Let’s start with the good news: money can indeed be made with jobs that can be done from home. They aren’t always easy, they often don’t pay well, but they do exist. However, there’s also a sea of advertisements suggesting you can make a comfortable living from your living room online. The vast majority of these are scams. And, much like Jeff Foxworthy’s characterized rednecks, these scams can easily be detected with some red flags.
Mind you, one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that the online job is a scam – it’s just something to look out for, and a reason to dig a little deeper.
1. They can’t believe how much money their sister made online
This scam is commonly found in the comment section of any popular website. Often it claims the commenter simply can’t believe how much (insert generic family member here) made by working at home online, giving a figure that’s supposed to impress you. Often they’re kind enough to include a link to the “job.” Don’t click on it unless you want to be directed to a website laden with malware and other threats.
2. They ask you to pay before you yourself get paid
One of the most common (non-digital) incarnations of this is the mail processing scam, a racket stretching back to The Great Depression. Its online analog is email processing. Often, a company will claim to pay you $25 for each email processed, after you pay a nominal fee to receive details on the job. You won’t receive details on the job because there is no job. If there is, it’ll likely end in you spamming other people for the same position you applied for with, again, no pay.
3. You have to pay for an exam or certification
Often these scams claim that you’ll get the job after you complete some online trials — trials that you have to pay for. Needless to say, you’re not going to get the job, and if you do, it’ll only be after you process a check for the company — or, as law enforcement likes to put it: inadvertently launder money for overseas crooks. You’ll often see this in “data entry” online gigs.
Yes, there are legitimate data entry jobs online and, no, they often don’t pay well. There are some that do, but those data entry jobs are incredibly specialized and require years of experience with advanced skills – not the type of job that typically pops up on Craigslist.
4. They pay you for compiling names and emails
Putting together a list of names and emails can be part of an ingenious scam. This variety recruits the unwitting work-at-home job seeker by having them pay a nominal fee to compile names for advertisements – typically $50 to $75 for the privilege. They claim to pay money for each name you add to the list (roughly 50 cents). Here’s a hint: they don’t pay you and they email the people you put on the list, further spreading the scam.
5. They’re selling you a list of businesses looking for help
It might be a scam. This scam is particularly insidious because it targets people who are either down on their luck, looking for extra income (like many seniors) or are looking for primary employment. The scam asks you to pay a fee to see a list of work-at-home jobs – jobs that are either already filled or don’t exist. Sometimes they offer to pay you back if you don’t get a job from their list. They don’t pay you back.
Let’s say you weren’t aware of these signs and you responded to one of these fraudulent offers. Don’t worry, you have options. First, you need to get in touch with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your post office, and your local FBI branch. That will help stem any fraudulent transactions, illegal shipments, or identity theft if you surrendered your social security number. Then you need to contact of your bank to explain what’s going on. It isn’t fun, it may even be embarrassing, but it needs to get done.
There are two axioms that can protect you from online work-at-home scams: if it’s too good to be true, if often is; and if you have to pay to apply, it’s a scam. You can easily avoid these scams with some common sense and a healthy sense of skepticism.