The idea of staying home and working in your pajamas can sound appealing. But use caution when 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.
Steve Weisman, an attorney who teaches about white-collar crime at Bentley University, in Waltham, Massachusetts, adds in an interview with Money Talks News:
“Rarely are these work-at-home schemes legitimate, nor do they provide any income except for the scammers who operate them.”
To check out a job offer, Reynolds says, search online for the company name and job title and the keyword “scam.”
Following 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. 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.'”
Unfortunately, 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.”
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 effectively using instructions and materials purchased online.