Work-From-Home Scams Multiply: 10 Tips to Avoid Being a Victim

If you’re looking for work you can do from home the opportunities are growing rapidly — but so are scams that could cost you money and worse. Here’s how to spot a dud.


Does this work-from-home package handler job look too good to be true?

“We are a connector firm that specializes in inexpensive small parcels forwarding, offering reliable B2B shipping and convenient residential service. We offer a home based employment that includes checking merchandise for any damage and compliance with requirements of our clients. Our Agents receive, check, consolidate and reship different packages and ensure that our company continues to deliver packages to our customers on time and with care.”

This real email I received is likely a scam, just one of many that tempt people looking for work-from-home jobs, according to postal inspectors and the Federal Trade Commission.

There are about 60 to 70 job scams for every one legitimate job posting, according to results of a recent FlexJobs survey with 2,600 respondents. Nearly 1 in 5 job seekers reports being a victim of a job scam at least once. And millennials — although from a generation with greater tech savvy — are falling prey to scammers at a higher rate than seniors, with 20 percent of 20- to 29-year-olds saying they’ve been scammed, compared with 13 percent of those ages 60 to 69 who report being victims.

Other survey findings:

  • 33 percent of job seekers were “very concerned” about job scams during their search.
  • 48 percent were “on guard” during their job search.
  • 5 percent had never seen a scam.

“As interest in working from home continues to rise, job seekers of all ages need to exercise serious caution and judgment while looking for work-from-home positions,” said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, which links job seekers to telecommuting and flexible jobs through its ad-free online subscription service.”While excellent, professional, and legitimate telecommuting job opportunities do exist in almost all career fields, it’s important to realize that unfortunately job scams are not always as obvious as most people would like to believe.”

Brie Reynolds, director of online content at FlexJobs, told Money Talks News that FlexJobs hand-screens each job before it’s posted to determine whether the job is legitimate or a scam.

“Our researchers spend over 100 hours, combined, each day investigating things like a company’s website, online reputation, contact information, and Better Business Bureau rating — as well as the job’s duties, qualifications, contact information, and any resemblance to the long list of work-from-home scams we’ve seen before,” Reynolds said.

How to spot scams

Here are some of the things that FlexJobs as well as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission consider red flags for work-from-home scams:

1. Branding/fake identity/copycats: By copying a brand’s logo or trademark, a scammer may trick job seekers into thinking they are dealing with a real company. Similarly, people may pose as representatives of a known company but have no affiliation. One way to tell is by looking at their URL. Each company has a unique domain name, but scammers use a company’s name and include it in a generic URL.

2. Paying for a job/money movement: You shouldn’t have to pay a startup fee or pay to be hired. Also, no legitimate jobs require job seekers to receive money, keep a portion and send the rest on to someone else.

3. Package processing: Package processing jobs could turn you into a criminal. They require you to receive packages, check contents, fill out paperwork and mail the goods, often to a foreign address, on behalf of a client. The goods are often stolen or paid for with stolen credit cards, postal officials say. You could be criminally liable for handling stolen goods and possibly lying on customs forms, officials warn.

4. Text message/IM job offers: Being recruited through text message or instant message is not a legitimate practice.

5. Social media prowling: While many legitimate recruiters make contact through LinkedIn, as well as Facebook and Twitter, you should research the recruiter and company before responding to an opportunity using these tools because scammers use them too.

6. Phishing: If a job offer requires clicking a specific link or asks for detailed personal and financial information, it’s trying to collect sensitive information for malicious use.

7. Envelope stuffing: While sending out correspondence may be part of a job, legitimate jobs do not have people sitting home and stuffing envelopes all day.

8. Product assembly: You may have to invest hundreds of dollars for equipment or supplies — like a sewing or sign-making machine or materials to make items like aprons, baby shoes or plastic signs. After you’ve bought your supplies and done the work, the company doesn’t pay you — supposedly because your work isn’t “up to standard.” Unfortunately, no work ever is. In another scenario, the job seeker pays for a list of companies looking for assembly services but then rarely finds work available. The job seeker is left with the equipment and supplies, but no income.

9. Unsolicited job offers: As a job seeker, make sure to keep track of the jobs you’ve applied for. If you haven’t applied and interviewed for a job, don’t accept an offer.

10. Generic and unverifiable information: Other red flags are generic job descriptions devoid of details and contact information, and recruiters who use personal email addresses, such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, iCloud or Outlook. A legitimate company will have a real Web presence with verifiable information, such as a phone number, location, Web address, employees or social media channels.

Report problems

If you’re a victim of a scam involving mail fraud, including being paid with a counterfeit postal money order, file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service online or call the postal inspectors at 1-877-876-2455 (option 4, Mail Fraud).

If you have spent money and time on a work-at-home program and now believe it’s not legitimate, contact the company and ask for a refund. Let company representatives know that you plan to notify law enforcement about your experience. If you can’t resolve the dispute with the company, file a complaint with:

The FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

The Attorney General’s Office in your state or the state where the company is located. The office can tell you if you’re protected by a state law that regulates work-at-home programs.

Have you fallen victim to easy-sounding job offers? Share your experience in our comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

Read Next: 11 Secrets to Getting More Done

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,449 more deals!