Skip to main content

How to Avoid Work From Home Scams

Published June 9, 2021

8 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

It’s the 21st Century American Dream — to earn good money from a job you can do while working from home in your pajamas. With the pandemic shutting down many office buildings over the past year and a half, many people did get a glimpse of the work at home life. More than anything else, it made the work-from-home dream seem like a legitimate reality. Unfortunately, scammers also know this. They are conning people left and right into various work from home scams. They promise quick and easy money, instant success, for very little effort.

In general, if something seems too good to be true, you can assume that it is. If you’ve recently been tempted by a work from home opportunity, you should be careful. At the very least, read through our following advice to avoid being scammed.

Why Everyone Isn’t Already Doing This?

One of the big draws for work at home scams is the “perk” that the job requires no real skills. You’ll see advertisements claiming that “anyone can do it!” But how realistic is that? Every job requires at least a little bit of a skill set. Any job that requires zero skills or training can be done by literally anyone. That typically means they don’t pay very well, since the supply of potential workers is infinite.

So if the work from home opportunity that you’re considering claims you don’t need any special skills, talents, or education to complete — but will pay handsomely — start asking questions. If it’s so easy and lucrative, why isn’t everyone doing? What are the chances that you really stumbled upon the most amazing employment secret in history? Why wouldn’t everyone opt to do this job, if it was as amazing as promised?

Don’t Pay Any Money Upfront

If you started a new job at your local grocery store, you wouldn’t have to fork over any money before you started. So why would you accept needing to pay for anything before starting a work from home job? The short answer, obviously, is that you should never pay any sort of up front fee.

It doesn’t matter what it’s called. Whether it’s for required software, training materials, or online education courses, no legitimate employment opportunity would make you pay for those things yourself. You can go ahead and skip any work from home opportunities that ask you to send them money before you start. There’s a good chance the job doesn’t really even exist at all. Even if it does, it’s going to be exploitative and predatory.

Don’t Provide Payment Information Immediately

Even if you aren’t asked to pay before you start, you shouldn’t give your financial information to someone you’ve barely met. Your financial information is sensitive. A scammer may be trying to get you to disclose detailed information about yourself. There’s no reason for the person to need your bank account information until after you’ve already started working and need to get paid.

To be safe, consider using services such as PayPal, where you only have to give up an email address. Even if you do need to be paid via direct deposit, you can merely give them your checking account details. Presumably, you don’t keep a lot of extra money in there anyway. Most banks will provide you details that allow for payments to be received, without the risk of unauthorized withdrawals happening.

Check Out The Reviews

A big benefit of living in the information age is how easy it is to Google anything and everything. Before you take any work at home job, do a little research on the company. If it’s a scam, there are probably others who have been scammed before you. They very likely will have broadcast their experiences somewhere on the web. A quick Google search can usually uncover any angry reviews by previous victims.

In addition, it’s a good idea to check the Better Business Bureau site for information about your prospective employer. While checking the BBB is not fool proof, it can certainly alert you to known scams. You can also look around in employment forums, personal finance Subreddits, or employment sites like Glass Door. If the work from home opportunity is legitimate, there’s bound to be some people talking about it. Take the time to do some research, in order to potentially avoid a massive headache later.

If It Seems Too Good To Be True…

We already alluded to this earlier, but it’s truly the simplest litmus test for any work from home job. Sure, it’s tempting to say yes to a chance to make thousands of dollars a month for very little work. The real question, though, is that really realistic? Is the recruiter offering you the world, without really requiring any effort on your part?

Ask yourself this — if the job is really that lucrative and easy to do, why doesn’t the recruiter just do it himself in his spare time? Like most things in the financial world, anything that seems too good to be true, probably is. Trust your gut. It’ll help you go far.

Don’t Rush

Many work from home scams try to get around your natural inclination towards being cautious. They don’t want you to take the time to do any research. The most common way to do this is by making a time-sensitive offer. They’ll make it sound like there is a hard deadline or immense competition for the position. You should ignore any job offer that doesn’t give you a day or two to at least think about it.

There should never be a situation where you have to make a commitment immediately. A scheme that tells you only a limited number of applicants will be accepted that day, or tells you that there are only so many “start-up kits” available for sale, is not being honest. They are clearly all about subtracting your money from your wallet, rather than giving you a real job opportunity.

Ask Lots of Questions

One way to slow down the process is to ask a ton of questions. Ask anything and everything. Don’t be afraid to send multiple emails or make multiple phone calls. Ask about the expected hours, tasks, and pay rates. Then ask for clarification if any of the others are not clear. Look for a story that makes sense and keep an eye out for any errors or inconsistencies. If the recruiter keeps changing their answers from one day to the next, it’s an indication that they are making things up on the fly.

If your multiple questions end up irking the recruiter, don’t sweat it. If they start ignoring your emails or screening your phone calls, that’s probably a good sign, actually. It just means that they realize you’re not likely to be their next victim, and they’ve moved on.

Get a Contract and Look Through It

Any legitimate employment arrangement will come with a contract or agreement. Even a work from home or freelance gig should have some sort of paperwork involved. Yes, even if it only includes a digital signature. (By the way, those are more common and accepted than ever, in the wake of the pandemic.)

