Finding a job can be tough right now. Millions of Americans are out of work, and with many school districts going fully online or to a hybrid model to avoid outbreaks of COVID-19 in the classroom, parents who are out of work are struggling to figure out how to earn an income while taking care of their home-bound kids. Looking for a work from home job? Tap or click for a new work from home job that’s in high demand.
This has led to an increased demand for work from home positions. These positions were already in demand prior to the pandemic, as they can offer more flexibility and a work-life balance you won’t find in an office position. But while you may be on the prowl for a job that won’t require you to commute, you need to be careful of what you’re getting yourself into. It could be a scam.
Work from home scams have always been around, but they’re running rampant right now. Companies are doing a lot of remote hiring for open positions, and scammers are using this trend to line their pockets with your money. To avoid getting taken for a ride while applying for jobs, you should keep an eye out for the sure signs you’re being scammed, which are outlined below.
Signs that work from home offer is a scam
1. The perks are too good to be true.
If the job perks or pay look too good to be true, they probably are. Companies are in the business of making money, not dumping it into the laps of part-time remote employees, so be very wary of positions offering perks that don’t line up with the job duties.
There are companies that offer awesome employee perks or high pay — but good jobs truly are hard to find. If one falls out of the virtual sky with more pay or perks than you’d get with a similar job with another company, you may want to be skeptical of it.
Perhaps it’s a data entry job that’s offering a much higher salary than you’d normally get. The average data entry clerk job in the U.S. pays $13.47 per hour, and if you’re being offered a data entry position that pays twice that amount, you could be the target of a scam.
Or, if a remote billing and coding position for a small medical office is offering you $55 per hour when the average hourly pay for that position is $18.60, you should be wary of the position. You could have gotten lucky, but there’s a higher probability that you’re being scammed instead.
You should also be wary of contract or part-time jobs that come with a ton of unusual perks. This could be a part-time office support job that you’re doing remotely with a surprisingly generous bonus compensation plan or a job that would normally have set hours that’s offering you a more flexible schedule than you’d expect. Anything that’s well outside the norm for the position deserves a healthy dose of your skepticism.
2. You were offered the job but didn’t apply for it.
Unsolicited job offers that land in your inbox without you applying or inquiring about them can be a sure sign of a scam. In these cases, the person contacting you will say they found your resume online and have a job opportunity for you. In most cases, they’ll either say they want you to start immediately or offer an interview right away.
These offers are different than the ones that come from headhunters or HR recruiters. They’re more of a hard sell, with a pushy timeline and an “Act now!” tone. They’ll want you to get suckered in right away by telling you you’re a finalist for the position or that you’re being offered the position outright, and in those cases, it’s probably a scam.
Jobs don’t just land in your lap very often, and any reputable company will want to vet the person they’re hiring thoroughly to make sure they’re a good fit for the position. If you’re being offered a gig with no vetting or interviews or applications required, you need to be very wary of the situation.
3. The job listing or emails are full of errors.
Reputable job listings have generally been vetted by several people before they’re posted to ensure the listing is correct. In that process, basic grammar and punctuation errors are cleaned up, the job posting is edited and the overall appearance is made as clear and enticing as possible to candidates. If you’re staring at a post that’s riddled with basic spelling mistakes and grammar or punctuation errors, you could be looking at a job posted by a scammer.
The same thing goes for emails about jobs. If you applied for a job and receive a reply in broken or poor English, or the response to your application seems unprofessional compared to what you’d expect from a similar company, your Spidey senses should be tingling.
Typos happen, but corporate communications should be clear, concise, and professional. Anything out of that norm should be met with skepticism on your part.
4. The company doesn’t have much of an online presence.
We live in a very digital age. Even companies that aren’t doing business online have a web presence in some form or fashion, which allows potential job candidates to do their due diligence and research the company. If you’re applying for a job, you should always look up the company online.
Most companies will have something online that validates what they do, who they are and what their primary mode of business is. If you can’t find any of those clues, take the job posting with a grain of salt.
You should also be wary of people claiming to work for reputable companies but don’t have a company-issued email address or a presence on the company website. Scammers will try to piggyback on legitimate companies, but when they contact you, the email address or other information should be a clue that something’s awry.
Keep an eye out for email addresses that look legitimate but aren’t. This could be a slight variation on the official company email address — an extra dash in the company name, an extra period, or juxtaposed letters or other slight variations that won’t initially seem out of place.
Do your homework and check email addresses of the actual company against the ones you’re receiving emails from. If they match up, you’re probably OK. If they’re different, you should be extremely careful.
5. The job conversations occur over messaging apps or email only.
If you’ve applied for a job and are being asked to communicate solely over email or messaging apps about the position, you’re probably dealing with a scammer. Hiring is being done remotely in many cases due to the pandemic, but those interviews happen face to virtual face via Zoom or another video platform if the company is reputable.
Scammers, on the other hand, use instant messaging services instead to obscure who they really are behind the computer. In many cases, these conversations will start off feeling legitimate but quickly evolve into you giving your personal information to someone claiming to be a hiring manager.
