As exciting as it is that there are more remote jobs available to the world, this also creates opportunities for sketchy people to try and trap others with work from home scams. It’s unfortunate that this exists, but would-be scammers will always exist.
Although the rate of remote job scams was rising pre-pandemic, it has continued to be a problem as these scammers look to take advantage of those new to remote work.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that between 2017 and 2019, the prevalence of remote work scams increased from 5.1% to 9.3%. Estimates indicate that 14 million people fall victim to in-person and remote job scams, incurring financial losses of over $2 billion.
And the report does not factor in that it can expose you to identity theft issues, more financial losses, and additional emotional and mental stress.
But don’t worry! There are TONS of legit work from home jobs and it becomes easy to spot job listings that are scams once you know what to look for in your search. Let’s dive right in!
What Are Work From Home Scams?
Work from home scams is designed by scammers around the world to create fake job listings that look legit. And because the listings can be highly-convincing, those not sure of the signs of a scam apply with their personal information. This enables the scammer to steal your identity and commit various cyber crimes, causing long-term personal harm.
Depending on the type of remote jobs you are looking for, you may come across numerous different scams of work that may seem “too good to be true.” And usually, if you get that feeling, your intuition is right in thinking it is a scam.
Common Work From Home Scams
Before I get into the signs of work from home scams, it’s important you know some of the common types that exist.
There are so many variations and new tricks from these con artists pop up all the time. The best thing you can do is be on high alert but start to recognize some red flags from the start.
Generally, remote job scams fall into two specific categories:
- Work from home jobs that are part of a company where you do very little work but are guaranteed to get very good pay for it. Typically, the job listing will encourage bonuses in getting others to “apply” as well.
- Helping you build your own business by selling what the company offers, but only after you pay money to get started, to get a certification, or some other step before you actually start “working.”
Now, these two categories may seem a bit obvious that something would be off about the job listing.
However, many job scammers have become sophisticated in their listings, where the copy is very detailed and much more convincing with the information they provide.
Here are some specific job examples that could be scams.
- Mystery Shopping
- Medical Billing
- Starting An Online Business
- MLM Marketing
- Survey Jobs
- Job placement
- Government & Postal
- Reselling goods
- Virtual assistant
**There are some legit remote jobs in these above areas, but they are heavily targeted with scams. So it’s something to be very mindful of if you explore any of these further.**
How To Tell If A Work From Home Job Is A Scam
Now that you know some basics, how can you better protect yourself from scammers and hackers? While it might sound a bit overwhelming, just follow these tips below and you’ll be able to spot which remote jobs are real or fake.
1. Unprofessional Job Posts
One of the easiest ways to spot a remote job scam is the quality of the position that is listed. Now it’s still very possible to come across a detailed and well-written fake job, but generally, you can tell by a quick read.
Most job scammers don’t have the best grammar or writing skills to create a professional remote job listing, so they will have tons of obvious mistakes.
Any good remote job will be thorough and have strong written communication to attract top talent, so if the job listing has some of these issues below, it’s most likely a scam:
- Bad Spelling
- Tons of Grammatical Errors
- Lack of Punctuation
- Weird or Random Capitalization
- Wrong Words Being Used
2. Difficult to Find Any Company Information
A good way to figure out if the job is a scam is by digging into the company it’s associated with. If you can’t find much online about them like employee reviews, business listings, or even a company website – stay away.
Some companies will have much more information online than others, but every legit company will have something. And yes, scammers can set up fake company websites too, which is why you want to research beyond that.
3. Company Website Looks Fake or Potential Email Spoofing
Maybe the job posting seemed legit and you recognized the company, but something still feels off. One additional thing to look for is when scammers pretend to represent a legit company to snag your personal information. This is known as spoofing.
How to tell if someone is trying to spoof you:
- You notice the standard branding is missing from the website they have on the listing or in their email if they reached out.
- The website looks similar to the real company but the URL features things like hyphens, numbers, or different endings instead of standard .com, .or co, .org, etc.
- The URL is not using HTTPS:// and using HTTP://, which might not necessarily be a scam but majority of legit companies use the secure web protocol to protect data.
- The email address looks funny, is a personal non-work email (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) or if you get an email, it contains weird words, characters, or numbers when you click to see who it’s from.
4. You Never Contacted The Person for A Job
Have you ever received an email from some random person who claims to have seen your resume online or your profile and wants to offer you a remote job (or even just any job)? I have and they 100% are always scams.
Hiring managers and recruiters can and will reach out, but it’s to tell you about a position and will want to chat with you if you have an interest. I get those occasionally too from being active on LinkedIn. And those are certainly okay to explore.
But those jobs that are looking to move fast without much detail and seem pushy, should be ignored.
5. High Pay for Minimal Job Efforts or Requirements
If something sounds too good to be true, then run.
We all wish we could put very little work into something and make big bucks, but it’s just not the way the world works! Ahh, wouldn’t that be awesome though!?
