BOULDER, Colo. — Work-at-home jobs have always been a target of scammers, but they have recently become even larger targets amid the COVID-19 crisis. It is estimated that there are around 60 scams for every 1 legitimate remote job posted online. With National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) right around the corner, FlexJobs is highlighting 14 common job search scams and how job seekers can stay safe searching for a work-from-home job.
“Unfortunately, online job scams remain a troubling component of the work-from-home job market, even as the number of legitimate remote job opportunities continues to grow,” said Sara Sutton, Founder and CEO at FlexJobs. “Creating a safe place for flexible job seekers was the primary reason I created FlexJobs, and it remains a top priority. Especially with unemployment still high, finding a new job can be difficult. Scammers are incredibly tuned into the fact that some job seekers are desperate to make money, and they will use this in recruiting new professionals who may not be accustomed to looking for work-from-home jobs,” Sutton concluded.
A 2020 FlexJobs survey found that more than 72% of job seekers report being on guard or very concerned about scams on other job boards. According to the same survey, 17% of job seekers have been a victim of a job scam (up from 13% in 2016), with another 18% saying they only avoided being scammed because they knew the warning signs.
Below are 14 common job scams. Actual job scam postings demonstrating the language and presentation of the scam can be found here: https://bit.ly/3keQqb7.
1) Data entry scams
Data entry scams come in many forms, but the common theme is that they promise a lot of money for a job that does not require much skill. Jobs in this category often require an upfront payment for processing or training and very rarely pay as well as advertised. There are legitimate data entry jobs out there, but they do not advertise extravagant wages, and they do not require an initial outlay of funds.
2) Pyramid marketing
Pyramid marketing is illegal and has no basis in real commerce. Typically, there is no product involved in a pyramid marketing scheme, just the exchange of money. Similar to chain letters, people invest in pyramid marketing because they believe they will benefit from investments made by people who follow them into the program. For someone to make money with a pyramid marketing scheme, someone else must lose funds.
3) Stuffing envelopes
Stuffing envelopes is a job scam that has been around for many years. Although variations exist, this scam typically involves signing up and paying a fee to “stuff envelopes from home.” Once enrolled, you receive a document explaining how to get others to buy the same envelope-stuffing opportunity you did. You earn a small commission when someone else falls for the scam and pays the nonrefundable fee.
4) Wire transfers
Popular among thieves, wire transfer scams move money quickly from one account to another. These transactions are difficult to reverse, making it nearly impossible to recover lost funds. Although sometimes the request for a money transfer may seem legitimate, it should always be thoroughly checked out. Scammers have been known to pose as company executives asking employees to fraudulently move money from one account to another.
5) Unsolicited job offers
Unsolicited job offers often come in the form of a job scam email. These offers are not sought out by the job seeker and offer either immediate employment or the opportunity to interview for a great job. Some scammers will even pretend to be from a well-known company or job board (such as FlexJobs, ZipRecruiter, or Indeed) to convince a job seeker to interview. These offers may also come in through social media (like Facebook or Instagram).
Even LinkedIn is no stranger to job search and recruitment scams. It is possible that a legitimate recruiter is reaching out to you about a legitimate job. It’s also possible that it is a scam. Scammers will use LinkedIn to reach out to targets, knowing you’re more likely to fall for the scam because the message is coming through LinkedIn. Treat every unsolicited offer as a job scam — no matter where it comes from.
6) Online re-shipping
Online re-shipping is a very serious job search scam because those who fall for it unintentionally become criminals. Re-shipping jobs, also known as postal forwarding, are work-at-home jobs that involve repacking and forwarding stolen goods to customers outside the United States. Although promised a paycheck and reimbursement for shipping charges paid out of their own pocket, those who fall victim to this type of scam rarely receive any money.
7) Rebate processor
Rebate processing jobs mislead job seekers by promising high income in exchange for processing rebates at home. A nonrefundable “training” fee is usually required to get started as a rebate processor. Instead of simply processing rebates, this job involves creating ads for various products and posting them on the Internet. A small commission is earned when someone buys the products, part of which is sent back to the buyer as a rebate.
8) Assembling crafts/products
Work-at-home assembly jobs have been around a long time. Most companies offering these positions require you to pay an enrollment fee and purchase all supplies and materials from them as well. Companies are known to reject finished products regardless of how closely they match the sample finished product. Or, you have to buy a list of companies looking for your assembly services. Once you pay for the list, however, you rarely find the work you thought you would.
9) Career advancement grants
This scam is geared toward job seekers who may want or need to gain extra education or certifications for their career. You’ll typically receive an email asking you to apply online for a career advancement grant that supposedly comes from the government and can be directly deposited into your account if approved.
Other job search scams to consider:
10) Using fake URLs
You come across an online job listing from a well-known company offering work-from-home jobs. Is it too good to be true? Is the company really the company it claims to be?
Scammers will try to recreate the legitimate company’s website by slightly altering the web address. If you’re not looking closely, you may not realize that you’re on a scam website. For example, a real company website might have the address, companyname.com. But, when you’re looking at the fake website, the address is company-name.com. It’s a subtle change, but it could indicate you’re not on the company’s real website.
