Find a Real Work-From-Home Job (and Sidestep Scams)

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When Karen Fishman goes to work every day as a customer service representative, she doesn’t have to leave home.

“I don’t have to get in my car,” Karen told Money Talks News. “I don’t have to think, ‘Do I have gas?’ I don’t think, ‘Am I going to be on time?’ You know, ‘How’s the traffic?’ I don’t have to think of all these things that make you anxious in the morning typically. Plus, I don’t like mornings.”

Fishman works shifts that fit her schedule and says it’s a win-win for her and her employer, Sykes Home, part of a 50,000-employee firm providing customer contact services for companies mainly in the financial services, communications and technology fields.

Fishman is one of an estimated 3.3 million people who hold legitimate work-from-home jobs. Customer service rep is the most common work-from-home job, but there are many others that may improve life-work balance and offer savings.

Giving up an average 50-mile roundtrip drive to the office can save about $6,250 in annual commuting costs, according to estimates based on U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

“Eliminating commutes, even just a couple times a week, would reduce traffic, pollution and gas consumption, as well as free up time for employees to engage in activities that make them happier and healthier, in turn making them more productive — a win-win for both employees and employers,” says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, an online, subscription-based service connecting job seekers and employers offering telecommuting and other flexible-time jobs.

And as the sharing and peer-to-peer economy grows, more people are finding ways to earn money from home businesses.

While many legitimate work-from-home opportunities exist, many scammers offer ripoffs that job hunters should shun. Follow these tips first to avoid falling prey to scams and then to finding the real job — or self-employment — that’s right for you.

Sidestep the scams

Avoid any opportunity that requires you to pay big money upfront: The more they want, the more suspicious you should be, warns Money Talks News financial expert Stacy Johnson. Look for an established company with specific contact info, not just a blind ad.

Bogus work-at-home schemes will not guarantee regular salaried employment and almost all require money upfront for products or instructions before explaining how a plan works, warns, a website developed by federal agencies and private companies.

If a purported employer is reaching out to you with an email, look for poor spelling, capitalization and wrong verb tenses as telltale signs of possibly criminal behavior, officials say.

These should be seen as red flags for typical fraud schemes:

  • Resell: One marketing firm promised Spanish-speaking Latinos packages of high-end goods that they supposedly could resell to make extra money, the Federal Trade Commission says. The company charged $400 to $490 for the packages but delivered only low-quality, off-brand products that were impossible to sell.
  • Reship: A legitimate-looking package-forwarding firm offers at-home job titles like “merchandising manager” or “package processing assistant,” the U.S. Postal Inspection Service says. Your duties would be 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, officials say. You could be criminally liable for handling stolen goods and possibly lying on customs forms, officials warn.
  • Redirect: College students receive e-mails offering “payroll” or “human resources” positions with fictitious companies, the FBI warns. Under the guise of setting up direct deposit for their pay, students provide their account numbers to the scammers. The scammers put a student’s bank account on another victim’s bank information for direct deposit of a real paycheck. When the victim’s paycheck is deposited into the student’s account, scammers direct the student to withdraw funds and send a portion of the deposit, via wire transfer, to others involved in the scheme. The unwitting student could be arrested and prosecuted in federal court for fraud and other charges.

Find your real job

Start your work-from-home job hunt at your local employment office and check for telecommuting opportunities, Stacy says. If you have a special skill, such as teaching or audio transcription, register with a website that can get you that type of work. Use trusted sites to look for work and avoid pop-up ads.

Finding a work-from-home job can be a job in itself. A list of the top 100 companies hiring home-based workers was compiled recently by FlexJobs. The site also lists executive-level jobs and jobs in categories that might surprise you.

Besides customer service reps, top work-from-home job titles include language interpreter, engineer, sales representative, graphic designer, writer, adjunct instructor, software developer, medical coder, marketing specialist and UX (user experience) designer, FlexJobs says.

Share in the sharing economy

The peer-to-peer and sharing economy is not limited to Uber, AirBnB rooms and Etsy crafts. New ways to reach people with products and marketing messages are helping entrepreneurs create income-generating activities from home. A few examples:

  • Chef: If you cook you can book “food sharing” gigs AirBnB-style through sites like Feastly, EatWith and NewGusto. You could host a five-course dinner in your home or offer takeout. You set the menu and price.
  • Teacher: With Udemy, you can turn your expertise into a class you offer from home to 7 million students. A typical Udemy course has one to three hours of content; instructors typically charge $10 to $30 per hour. You keep all the money from students you bring to Udemy, and half the money brought by students found by Udemy, which also provides help for you to set up and market your course.
  • Pet Sitter: Through sites like DogVacay, you could earn $1,000 a month by sharing your home with pets of people who are going away. You choose the breeds and types of services — such as overnight boarding or just doggie daycare — and rates. Pet owners pay electronically through the website, which keeps 15 percent to cover insurance, 24/7 customer support and marketing.

What work-from-home job or business are you in? Share in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

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