These kinds of situations can get out of control quickly, so if you’re being interviewed or given hiring instructions via instant messenger, be careful — and never pass confidential information via these channels.
6. The responses to your questions are vague.
Scammers aren’t prepared for questions that require detailed answers. If you’re asking questions about the job duties for a specific position and are getting boilerplate answers back, you should be on alert that this could be a scam.
Anyone who’s directly involved in the hiring process for a position will have a good idea of what the job entails, and if they can’t answer your question, will direct you to someone who can. If the job is real, the answers you receive will be tailored toward it.
These vague answers could be as simple as, “Don’t worry about that. We have someone else to do those things.” Or, you may be ignored completely or told that you’ll be trained on the things you’re asking about.
These are not the type of answers you’d receive from a legitimate hiring manager. Hiring managers are employed solely to make sure that the people they’re hiring are a good fit for the job duties. If they can’t tell you what the duties are, they probably aren’t offering you a legitimate job.
7. The interview or offer feels like high pressure sales.
Very few legitimate companies will try hard-sell tactics during hiring. If you’re on the receiving end of urgent messages like, “Act now! We need a decision today!” or are being told that there’s only one position left and you need to decide now, chances are the job isn’t real.
Again, employers want to be sure the people they are hiring fit well with the culture of the company and the position. They also want to make sure it’s the right move for you.
Companies with low employee retention are losing money in the hiring process, and hiring the wrong people can lead to quick employee turnaround, which costs a lot more than giving a potential candidate a few extra days to decide if the job is a good fit for them.
8. You’re asked to pay upfront for equipment, training, or other fees.
One of the most obvious signs of a scam is being asked to pay money upfront for something company-related. Scammers are looking to make money from job searchers, and in some cases, they do this by asking “new hires” to pay for training or other fees upfront as part of the hiring stipulations.
Reputable companies do not ask employees to pay for training on their own dime; any company that expects you to have more skills for the position will either hire a candidate with those skills or will pay for training out of the company coffers. If you’re being asked to pay for things as a stipulation of your hiring, do not do it. It’s a scam.
Some scammers will use another payment-based tactic to leech money from you. In many cases, the scammer will send the “new hires” a large, fake company check for the cost of equipment or other supposed fees.
The check is deposited by the new employee, the equipment is ordered, and the excess funds that weren’t spent on equipment are wired back to the company by the employee. The check won’t clear, though — and the employee is out the money for the equipment and the money wired to the fake company.
In any case, if a company is asking you to pay money out of your own pocket to them or you’re being asked to buy equipment with a company check and then send back the excess amount, don’t do it. You’re being targeted by a scammer.
9. You’re asked by someone other than an HR rep for personal information.
Scammers use sophisticated tactics to leech personal information from you, so be careful of passing along any personal information to anyone. This could be a supposed hiring manager asking you for your bank account information to set up direct deposit, or it could be someone asking for your Social Security number to run a credit report to finalize the hiring process.
Setting up direct deposits and credit checks aren’t abnormal parts of the onboarding process, but they’re done in a safe, secure manner with the right people.
Also, do not send your personal information through email, messenger, or via a link that isn’t secure. You should only enter personal information through a secure company portal or link, which will start with an https:// — not http://.
If you’re being asked to send your personal information any other way, don’t do it. You’re at risk of identity theft by the scammers, who will take your information and run with it.
10. Your gut tells you it’s not right.
Your gut is your biggest barometer for scams. If something doesn’t feel right about a job offer, even if everything else lines up, you should go with your gut. Ask as many questions as you can, try to get the entire picture, but if you’re still feeling uncomfortable with the set-up, you need to trust yourself. Your intuition exists for a reason, and in many cases, that alone will keep you from being the victim of a scam.
Never ignore the warning signs, and don’t ignore your gut, either. It’s there to keep you out of trouble, and to keep your personal information and bank account safe.
How to report work from home scams
If you happen to come across a work from home scam, you should take the time to report it to the correct authorities and follow the steps suggested by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to get reimbursed for any money you may have spent.
This will help keep other applicants from getting swindled by the scammers, and may even help protect you from another fraudulent listing posted by the scammers in the future.
According to the FTC, if you have spent money and time on a work-at-home program and now believe it might not be legitimate, you should start by contacting the company and asking for a refund. You can increase the chances of getting your money refunded by letting company representatives know that you plan to notify law enforcement officials about the issue.
If you can’t resolve the dispute with the company, file a complaint with:
You can file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
The Attorney General in your state
You can also opt to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office in your state or the state where the company is located. You can find information on yours at naag.org. When you contact the office, they can tell you if you’re protected by a state law that regulates work-at-home programs.
The website or publication where you found the job posting
You should also consider contacting the advertising manager of the publication that ran the ad. The manager may be interested to learn about the problems you’ve had with the company and may take action to remove any other job listings that the sham company has posted.
You can learn more information on how to spot and deal with scam job postings and find other resources by visiting the FTC’s consumer information page on work at home businesses.