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The Difference Between Work From Home Jobs and Scams



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The amount of work from home jobs and opportunities has risen dramatically in recent years. But along with those legitimate work from home jobs that offer people the flexibility and convenience of telecommuting, comes an influx of opportunities for scammers to take advantage of job seekers.

Fear of these work from home scams shouldn’t stop you from finding real work from home jobs, if that’s your goal. Instead, you can learn how to best identify and avoid scams so that you can stay on top of the real job opportunities.

There’s not one surefire way to separate all of the real work from home jobs from the scam ones. But there are some warning signs. Anything that requires you to invest or purchase equipment up front should set off alarms.

Fraudsters often promise job seekers hefty paychecks and other benefits if they just put in a little money upfront. Almost always, the “employer” is nowhere to be found once you’ve spent your money and are looking to get started.

Another common work from home scam involves companies that seem a bit too willing to pay you. If you’ve done no work for a company and they offer to send you an advance on your salary, it could be part of an intricate plan to gain access to your bank information.

John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications & fraud at the National Consumers League said in an email with Small Business Trends, “Beware of jobs that offer to pay you an “advance” and ask you to deposit the check into a personal checking account. These are often followed (or accompanied) by requests to send a portion of the proceeds from the check via wire transfer or prepaid card to someone else. This is a sure sign of fraud.”

There are also some things you can and should do to research specific work from home jobs in order to keep yourself out of suspicious situations.

Holly Hanna of The Work at Home Woman has plenty of experience dealing with online job opportunities. She is aware of some of the warning signs of potential work from home scams. According to Hanna, identifying scams doesn’t have to be complicated. She recommends just starting with a simple Google search.

In an email interview with Small Business Trends she advised, “Type the name of the company and the term “scam” and/or “review” in and see what comes up. If someone has been burned in the past by the company, they may have written a negative review. Dig around and see what you find both negative and positive.”

Hanna also suggests using online resources like the Better Business Bureau, the Ripoff Report, ScamBusters.org and Glassdoor to further research businesses and opportunities.

Another helpful resource is Fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League. However, in order for this platform and the others mentioned to provide useful information, people who have encountered scams need to share their stories.

Breyault said, “If you’ve been defrauded, report it! At Fraud.org, we accept complaints from consumers and share them with a network of more than 90 federal, state, local and international law enforcement and consumer protection agencies.”

If you can’t find much information about a business from those sources, the company’s website should also give you some hints about the opportunity’s legitimacy.

“Look for contact and company information; An email address, phone number, physical building address, an About Page on their website, and active social media profiles,” Hanna suggested. “People that are promoting scams don’t want to be found, so they will go to great lengths to hide behind an online veil.”

But while some scams can be pretty easily identified, others are a bit trickier. As a basic rule of thumb, Hanna thinks that job seekers should err on the side of caution. If you get a gut feeling about an opportunity that seems like a scam, even if you can’t find any concrete evidence that it is, it might be best to just steer clear.

Hanna said, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Finally here are some other resources to keep in mind:

  • Understand the difference between work-at-home franchise opportunities and scams.  As franchise expert Joel Libava writes, there are legitimate work from home franchise opportunities. Doing thorough research is how you separate out the legitimate from non-legitimate ones.
  • If it’s not exactly a franchise, but a business opportunity, the FTC governs how business opportunities must be disclosed. The FTC requires business opportunities to have a disclosure statement. The statement must disclose such things as refund or cancellation policies, earnings claims, and give references to others who have purchased the opportunity. It’s called the Business Opportunity Rule.

Work-at-Home Photo via Shutterstock

2 Comments ▼

Annie Pilon - Staff Writer


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found on her personal blog Wattlebird, and exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

2 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    It’s hard to know a scam especially if you are at the end of the rope and you don’t know what to do. But the key is to always be on guard. Don’t just jump in on an idea that seems enticing.

  2. There are a lot of companies out there trying to gather leads for people who are looking for jobs and re-selling them as education leads for for-profit schools. This article is an awesome awareness tool. Make sure to check and re-check the source before providing your info.

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