How to Avoid Work-From-Home Job Scams

  • By David Lukic
  • Dec 16, 2020

Working from home offers you flexibility, freedom, and autonomy. It sounds like a dream come true, but for many Americans, the dream becomes a nightmare when they are conned by a work-from-home scam. 

More than 4 million people work remotely in legitimate positions, but the FTC says they see more than 8,000 complaints per year of victims of work-from-home types of scams. Only 1 out of every 55 remote job listings is legitimate. You have to be extra careful when applying for jobs online, and if they sound too good to be true, they probably are.

Fake Job Postings on LinkedIn and Indeed

Work From Home Scams

LinkedIn and Indeed are two of the most trusted platforms for job hunters in the US. Both take some action to track down and flag illegitimate job listings, but it’s clearly not enough. The trustworthiness of Indeed and LinkedIn makes applicants less wary of being scammed, even if the two platforms don’t suffer from the same volume of scams as other sites. 

Indeed advises job searchers to exercise further caution when applying for the following roles:

  • Receptionist
  • Delivery Driver
  • Chauffeur
  • Warehouse Worker

The above positions are among the highest searched jobs and can lure in the most people. They also hire an above-average number of entry-level workers with good hours and benefits. In short, these roles are the most enticing and believable options scammers can work with.

LinkedIn is a platform heavily focused on creating direct contact between applicants and recruiters. Applicants can more easily confirm a recruiter’s legitimacy by checking their connections and affiliations. This doesn’t prevent the posting of work-from-home scams, but it does make them more difficult to run on LinkedIn.

Are All Fake Job Postings Scams?

Imagine you excitedly applied for a job a few weeks ago and still haven’t gotten a response. You may start to think that you’ve fallen prey to a fake work-from-home scam. However, rather than a scam, you may have simply wasted your time on a fake post from a legitimate business.

Why would a business create fake job listings if they aren’t running a scam?

There are a few reasons, and most stem from the fact that recruiters aren’t exactly respectful of your time. There are a lot of internal, financial, and data-driven factors that cause recruiters to create not-so-serious job listings.

Measuring the Available Talent Pool

Companies often use fake job posts to gauge the demand and available talent for certain positions. They record how many people apply for the job and the level of skill those applicants bring. This information helps them determine a reasonable salary and how much investment to put into the person they hire.

Create a Pipeline for Your Position

Despite Indeed’s explicit rules against the practice, some businesses post fake jobs to create a database of possible replacements for a position. They use the post to record resumes, so if a hire doesn’t work out, then they can fill the vacant role as soon as possible. This is common in high turnover and high-risk industries.

Facilitate Unfair Hiring Practices

Today, there are hiring guidelines that businesses must consider, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity mandate. Recruiters can’t completely ignore these rules and create fake job posts as evidence of their effort to hire externally.

In reality, these jobs are already filled by managers’ nephews, family friends, or other internal connections.

Create Marketing Lists

A rarer use for fake job posts is to add to a business’s potential client list. Applications nearly always require people to give their email, address, and phone number. Marketing teams use this information to send solicitations and advertisements to candidates they turned down. It’s a somewhat unscrupulous slap in the face.

How to Prevent Work-from-Home Scams

Remote Work Scam

If you get involved in a work-from-home scam, you may lose some money, but even worse, you might end up in legal trouble and be a victim of identity theft. At the very least, it will be a hassle to work with credit card companies and banks trying to recoup your losses. Always be on the lookout for these types of scams when searching for work. Some tips and red flags to be aware of are: 

You Get an Immediate Job Offer

Be extra careful of job offers you receive when you haven’t even interviewed or spoken with a real person. In this digital age, a lot of business is done through email, but at some point, before a job is offered, you should speak to a real human being.

They Bend Over Backwards for Your Schedule

If a recruiter is too over eager to accommodate your schedule, then you should proceed more carefully. It’s exciting when an employer is understanding, but most roles have certain working hours that best fit into the company’s existing culture and workflow. This could just be a tactic to make you more complacent and willing to fall for the attacker’s scam.

Requirements or Education are Vague

Read the job description carefully, does it sound like marketing fluff, or does it provide a detailed account of the duties?

Scammers intentionally leave out education levels or requirements to make their posts more accessible. More cunning attacks may list out reasons as to why education level or experience isn’t necessary. Not listing required qualifications doesn’t automatically make the listing a scam, but it is a red flag.