So in a work from home scam, many of these jobs will claim easy working hours, limited info about the job, but it will come with great pay and benefits. And typically, it’s vague on what the job entails that allows you to make good money. Red flag!
Legit job descriptions will have tons of detail and requirements to attract the right talent. And the job won’t promise some six-figure salary for fifteen hours of work.
6. You’re Asked for Confidential Information
The point of these remote job scams is to steal your personal information and access accounts for some financial gain. Unfortunately, online identity theft is a major problem.
In the past two years, 37% of consumers have been victims of application fraud, and 38% experienced account takeovers.
In this situation, you’ll find that the scammer will want to proceed but requires your social security to do a background check and look at your credit score. They’ll either ask you to send via email or will direct you to some webpage to enter your info.
Instead, that information is captured and used to hack your identity or sell it on the dark web for others to use and cause financial havoc.
If you are asked for any of these items to proceed in the interview process early on, ignore and move on:
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- Credit card or bank information
7. The Remote Job Is Urgent
Many remote job scams will claim how they want to move fast, that it’s urgent, and are trying to get you to rush through the hiring process.
Look, every company that’s hiring wants to fill the open roles (it’s why they have a job post!) but those looking to pressure you into a short commitment timeline is also a red flag.
The scammers pressure you to move fast because they are trying to stop you from researching or thinking about it as much. It’s an easy way to get you making fast decisions without taking a step back to analyze the job. In your communications, the scammer will ask for you to move quickly, put time limits on your decisions, or constantly contact you.
8. You Are Asked To Pay For Something
If you apply for a work from home job and you get a response that requires you to pay for something, it’s for sure a scam. No legit company will require you to pay for anything during your interview process.
The excuse from the scammer will be to cover things for a background check, credit report, resume review, equipment or software, training material, or certifications. Anything you may need for success in your work will be provided by the company.
You should never need your own money to move forward in a legit remote work job.
Remember: Don’t Assume You Are Too Savvy to Fall Victim
Even if you are a savvy remote worker or very technologically advanced, you should always be on high alert for online scams. It’s easy to become laid back or overconfident in your skills, but that’s exactly when you might make a costly mistake. Always be aware, no matter your experience level.
How To Find Remote Jobs That Aren’t Scams
As you begin your remote work job hunt, you might be unsure of where you can avoid being scammed. Fortunately, you have many options to find that awesome new job and career working virtually.
And many of these places and platforms do a great job of removing those sketchy jobs before you even come across them. So don’t be afraid to dive into remote work, but still be vigilant with your research.
- Trusted Remote Job Boards: There are many different job boards out there to source great remote jobs. Some of my favorites that I’ve used in the past and have industry trust include: WeWorkRemotely, Remote.co, and of course our own, Remote Work Junkie Job Board.
- Premium Communities: One of the best is FlexJobs, where you can find vetted part-time, full-time, and freelance/contract remote jobs. You have to pay a membership fee to join, but you get access to some of the best opportunities early and many perks to help you get the job. Learn more and sign-up here.
- LinkedIn: The professional social media network has over 800 million people registered around the world and still growing! But it’s a great place to find legit companies hiring remote jobs and the platform does a great job removing anything that is illegitimate.
- Company Careers Page: Do you know what companies you are interested in working for? Or come across a few organizations that look interesting to you? Go to their careers page and learn about their work culture, open positions, read company reviews, etc. You still want to do your research on a company if it’s an unfamiliar name (see how to spot a scam in the previous section).
What Happens if You Get Scammed?
If you have been scammed or think you have, don’t panic. I know it’s scary and a million things will go through your mind but you need to be calm and take immediate actions to protect yourself.
I was a victim of identity theft (not through job scams) but had my social security hacked. While scary and frustrating, by having a plan and taking action I protected myself from any financial disaster.
Here are the steps you should take:
- Get in touch with all of your financial institutions to alert them to the situation if you gave any financial information away or paid for anything with credit cards.
- Immediately freeze your credit at the three major bureaus, especially if you gave your social security number or other personal info away that can be used against you. Freezing your credit is FREE (I recommended everyone does it regardless of becoming a victim just to protect yourself. You can unfreeze your credit at any time that you would need): TransUnion, Equifax, Experian. You must do it at all 3 to be
- If you see that you lost money to a job scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. You can also report it to your state attorney general.
- If you also think your identity has or potentially will be stolen, you should also report it to the FTC’s IndentityTheft website: https://www.identitytheft.gov/.
- You can also report the scam or any company that is scamming people to the BBB Scam Tracker here.
- If you are further worried, you can use identity theft software like IdentityForce or LifeLock, which can protect you in the future.
Remote work is the future of work and there are many amazing opportunities out there. Unfortunately, this also creates opportunities for scammers to take advantage of those looking to just get into this type of work.
So whether you’re looking for full-time or part-time work from home job, follow the above tips and you’ll ensure to find a legit and happy remote work opportunity.