One of the unfortunate realities of work-from-home jobs is the large numbers of scams in this niche. Legitimate work-from-home jobs are a fantastic way to combine follow your career passions in a way that still offers you work-life balance, but with all the scams out there, how do you know the job you've found is legitimate?
Scammers are coming up with new job search scams all the time, so we're profiling five of the newest scams to give you a sense of what to look out for. Here are five newer job search scams and how to avoid them.
1. Fake URLS make scammers look like large, well-known companies.
Job listings are popping up online that appear to be from a reputable, well-known company like General Electric or CNBC, offering work from home jobs. But these jobs are rarely from the companies they purport to be.
How to spot the scam: Double-check the URL (web address) of the company. For example, the website you're looking at may seem like GE's site but it's really just a fake page made to look impressively similar to the real thing. For example, you might think a URL like http://www.ge.com.in/careers must be GE's careers page, but it's actually a fake. Open a new Internet browser and search for the company by name. Google "General Electric" and then search their REAL website for their careers page. Compare their real hiring site to the one you're not sure of, and you'll be able to spot a scam.
2. Scammers using well-known company names to get personal banking information
The Federal Trade Commission recently refunded $2.3 million to over 90,000 consumers in the U.S. "who were allegedly charged hidden fees by a fake work-at-home service that used Google's name to advertise. The online work-at-home operation, which operated under the names Google Money Tree, Google Pro and Google Treasure Chest, deceptively used Google's name and logo.... The operation promised that consumers could earn $100,000 in six months after signing up to receive a work-at-home kit for a shipping fee of under $4.... The operation didn't tell consumers that, by ordering the work-at-home kit, they were disclosing their account information and would be charged an additional $72.21 each month, the FTC said."
How to spot the scam: This may be a new scam, but it uses the same old tactics to lure in job seekers. It promises a big paycheck but requires you to invest, offering a magic "kit" to help job seekers find a work from home job. The biggest red flag is that this scam requests personal bank account numbers and information. Always beware of job listings that sound too-good-to-be-true and offer strangely large paychecks.
3. LinkedIn users receiving too-good-to-be-true job offers.
A member of our FlexJobs LinkedIn Group recently told us about an unfortunate experience she had with a scammer on LinkedIn. The job seeker told us, "I gave up a work-at-home position with a reliable paycheck because I was contacted by someone through my LinkedIn profile. The company offered me a much better paying position and requested I leave my current position and start there the following week. I did as they requested. I worked for them for 2 weeks and 2 days... and then out of nowhere they said they decided to 'go in a different direction' and let me go. They NEVER paid me -- they owe me over $1,000 and won't respond to my calls or emails."
How to spot the scam: Scammers use urgency to get job seekers to act without thinking. If you're contacted out of the blue by a company offering you a job without having had an interview, don't fall victim to their urgent tactics. Additional red flags include: any company that doesn't allow you to give two-weeks notice at your current employer, that rushes you into making a decision, or that promises you more money than your current job without adding new responsibilities or tasks.
4. Being interviewed for a "job" over instant messenger or IM.
Most interviews for work-from-home jobs take place over the phone or a video conferencing program like Skype. Some even take place in-person. But one place you shouldn't expect to be interviewed? Instant messenger (IM). Recently, scam companies have taken to using fake IM accounts on programs like Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk to hold fake job interviews.
How to spot the scam: While instant messenger has become a great way for employees to communicate with one another, it's very rare to find a legitimate company using IM to conduct job interviews. If a company wants to interview you over IM, ask for a phone interview instead, and ask for a number to call THEM, rather than giving YOUR number. Before agreeing to any interview, research the company to see if you find any red flags about them, including bad reviews online, poor English language skills, lot of urgent punctuation (!! and $$) in their materials, and requests for you to transfer hundreds of dollars via Western Union for required software programs.
5. Mystery shopping "jobs"helping scammers commit wire fraud.
In 2012, two scam companies were shut down after tricking job seekers into fake "mystery shopper" jobs in order to help them transfer funds. "Idealcorp.net and Survsonl.com promised the chance to work from home helping a market research company gauge customer service at Western Union. Mystery shoppers were issued $2,000 checks, told they could cash them and keep $300 for themselves and wire the rest to someone overseas. They would then report on the quality of Western Union's customer service.... But the $2,000 check turned out to be counterfeit, and once the bank where the con victims deposited it learned it was worthless, the victim had already sent off the $1,700 balance - using his or her own funds. The banks held the victims accountable to pay back the money."
How to spot the scam: Again, these are new scammers using old tactics. Helping a company transfer funds is always a big red flag -- companies should never require you to use your own bank accounts or other personal accounts to do anything for them. Real mystery shopping jobs will never require you to use your own money to make purchases or evaluate a retail experience. Most scam mystery shopping jobs carry a sense of urgency, just like LinkedIn scam jobs. For example, you may be asked to accept the job and cash their check within 48 hours. Never accept a job under the threat of a deadline if you aren't 100 percent certain that the company is legitimate.
If you're looking for an at-home job, it's important to stay knowledgeable about job search scams and how to protect yourself. There are thousands of legitimate telecommuting jobs out there. The key is to be able to find those amid all the scams and too-good-to-be-true offers. Stay alert, trust your gut, and do your research, and the legitimate work from home jobs will come your way!
Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Director of Content and Community at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for home-based jobs and flexible job listings. FlexJobs lists thousands of pre-screened, legitimate, and professional-level home-based jobs and positions with other types of flexibility like part-time positions, freelancing, and flexible schedules. Brie provides career and job search advice through the FlexJobs Blog and social media. Learn more at www.FlexJobs.com.