Sunday, October 5

Learn to Spot a Scam

One major pitfall of finding ways to work at home is trying to navigate all the murky waters of scams and illegitimate offers out there. If you're unfamiliar with the work-at-home world, you aren't aware of specific companies that are known to be legitimate and common scams that are out there to prey on individuals trying to find jobs working online.

Here are some things to avoid, avoid, avoid:

  • Never pay for a job. There are few legitimate companies that require you to give them any money for training. Never pay a fee up front, never give credit card information. Paypal info (a common way to be paid as an independent contractor) should only be given as part of a formal hiring process once you're sure the company is legitimate.
  • Do not expect to "get rich quick." Any company that promises you're going to make an unusually high income - "Six figures for part-time work!", etc. - is giving you a line. The paycheck you'll make working at home is just like the one you make working out of your home. You're paid a reasonable rate hourly, per piece or project, or on commission. You will not get rich working at home.
When you begin the search process, to begin with it's best to start looking on legitimate sites where work-at-home jobs are the norm. WAHM and Work Place Like Home are two forums to check out. Elance and Guru are two sites where employers will look for your resume. Craigslist often has work-at-home postings, but this is an easy place to get scammed and I would not recommend that newbies start there.
  • Research the company. Google the company name and check out their website. You can often get a sense from the website whether or not they are legitimate. Check forums like WAHM by doing a search to see what else has been posted about them. If nothing, post a question and ask. Finally, you can check out the BBB for more information.
  • Don't necessarily be put off by someone responding to you with a Gmail account or a non-company e-mail. Keep in mind that individuals or small businesses often hire freelancers to do work for them, so don't let that be a reason to discount a company.
Often you'll see information posted on messageboards or non work-at-home job sites. Or you may get an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be wary if the the source is not forthcoming about what they actually do. Legitimate work-at-home companies will post an ad that looks just like a regular job ad. They'll give a detailed description of the job, company information and sometimes salary information. If they can't be clear about what they do or they mention an "opportunity" (which is not a job) then that is cause for concern.
  • Always be wary of unsolicited work-at-home job e-mails. There are many people looking for work-at-home jobs and typically companies do not have trouble filling positions. There is no need for them to e-mail real work-at-home positions to job seekers in most cases.
There are some very common schemes out there that can get you into trouble legally or cause you to lose money.
  • Check cashing schemes are very common. If you hear anything about depositing money into your account or sending you checks that you then cash and send money, RUN. These are not only scams, but they're illegal!
  • There is always a new e-mail or post being circulated about someone in Africa who is in need of money and has a very sad story. Commonly you will read about Nigeria or South Africa. Again, avoid anything that tells you to send money first. This should be obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people will quickly send money for the opportunity to work from home.
  • Do not give out personal information until you've taken all the necessary precautions to be sure a company is legitimate. As with any job, it's normal for a compay to get personal info, including social security numbers, when they're paying you so don't be surprised by that.
Finally, you really must pay attention to your instincts. If something seems wrong, let that opportunity pass by and look for the next. Companies who hire work-at-home employees go through a formal hiring process, where they do some combination of interviews, taking your resume, training, etc. There are very few companies who are just looking for people to sign up or they're hired on the spot. You must do your homework. Remember, a work-at-home job is still a job. Most of the structure is the same. It's just that you're working in your office instead of theirs.