It’s a bad habit to underestimate yourself and not apply for high-skill jobs but set realistic expectations. A position like senior vice president of a company is going to come with a few requirements tacked on.

Unprofessional Descriptions or Messages

If a company representative sends you correspondence from a generic email address (AOL, Gmail, etc.), it could be an indication of a scam.

The same is true for communications that have grammatical errors or are overtly casual. For example, if the email includes text-speak like “LOL” or “Cya.” Noticing unprofessional messages becomes obvious over an extended conversation, so take your time and ask questions before putting yourself out there for a dubious job offer.

People often ignore suspicious signs in job offers, especially if they’re desperate.

The Recruiter Asks You for Money

If the employer asks you to pay money upfront or fees of any kind, it is not a legitimate job position. Recruiters may ask you to send them a check to cover the cost of adding you to their systems. They may even ask you to purchase equipment you’ll need for your “new position.” Of course, you’ll have to buy said equipment through them.

Another, scarier way that scam artists steal money from you is by sending you a check. This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s real. Scammers will send you a large amount of money to buy equipment, but then ask for some of it back. However, the check they sent you will bounce, and the scammer will run away with your money.

Tips for Staying Safe from Home Scams

Do not respond! The organizations running these scams share information of possible targets. Responding once could put you on a high-priority list.

Do your research and find out about the company before accepting any job. Check them out at the Better Business Bureau first.

Different Types of Work-from-Home Scams

Work From Home Fraud

These are a few common variations of the work-from-home scam that you should watch out for.

Medical Billing

Although medical billing is a real profession, it is rarely outsourced to work-from-home individuals. Anyone offering a job that involves billing patients for medical procedures is probably a scam. If during discussions they offer to send you the software and equipment you will need, but you have to pay a fee, you are being scammed. 

Envelope Stuffing

Envelope stuffing is often a pyramid scheme in itself where you end up stuffing envelopes and sending them to other victims and getting them to pay you $2 each. Envelope stuffing jobs are almost never legitimate. 

Telemarketer or Call Center Employee

If you are hired as a remote telemarketer or call center employee, your profits will most likely end up in the pocket of your employer. These types of positions are often scams designed to use you for free or cheap labor.

Mystery Shopper

If a potential employer wants you to deposit a check that they send to you and then test a money transfer service that you use to send the money back to them, you have been scammed. The check you deposited was fake, and your funds are now gone.

Survey Schemes

There are legitimate cases where people are paid or given small prizes for taking surveys. However, if you are being asked to pay to take surveys, then this is a big red flag, something is not right. Pass on this one. 

Start an Internet Business 

Starting an Internet business can be a great way to make money, but if you are approached by a total stranger who wants to help set you up, all you have to do is pay a fee, you are probably being roped into a scam. 

Pyramid Schemes

Everyone knows this one; you are paid next to nothing to entice everyone you know to sign up for this same product/service/program, but even if you do, you never see the profits promised in the interview. Think Amway and walk away.

What Are Fake Employment Agencies?

Employment agencies are middlemen focused on connecting recruiters with suitable employees. Rather than waste hours and resources sorting through underqualified applicants, many business owners prefer to outsource recruitment to third-party agencies.

These agencies only get paid when one of their applicants gets hired for a position. So, they have a vested interest to only put forth their best applicants. This makes them extremely trustworthy for employers and employees alike.

Remote work is a blessing for fake employment agency scams. They don’t have to worry about matching their target with nearby jobs to appear more realistic. Scam agencies can connect applicants with jobs anywhere in the country under the guise of a work-from-home position.

So, it’s important to know the right questions to ask any agency that approaches you. The more specific the questions, the more likely you are to catch a fake agency off guard. Try the following:

  1. What companies have you placed candidates with before and can I have their contact information?
  2. What can you tell me about the company culture of the organizations you’re working with?
  3. What growth opportunities are available in the positions you offer?

What to Do if You Have Been a Target of Remote Work Scams

Remote Work Fraud

Scammers play on the emotions of others, and if you are desperate to find work and love the idea of working from home, you could be a victim. If you have been scammed in one of these ways, follow the steps below:

  • Contact your state consumer protection agency and report the incident.
  • If your job includes the mail service, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
  • Contact the local authorities.
  • Call your bank or credit card company to report it to fraud services and see if they can help you recoup your losses. 
  • When evaluating potential jobs, use common sense and not emotion. 
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