By Holly Reisem Hanna
You've seen it before:
- Get paid thousands to start
- Easy jobs from home
- No experience necessary
- Earn thousands today
Unfortunately, in the work-at-home niche, scams abound. Some work-at-home scams are more obvious than others (and occasionally legit opportunities may sound like a scam, too). It's hard to weed out the legitimate, work-at-home opportunities from the scams you need to stay away from.
So, what can you do to steer clear of work-at-home scams?
Do your research and proceed with caution! Read up on the company or organization to find out if they have a reputable (or any) online presence. Don’t buy in right away. Discuss the opportunity with your friends, your spouse, and others before you jump in. Check the Ripoff Report, the Better Business Bureau, Glassdoor.com and other review sites to confirm you aren’t being taken by a scam.
Get-rich-quick offers seem appealing. Marketers are excellent at wording offers as fleeting opportunities, urging you to jump on the train before it leaves the station. Pyramid schemes, check cashing scams, and other “opportunities” claim simply paying a little up front will yield huge returns down the road. Unfortunately, it’s rarely on the up-and-up.
When someone describes a work-at-home opportunity, trust your gut first and then do your homework—even if you know the person making the claims quite well. With many scams, even educated, intelligent and normally cautious people can get sucked in. Consider all the celebrities and CEOs who have fallen from Ponzi schemes and investment opportunities gone awry. Even with a team of lawyers, managers, and friends watching their backs, they were taken by scammers. It can happen to the best of us.
When a company asks you to pay up front or send in money right away, take a step back. Yes, some direct sales opportunities and multi-level-marketing programs require an initial investment. Many work-at-home jobs require some training and professional development. However, pay-to-participate programs should always set off alarm bells, especially if they seem too good to be true.
To help you decipher what's legit and what's not, here's a list of common work-at-home scams to stay far away from!
1. Assembly Kits for Money
An extremely common work-at-home scam is the “assembly kits” scam. These kits may be for toys, jewelry, electronics, circuit boards or other products. Offers sound appealing because the creative outlet of assembling something can be fun. Usually, participants are told to purchase a kit to create the product to be sold back to the company.
Reviews on these kits reveal they are often time-consuming and labor-intensive. The time-estimates on assembly kits are usually grossly underestimated, and the returns are little to nothing. Not to mention, most of the time when you try to sell back the completed product to the retailer, the finished product does not meet quality requirements — so you're out the money you paid for the kit. Rather than creating something with little value or market, why not express your talent by selling crafts on Etsy or a site where you control the price and value?
2. Car-Wrap Advertising
Car-wrapping opportunities are another fraudulent offer to watch out for. Companies claim to pay you for advertising on your vehicle. Scammers might ask for money up front with a promise to send the materials for wrapping. They might also suggest complicated payment methods (such as sending you a cashier’s check to pay the installer, rather than simply paying the installer themselves). These scams can turn into huge rip-offs.
There are a few legitimate companies who will pay you to advertise on your vehicle. These legitimate companies will have reviews online. They won’t ask you for payment up front, but they will ask you questions about your driving habits. (Because who’s going to pay you to put an ad on your car if you never drive?) Carvertise (they have an A+ rating with the BBB) is a company that screens their drivers and pays qualified advertisers. Always do your research before joining.
3. Check Cashing
Check cashing scams are notorious and can be life altering. Typically, they look and feel like legitimate opportunities. Some of these scammers pose as work-at-home business opportunities and will request your identification, bank information, and other personal details to get you set up as an “employee.” After the initial “fishing” is done, check cashing con-artists will send a real-looking check to “employees.” They’ll request you deposit the check, then wire them back cash or pay them in advance for equipment, training, or other services.
This is where the scam should raise red flags for any savvy work-at-home woman! Once these scammers have your personal information and the money, they disappear, leaving you to clean up the mess of depositing and paying out a fraudulent check!
4. Envelope Stuffing
When I was in college, I fell for this scam. The flyer requested $12 for information, and supposedly, I would learn how to stuff envelopes while earning $2 per envelope! Well, it turns out the whole “secret” was simply reprinting the flyer, posting it on bulletin boards, and waiting for other unsuspecting people to fall for the scam. Ugh! No, thank you!
Nowadays, these envelope stuffing scams are on the internet, abiding by the same concept (but often asking for much more than $12). Don’t fall for it! The envelope stuffing scheme is one of the oldest work-at-home scams out there and the most common. In fact, the FTC, the Better Business Bureau, and the US Postal Service have issued warnings about these scams.
5. Copy and Paste Jobs
Jobs that are advertised as link posting positions or copy and paste jobs are scams, period. For a small startup fee, scammer companies claim you’ll earn thousands of dollars simply by copying and pasting links to online to classified sites, like Craigslist. Supposedly, you'll earn money as people click on the links, but, in reality, the links you're posting are SPAM and are generally marked as such. So you never earn any money. Plus, this so-called job contributes to the overwhelming amount of litter/SPAM that's already on the internet. Avoid copy and paste jobs — they will never yield positive results.
6. Pyramid Schemes
Often pyramid schemes can be disguised as multi-level-marketing (MLM) opportunities, but don’t be fooled. A pyramid scheme rarely results in a real product sold. Participants in pyramid schemes are often asked for an enrollment fee up front; however, there's no real product or service. With pyramid schemes, individuals make money by enrolling more participants into the scheme, not by selling an actual product.
With pyramid schemes, the investment is fake. There’s no product and nothing to promote other than the program itself. Pyramid schemes aren’t only malicious and unsustainable—they’re illegal around the globe! The money goes straight to participants on the top of the pyramid, so most people end up losing money and getting burned. Don’t fall for it!
7. Rebate Processing
Rebate processing is another work-at-home scam that appears related to affiliate marketing. Typically, companies who are operating this scam will ask you to pay up front (red flag) to learn more about “how” to take advantage of this opportunity. Once you pay, you’ll be sent information about how to post ads and rebate offers for affiliated products to sites like Craigslist and on social media.
When someone clicks an ad and ends up buying the affiliated product, you’ll get a cut of the commission (which is usually never because you're posting SPAM). Then, because the ad you posted includes an offer of a rebate, you’ll have to forward part of your commission to the buyer as well. This is a scam and not worth your time!
8. Unsolicited Job Offers
Watch out for unsolicited job offers, investment, and purchase opportunities that someone is excited to offer you (but you didn’t request). Many rip-offs, scams, and work-at-home schemes come unsolicited. Before the scammer tells you about an offer you can’t pass up, ask yourself, “Did I ask for this information?”
Unsolicited job offers come in many forms. A “recruiter” may contact you via email, through social media, text message, or even via a phone call. Unsolicited offers generally don’t happen in-person or face-to-face, as scammers don't want to reveal their true identity.
The best way to steer clear of scams via unsolicited job offers is to keep a spreadsheet of jobs you've applied for. That way when a job offer comes through, you'll know whether or not you applied for the position. If you receive an unsolicited job offer, mark the email as SPAM, and then delete the email. You never want to click on unknown links or disclose personal information or passwords, as many unsolicited job offers are phishing scams.
Legit Work-at-Home Jobs
If you're still feeling uneasy about how to spot a work-at-home scam — check out FlexJobs. Every single job listed on their website is hand screened for legitimacy. When you apply for a job through FlexJobs — you can rest assured that you're not going to fall prey to a work-at-home scam. Not only does FlexJobs have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, but they also offer a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied.
Fortunately, there are lots of great, legitimate ways to earn money from home. Just remember, if a work-at-home opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Proceed with caution, do your homework, and watch out for these common work-at-home scams!
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