Work from home scams are continually ranked by the by the Internet Crime Complaint Center as one of the top internet crimes. From more recent surveys it appears the old fraud is alive and well, perhaps no longer as obvious. Because of how simple past schemes were, job seekers may not know how to spot the recent developments.
These so-called jobs promise you a fat paycheck that can be earned from the comfort of home. Unfortunately, the work from home scam has become a growing criminal initiative that can rip you off both your money and time.
Job seekers have become sensitive to the distinctive warning signs of fake job listings, and scammers have evolved their tactics to trick them. To ensure a safer online job search experience, job seekers need to be cognizant of how work from home scams have maturated so they can adequately protect themselves.
A few examples of work from home scams you should be careful of
- Mystery shopping
- Package shipper
- Envelope stuffing
- Stock trading systems
- Direct Sales or multilevel marketing (MLM)
- Pyramid Schemes
- Anything involving cashing checks/wiring money
- Becoming a product re-seller or wholesaler
- Directories of telecommuting jobs or businesses
- Taking online surveys
- Entry-level administrative position
- Data entry/call centers
One other tricky scam technique is to set up a website dedicated to exposing work at home scams. They funnel people to the few “legitimate” work-at-home jobs, which, of course, are not legitimate. But there are so many other tricks so read on to learn how you can spot them.
Be very careful when searching for a work-from-home position – especially online. Thankfully, certain warning signs can help you Identify an illegitimate work-from-home.
Here are four subtle job scam techniques, how to spot them and tips on how to safeguard you from them.
Job via text or email with zero face-to-face interaction.
If a potential employer only communicates with you through an online chat, it could be an indication that it is fraudulent. If the company wants to communicate that way, ask to talk by phone, verify their web address and be sure to do some other online sleuthing.
If you’re going to accept a job, it’s better to meet with the employer face-to-face. If the potential employer conducting the interview is tough due to your location, you can chat with them online through communication platforms such as Skype.
A scammer will most likely never speak to you on the phone or chat with you face-to-face online. Instead, all communications are conveyed via text or email.
Our security experts advise that you do your research on companies you are seeking employment at. The Better Business Bureau offers a free, online scam tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us.
Being contacted directly by a company you’ve never reached yourself.
A story was told about a person who fell for this scam was offered a good-paying position and asked to start working there the following week. The victim did, and after two weeks and two days, the company announced they decided to “go in a different direction” and completely disappeared — leaving the victim more than $2,000 in the red.
Being contacted out of the blue by a company you’ve never had any previous interaction with or applied to is a red flag, especially if they ask you to give less than the usual two weeks’ notice at work. In this case, the scammers give a short deadline and offer a substantial increase in pay that makes it hard for the victim to think critically about the offer.
Being asked to give your personal banking information.
If you’re being asked to share your bank information upfront, whether it’s to pay for a kit that will help you work from home or any other seemingly legitimate reason, it’s probably a scam.
In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission helped refund $2.3 million to victims who had been robbed by a work-from-home scam by a company that used the names Google Treasure Chest, Google Pro and Google Money Tree. It was not affiliated with Google. The fake companies promised the victims that they could earn $100,000 in six months after ordering a work-from-home kit for a $4 shipping fee — what wasn’t divulged was that they would also be billed $72 per month.
Being asked to make a small investment to receive a large sum of money sounds too good to be true — and it is.
Receiving a fat paycheck without actually working
Be wary of jobs that offer pre-payment for services before you put any time into the job.
The supposed “employer” may send the job seeker a check in the mail with specific instructions on how to spend the money. They usually say the money is for needed “supplies” to do the job. In some cases, the fake employer might even go as far as paying the unsuspecting employee six months in advance.
But this check that you’ve deposited into your account is stolen money.
So they’ll send you a check and might overpay, and then ask for some of that money back. They’ll say they paid you too much and will ask you to wire the extra money somewhere else.
By the time you have figured out this scam, your money is long gone.
If you’re not sure whether it’s a real job or not, call the bank directly to find out more. For instance, if the check came from Wells Fargo, call them immediately and verify whether that check is good.
The FBI is working hard to track down these scammers to help relieve more victims in the future. However, the FBI advised that the best way to fight these criminals is to be cognizant of the warning signs. Do not fall for these scams, to begin with.
Agencies That Can Help
The following agencies might be able to help. If you’ve paid money for a work-from-home job that you believe is a scam, check these out.
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The Better Business Bureau
- Your local Attorney General’s office
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service