details up front before you sink any of your valuable time into working for someone else.
3. Practically no job interview process
Legitimate work from home jobs involve an interview process. You’ll likely send off a resume and cover letter, as well as interview with someone, likely over Skype, Zoom, or another video chat app.
But if someone promises you a job without going through the usual process, something could be amiss. After all, if you were a hiring manager, you wouldn’t take someone on without getting to know their background or experience.
So don’t trust someone who is willing to hire you on the spot without getting to know you first.
4. Useless or unclear contact information
Just as getting a job offer without ever talking to a human is a red flag, so too is a lack of contact information in the job description. Some scammers set up decent-looking websites, but they lack an email address or phone number to get in touch with anyone.
They might have a submission form that goes nowhere, or they provide an email that just doesn’t sound right. If a job offer is real, there should be a point person — a hiring manager, team lead, human resources person — you can speak to.
That’s not to say that having someone email or speak with you on the phone necessarily means the offer is not a scam. But if you can’t track down anyone to contact about the position, steer clear.
5. Upfront fees
In most cases, you should never have to pay a fee to an employer. If one is requiring upfront expenses, be careful.
Your alarm bells should especially go off if the company is asking you to wire money. If you wire money, chances are you’ll never see it again.
One exception is multi-level marketing (MLM) companies that ask workers to purchase inventory upfront and then sell it to friends, family, and acquaintances. While not all MLM companies are scams, they could end up costing you far more than you make in sales.
In fact, it’s hard to find an MLM company that doesn’t have at least one lawsuit leveled against it for unfair claims and practices. So instead of wasting your time, energy, and money on what could be a pyramid scheme, seek out opportunities that don’t require any financial investment from you at the start.
6. A URL that’s not quite right
Another common scam to look out for is a website phishing scam. Scammers can make their websites look like anything they want, even copying a legitimate website down to the font and color scheme.
But if you look closely at the URL, it will be slightly different from the original site, perhaps it says “.co” instead of “.com” or has an extra or missing letter.
If you end up on one of these copycat sites and enter your information, the scammer could then steal your personal information for their own devices.
So if you’re having doubts about a company, look closely at the URL to make sure you’re on the genuine site, not an imitation version designed to trick you out of your private data.
7. Emotional or high-pressure tactics to get you to sign up
As you know, the job search is rarely easy; chances are, you’ll face some rejection along the way.
But if a company is pressuring you to take a job, that could be a red flag. You’re the one fighting for a position; it’s not usually the other way around.
So if a company is telling you to act fast before time runs out, or showcasing emotional success stories of people who got rich overnight, tread carefully. These kinds of sales tactics are usually meant to create a false sense of urgency or hope and manipulate you into abandoning your common sense.
Instead of acting quickly without thinking, take a moment to pause, read over the offer, and make a clear decision about the best path forward.
Trust your gut feeling to weed out work from home scams
While the internet opens up limitless opportunities to make money — even redefining the way we experience work — it’s also a playground for scammers and opportunists looking to make a quick buck.
And since scams appear in all shapes and sizes, there’s no single sign that you’re dealing with a work from home scam. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is trust your gut feeling.
If something feels off or sketchy, listen to your intuition. You know when something feels not quite right, so listen to yourself and be careful about handing over sensitive personal details to someone you might not be able to trust.
It could also help to limit your job search to legitimate work from home job boards, such as We Work Remotely or FlexJobs. By sticking to these sites, you’ll find real remote job opportunities and avoid the scams.