11) Gaining access to personal financial information
This could be the oldest and most well-known scam tactic in the books. Even the most tech-savvy job scammers use this method because it still works.
It is true that before you start a job, you need to give your employer your social security number. And since most companies pay salaries via direct deposit, you will eventually need to share your banking information, too. However, if a company is asking you for this information early (like asking for your social security number on a job application, or wanting your banking information before they can offer you the job), the job is likely a scam.
12) Communicating through chat
Scammers use instant messaging services to communicate and conduct fake job interviewers with job seekers. Although convenient, it is rare to actually secure a job or conduct a job interview with a legitimate company through a chat platform. If you are approached through chat, be sure to request that they give you a call, and do your research before interviewing to see if the results yield any red flags.
13) Lacking verifiable information
You may have thought you found your dream job, but upon further inspection you can’t find any information about the company. If you can’t verify a phone number, location, web address, or employees, you’re definitely looking at a scam. In this day and age, real companies will have an online presence and some social media engagement — if they don’t have a decent following, they may not be legitimate.
Emails, texts, phone calls, or instant messages — you name it, and there is a phishing scam. If a job is requiring you to click on a specific link or is asking for detailed personal and financial information, someone is trying to collect your sensitive information for malicious use. Phishing scams often look like they come from a trusted and well-known company, so always reach out to an employer directly through their legitimate website rather than respond to any “phish-y” looking communication.
How to avoid work-from-home job scams: 6 tips
Trust your gut if a job feels scammy
As with most situations in life, one of the single best ways to avoid a job scam is to listen to your instincts. That can be hard if you’ve been out of work for a while and a plum position seems to fall smack dab into your lap. But think about the job and how you were approached in an objective light. If something just feels off, or you feel uncomfortable for any reason (e.g., the job recruiter is pushy or demanding, or you don’t have a clear understanding of the job responsibilities), don’t think twice about walking away from it. More than likely, your instincts are right.
Know the signs of an online job scam
While job scammers have adapted their tactics over time, there are still some hard-and-fast warnings that a job is a scam. Here are some basic signs of a work-from-home job scam:
1) You’re asked for personal financial information — such as your social security number, your bank account, your home address and phone number, your date of birth, etc. — early on in the job interview process.
2) The job pays a lot of money for little work. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.
3) The company boasts several rags-to-riches stories that showcase high-flying lifestyles.
4) The job posting mentions quick money, drastic income changes overnight, etc.
5) The job posting has glaring grammatical or spelling errors.
6) The product is supposedly endorsed by countless celebrities or public figures.
7) The contact email address is personal (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) or one that mimics a real company’s email address (e.g., email@example.com).
8) The job requires several up-front expenses from candidates.
9) Compensation is based on how many people you recruit.
10) A recruiter offers you the job immediately without verifying your work experience or doesn’t ask for references.
11) In one of the latest remote work scams, the FTC reports that the operators of a work-from-home scheme used “misleading spam emails to lure consumers into buying work-from-home services.” These emails used fake news stories and fake celebrity endorsements to convince consumers to purchase. In total, the settlements with the operators of this scheme imposed an $11.3 million judgement.
Consider the keywords
In general, be careful of certain keywords in posts. The following options (and variations) can be indicative of a work-from-home job scam:
• Free work from home jobs
• Quick money
• Unlimited earning potential
• Multi-level marketing
• Envelope stuffing
• Investment opportunities and seminars
Research the companies
Let’s say a “recruiter” contacts you and wants you to apply for a job. They say that based on your skills and work experience, you’d be perfect for an open position. That doesn’t mean the job is legitimate (or the recruiter is who they claim to be). You should always do your due diligence on both the recruiter and the job. Conduct research to see if you can find out any info on the recruiter/hiring manager to determine if they are indeed a real person.
The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission can be great resources to find and report online job scams. You should be able to find a trail verifying the person and company, and, if not, you may want to reconsider moving forward with the job process.
Connect with the company directly
A hiring manager might reach out to you with a potential job. They might offer all the details about the job but not the biggest one of all — the company hiring for the job. Although they might say they can’t disclose the company or they’ll lose the potential commission associated with placing you in the position, you should know for certain the name of the company you’re interviewing for.
If the hiring manager won’t tell you, it could be a sign that you’re in the middle of a scam. So contact the company that you might be working for to verify that a) the job recruiter is working for them, and b) the job you’re applying for exists.
Question the communication
The job interview process has evolved quite a bit over the years to keep up with changes in technology. Almost everything is done online, from job applications to interviews, which are happening more frequently via video conferencing, particularly for remote positions.
That being said, there are still a few red flags when it comes to using technology for hire, and those are email or instant messaging. Any hiring manager or boss worth their salt is not going to conduct a job interview via instant message or email. Most often, you might be initially contacted by email, but after that, you should still have a phone or video interview — or both.
For more information please visit https://bit.ly/3qMoLRr or contact Katie Gilronan at firstname.lastname@example.org.