Hackernoon logoIs Your Job From Home a Part of a Work Scam? by@aworker

Is Your Job From Home a Part of a Work Scam?

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@aworkerAnton Cherkasov, CEO Aworker

According to the average American, remote work is an essential part of their perfect life scheme, which gives them more time for friends and family, as well as independence from dress-codes and freedom from public transport in the peak hours. Unfortunately, the number of legitimate job positions which make it possible to work from home is quite low compared to the demand for them. For instance, Flexjobs, a website for remote and flexible work, shows that for every real telecommuting job, there are 60–70 scam postings designed to steal money, identity or even involve candidates in criminal activities. To find out more about spotting typical ‘job from home’ scam schemes, as well as how to find real job opportunities with flexible hours, keep reading this page.

Signs of a ‘Work from home’ fraud

Fake remote job opportunities often promise victims to get rich easy, fast, and explain that anyone can do it. Postings that include 100% guarantees of easy money, or highlight making a lot of money in only a few hours of work are likely scams. You can spot a fraud if it involves you sending money up front, as no legitimate employer will charge you any fees before giving a job. Other suspicious features include a lack of specific job responsibilities in the job description, generic qualifications for candidates and an interview that is conducted only via online chat, with no calls or in-person meetings.

Work from home scams that are attempting to steal your identity can be a bit trickier to detect, as it’s common for employers to ask new and potential employees for personal information. Many companies like to run background checks on prospective hires, and they need your social security number to report your wages to the government. However, it’s unusual for a lawful company to ask for your social security number as part of your job application, or immediately after you get hired before any paperwork is presented or signed. You should only give your social security number to a company after you have accepted an offer, signed new hire paperwork and begun some kind of onboarding process. If you’re still suspicious, you can try to verify a company’s legitimacy by asking for its official IRS employer identification number, or EIN, and researching it. You should be wary of any companies that ask for more information than necessary, such as your driver’s license number or credit card number, as well as those that hire you immediately after inquiry without much of an interview process.

Common ‘Work from home’ scams

While work from home scams can take many forms, most scammers like to stick with the same handful of tricks because they reliably fool people. These are some of the most common kinds of work from home scams you might encounter.

  1. Mystery shopping: Mystery or secret shopping can be a legitimate part-time job, where you work for a company that is contracted by a business to evaluate its quality of service. However, it’s also a very popular subject for scams that exploit the way money moves to steal from people. As a rule of thumb, do not deposit money sent from a stranger into your bank account as part of a job — or any other reason. Some scammers will also try to get you to pay for some kind of mystery shopping directory or certification, but these are almost always worthless. A legitimate source for finding mystery shopping jobs is the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association, which is free to access.
  2. Fake business opportunities: Business opportunities, essentially sell prepackaged businesses to aspiring entrepreneurs. This can take the form of video rental machines, Internet commerce sites or envelope-stuffing businesses, just to name a few examples. The best way to sort honest bizopps from ripoffs is to ask to see the bizopp’s disclosure document and earnings claim statement. The Federal Trade Commission has very strict rules regarding the information bizopps are required to give you, and by reading over these documents for inconsistencies and contacting the listed references, you can make an informed decision that cuts through the flash the bizopp salesperson is trying to pitch you.
  3. Assembly jobs: Many people make money on craft marketplaces like Etsy, so the idea of assembling crafts as a job isn’t far-fetched. However, assembly job scams require workers to pay for the materials they’re sent, promising payment when the worker sends in completed crafts that pass a rigorous quality inspection. As you may have guessed, no craft is good enough to pass the quality inspection, the workers never get paid and the scammer encourages them to purchase more materials to try again.
  4. Pyramid schemes: We’ve written about illegal pyramid schemes before, specifically how they share similarities with legal multi-level marketing companies. In both cases, you are encouraged to recruit new people to join the organization, which often entails them paying money for a license or starter kit. The person who recruited you earns a commission from the money you make, and the people who you recruit earn you a commission for money they make. The key difference between a pyramid scheme and a multi-level marketing company is that, in a multi-level marketing company, you are encouraged to sell a product as well as recruit. Pyramid schemes heavily emphasize recruitment overselling, or may not even have a product to sell at all, and are eventually doomed to collapse. It should also be noted that many of the more popular multi-level marketing companies skate the line between legitimacy and pyramid scheme, and some have recently come under fire for predatory business practices.
  5. Money muling: On the surface, money mule scams seem like simple jobs where you just get paid to conduct money transfers. You give someone your personal information, they set up a financial account for you and you forward any funds that get transferred to that account in exchange for a percentage of the money. In actuality, the transfers you’re making are laundering money for criminals, and they’re only involving you so they can deny culpability. If the authorities start investigating the criminals, you may be implicated in their crimes and prosecuted, which could result in your personal bank account being frozen, or your bank holding you personally responsible for paying back the illegally-transferred money you received.

Spotting a legitimate ‘Work from home’ opportunity

Even with all the scams lurking out there, it’s still possible to find real jobs that let you work from home or work according to your own schedule, but many of them require specialized skills or training. Accountants, web developers and IT specialists all have a high capacity for finding remote work, those jobs require degrees, certifications or extensive self-motivated training to attain. Virtual assistant, virtual call center and translation jobs are easier to get, though they require expertise in administration, customer service and fluency in multiple languages, respectively. While you can sometimes find these jobs using social media or Craigslist, you have a much better chance of finding legitimate opportunities if you research established companies that hire workers and contract them out, such as American High Tech Transcription and Reporting Incorporated for transcribers and translators. As noted above, if you’re interested in being a secret shopper, you can contact the MSPA to find legitimate mystery shopping companies and networking conferences.

Ultimately, it comes down to trusting your gut and checking the info about the company online. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to do your research and take time to think through a decision, and avoid any potential employer that puts pressure on you to make an instant decision. If working from home is your goal, stay sharp and don’t let scammers take advantage of your dream.

Thanks to the new era of technologies we can stop worrying about being lied to or being caught into the scamming scheme.

For instance, Aworker is the platform that helps to prevent frauds in the recruitment and help people find the most suitable company and job position based on their professional skills and achievements. Decentralization provides the best opportunities for creating a new professional ecosystem. It makes it easier to pay people for their actions in Aworker platform: with the power of smart contracts payments for acquaintance’s recommendation or coming to the job interview by yourself are automatic. Also, all information is securely stored, and all the actions are transparent which exclude the chances of getting trapped with expensive yet unnecessary obligations.


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