Don’t Get Conned by These 5 Common Work-From-Home Scams

Don’t Get Conned by These 5 Common Work-From-Home Scams
Photo by Aaron Amat /

The idea of staying home and working in your pajamas can sound really appealing. But use caution when you’re searching for such work. That great-sounding work-from-home job offer may be an internet scam in disguise.

Most job websites are not policed carefully, says Brie Weiler Reynolds, senior career specialist and coach at FlexJobs, in an interview.

“Rarely are these work-at-home schemes legitimate, nor do they provide any income except for the scammers who operate them,” Steve Weisman, an attorney who teaches a class on white-collar crime at Bentley University, in Waltham, Massachusetts, tells Money Talks News.

Tip: To check out a job offer, Reynolds says, search online for the company name and job title and the keyword “scam.”

What follows are common work-from-home scams masquerading as legitimate work-from-home jobs.

1. Requests for advance fees

After promising that you can earn big money in your spare time, scammers ask you to buy a starter kit or a fake certification, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you do, the thieves may use your debit or credit card number to make other purchases.


  • Be skeptical of offers that promise big money for little effort.
  • If you are asked to put up money to get a job, it’s likely a scam.
  • Report scammers to the FTC at: Or contact your state attorney general’s office.

2. Offers to become a mystery shopper

This scam is based on a legitimate premise. Retail outlets really do hire mystery shoppers who make purchases and report on how well store employees performed.

Here’s what happens when a scammer pretends to hire you, the FBI explains:

“You’re sent a hefty check and asked to deposit it into your bank account, then withdraw funds to shop and check out the service of local stores and wire transfer companies. You keep a small amount of the money for your ‘work,’ but then, as instructed, mail or wire the rest to your ’employer.'”

The problem is, the scammer’s check is bogus — which can take weeks to discover. When the bogus check finally bounces, you’ve lost the money you sent to the scammer.

Tip: Legitimate jobs never overpay employees and ask them to wire a refund elsewhere, says Robert Siciliano, author of “Identity Theft Privacy.”

For more pointers, see “Watch Out for These Signs of a Mystery Shopper Scam.”

3. Offers to earn ‘big money’ through data entry

Data entry jobs require employees to enter information into company databases. It’s possible to legitimately land such a job with little or no experience, but don’t expect high pay.

These offers often aren’t jobs at all. Instead, a scammer wants you to pay an application fee or buy special software, typically for $25 to $250, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Tip: Promises of big money should make you suspicious. That’s especially true when an “employer” requires few skills, notes Reynolds.

4. Envelope-stuffing job offers

Another common work-from-home scam is the envelope-stuffing scheme, says the National Consumers League.

Job seekers are asked to pay to learn about work-at-home jobs. They are led to believe they’ll be sending out materials on behalf of companies. Instead, they’re given instructions to take out an ad like the one they responded to, asking others to send money to learn how to work from home.

Tip: This is a typical pyramid scheme, Reynolds says. You make money only when other people fall for the same scam you did. As the National Consumers League says:

“You won’t get rich, and you could be prosecuted for fraud.”

5. Offers to make money through medical billing

Another scam seeks workers to process medical claims electronically.

Here’s how it works: A sales representative explains that, if you’re willing to invest some money, you’ll be provided with all you need to start a profitable medical billing business. You may be promised a list of potential clients and technical support, according to the FTC.

Disappointment sets in when you realize that you’ve been deceived. The lists you receive are likely to be out of date. They may even include medical offices that don’t need billing services.

Tip: When you think about it, medical billing is a highly competitive business filled with more-experienced and established companies. So, remember that a novice is unlikely to compete with instructions and materials purchased online.

Have you ever been contacted with a work-from-home job offer? Was it a scam? Share your experience and thoughts by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next

4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Here’s how to ditch cable and satellite TV — and save a bundle — without giving up your favorite shows.

11 Small Money Moves That Will Make a Big Difference
11 Small Money Moves That Will Make a Big Difference

These 11 small money moves will pay off big in the long run. Make the changes today.

10 Retailers That Will Pay You to Recycle Your Old Stuff
10 Retailers That Will Pay You to Recycle Your Old Stuff

These stores want you to recycle — and will pay you to hand over clothes, electronics and other used items.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started


Trending Stories