If there isn’t one, it’s a giant red flag, right off the bat. When you do get an employment contract or freelance agreement (or whatever), make sure you read through it carefully. You’ll want to understand every detail of the agreement. Don’t just me lazy and sign it without much of a thought. You don’t want to mistakenly be bound to terms you aren’t comfortable with. For example, my agreement with WalletGenius originally had a clause about not working for competing sites. Since I also run MoneyNing.com, that seemed like a conflict. I simply asked for that part of the agreement to be omitted, and my editor happily agreed.

Shutterstock

Talk to Your Friend About The Opportunity

We can all get caught up in the moment, at times. It’s way too easy to allow our greed to cloud our better judgment. That’s why it’s best to talk to a third party with every job opportunity you are considering. Hopefully, they will look at things with an unbiased set of eyes, letting you know it something sounds shady.

If you can’t find a reliable friend, consider using a stranger. You could even strike up a conversation with a Starbucks barista when you order your morning latte. If coffee isn’t your thing, you can even pose the question at public forums like Reddit. There are a handful of personal finance and employment forums you could use. These places may help you get clear and unbiased opinions about whether your job opportunity is really a scam or not.

Don’t Click Any Email Links Directly

A scammer may send you an email, asking you to click a link under one pretense or another. There’s a chance that the link will contain some sort of virus, keylogger, or ransomware. They may also claim to have a contract with a major financial institution — probably one you’ve heard of. Scammers will sometimes set up clone websites that look exactly like the real bank’s site. They will encourage you to click their link and login to your banking account in order to get started. Don’t do this. They are just trying to get your login information in order to access your accounts.

If you do need to log into your banking website to gather information (like your direct deposit details), just go directly to the site yourself. There’s no reason to click any banking links from a job recruiter. Or any other strange-looking links, either. Use a little bit of internet knowledge to know that “drive.google.com” is not the same as “drive.googel.exe.”

Don’t Engage With Generic Emails…

Anyone with a legitimate business will be using their company domain name when they try to recruit. If the opportunity is coming from someone with a hotmail.com or gmail.com address, then chances are they don’t have an established business. Just how lucrative or long term could this opportunity be of the company can’t even take the minimal time, effort, and cost to establish a domain for itself?

Any job opportunity coming from an obviously personal email can be safely ignored. Even the laziest of scammers would create a new Gmail account, with an email like “nameofshadyscambusiness@gmail.com.” You should be skeptical of those too, but a work from home offer from JoeSmith@hotmail.com can go directly into the trash bin.

…Or Template Emails with Special Characters

Work from home scammers typically don’t target people one at a time. Instead, they send out mass emails to hundreds of thousands of emails from whatever mailing list they bought. It’s simply casting a wide net, hoping to catch a unwitting fish or two. To avoid their emails going directly into spam folders, they sometimes use special characters to avoid detection. Whenever I see non-standard characters in my inbox, it’s an instant delete.

Additionally, sometimes emails will have an error in their programming that makes the email clearly suspicious because they are auto generated. For example, I sometimes get emails that start off like this:

“Dear <first name, last name>,”

If you see these placeholders, then just avoid it like a plague.

The Bottom Line

More than ever before in history, it’s totally possible to work a legitimate job from the comfort of your own home. The pandemic has proven to many companies that employees are happier and just as productive even if they aren’t coming to the office everyday. The downside, however, is that scammers and fraudsters are using this shift to prey on those who looking to working from home.

These work from home scams prey on our greed and naivete. So make sure to stay skeptical and take your time to question everything. If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Hopefully, you can use this advice to filter out the bogus offers and find a comfortable gig that you can do from your couch, in your pajamas.

Work from home scams

Shutterstock

David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs MoneyNing.com, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

Explore Financial Advice

Young married couple thinking about their financial future Financial Advice

Tricky Money Questions That All Newlyweds Need to Discuss

Becoming engaged and getting married is an exciting time in anyone’s life. Like most couples who begin their lives together, you’re undoubtedly focused on your own version of “happily ever after.” The rush of being newlyweds is a terrific experience. However, don’t let it obscure those other important milestones in your life — the financial ones. […]

Read More about Tricky Money Questions That All Newlyweds Need to Discuss

8 minute read

Retired couple worried about expenses Financial Advice

Unexpected (and Unwelcome) Surprises of Early Retirement

People who hang it up at age 55 (or younger) are generally considered to have retired early. With careful planning and financial discipline, it’s possible to save enough for an early retirement on a median-range income. However, there are also some lurking financial pitfalls that don’t rear their heads until after you’ve said goodbye to […]

Read More about Unexpected (and Unwelcome) Surprises of Early Retirement

5 minute read

See All In Financial Advice

More from WalletGenius

stock market crash Investing

Moves To Make If You’re Worried About a Stock Market Crash

We wouldn’t blame you for being worried about a potential stock market crash right now. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is currently ripping through the United States (and other parts of the world). Chinese real estate behemoth Evergrande is tanking, threatening to take portfolios around the world with it. Then there’s the issue of the […]

Read More about Moves To Make If You’re Worried About a Stock Market Crash

6 minute read