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9 Sneaky Work From Home Scams & How To Avoid Them

by | Last updated Mar 28, 2021

Being able to work from home or literally anywhere in the world has many advantages, no more commutes and more personal freedom are just two of them. Many people would love to telecommute and desperately search the internet for any opportunities.

Unfortunately, there are countless of frauds out there who are great in selling you the perfect income idea but in the end only steal your money. Before you fall for one of those work from home scams, make sure you know what kind of jobs are most likely bogus and how you can avoid them.

Work From Home Scams, Telecommute Frauds, Digital Nomad Mistakes,

Typical Work From Home Scams

Although there are many types of work from home scams, there are certain kinds of jobs or job postings, that are 99.9999% not legit. If you read ads that sound like the following, run away as fast as you can!

Bonus Tip: If you want to make sure a job posting is no scam, head over to FlexJobs. They are listing countless of remote jobs, all hand-screened and 100% scam-free! Also check out my FlexJobs review to learn more about the platform.

1. Assembly Jobs

Yes, assembling jobs are still around. You pay a kind of deposit upfront, receive component parts and then have to assemble them. It doesn’t matter if it is about craft kits, pencils, toys or whatever. Chances are you spend hours of work on these kits but never get to see a cent for it.

2. Stuffing Envelops

Believe it or not but even stuffing envelopes scams still exist. You get small products or brochures, place them in envelops and send them out to alleged customers. Of course, you will never get paid for it and the money you had to deposit upfront is gone, too.

3. Forwarding Emails

This is like the stuffing envelop scam only with a modern twist. You need to pay a fee to get a specific software and training material before you start. After that you will have to send out emails on behalf of the company and get paid per email you have sent out. Although it sounds like an innocent marketing or sales entry-position, it is in fact a bogus.

4. Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)

Multi-level Marketing is also called pyramid selling, network or referral marketing. The idea behind it is that you need to sell products. To do so, you need to recruit more people who sell these products. Earnings are by commission and, of course, you need to pay a fee upfront. This is a very controversial marketing strategy and independent consumer watchdog strategies found out that between 99% and 99.9% of all participants lose money.

5. Email from Nigeria

Ah yes, we have all received them. An email coming from Nigeria (or any other African country), claiming that the sender is a civil servant or a prince or whatever you can imagine and needs to find a safe place to store his money while he is busy with a political strife or anything important like that. Of course, you will get to keep 30% of the money. An alternative story might be that you have inherited a lot of money from a wealthy business man and so on and so on.

Sounds too good to be true? Because it is. You will never receive any money, lose your deposit or end up with a fake check. Unfortunately, there are still many people all over the world who fall for this.

6. Random Job Offerings

You receive a promising email telling you that the sender has the perfect job for you and you can basically start straight away. You click on the link and see that there are only 2 positions available, so you have to hurry up! All you need to do is give your payment details because, of course, you have to pay a little fee in advance for our training. Needless to say that you will never earn any income with that.

7. Medical Billing

Another work from home scam that sounds too easy to be true: You get a great software, training material and a list with leads. All you have to do is call those leads and offer to process things like insurance claims for them. The thing is, medical info is sensitive. No doctor in his right mind would let a stranger handle these things. Means your leads are worthless and you are never going to make money with it, no matter how good the software or training is.

8. Business Start Up

Have you ever seen these ads where they promise you that you can start your own business with little effort and soon are going to make big money? All you need to do is buy their starter kit, which usually includes a website and info material, and then you can start selling your own products and what not. Everyone can do it!

No need to mention that this is not going to work.

9. Directories

Want to find a work from home job? Perfect! All you need to do is buy our extensive directory with hundreds of open positions and companies that are looking for people with your qualifications. After your payment you receive a directory that is usually very chaotic, super outdated or lists fake companies and job offerings.

You can get all of that for free on the internet. So don’t even bother.

Want to find legit companies that offer genuine remote jobs? Check out the linked article!

Work From Home Scams, Telecommute Frauds, Digital Nomad Mistakes,

How To Avoid These Scams

As you can see there are plenty of ways people try to scam you with remote job opportunities. Some seem to be quite obvious, others can be very convincing. Here are the best ways how you can find out if they are legit or work from home scams and how to avoid them.

1. Upfront Payments

Genuine employers or clients don’t ask you for an upfront payment. Not for training, not for a certain software, not for any materials and no participation fee. Do never transfer them money or give them your payment details!

2. Money Back Guarantee

This goes along with the first point. They will promise you that you get your invested money back in case it doesn’t work for you and you won’t be successful with it. Guess what? Once the money is transferred you will never ever see it again. Don’t trust this lie!

3. Big Promises

Most of the time these work from home scams promise you that you will get rich in no time and without much effort. Earn up to 200 USD a day with little work. Don’t fall for that! If you want money, you will have to work for it and you won’t get rich overnight. So use your common sense. If it sounds too easy, it is probably not legit. After all, why should any company pay you a fortune for not doing much?

4. Interest In Your Person

Most work from home frauds don’t even try to make it look legit. They don’t want to know any of your experiences or skills or references. They don’t even ask how many hours or workload you could do each day. All they care about are your payment details. Even if the job doesn’t require any type of experience or skill, legit employers would ask for at least a little bit of info.

5. Pushy Offers

Often enough, these work from home scams come across with a sense of urgency. There are only a few job positions left! You have to sign up right now to secure your spot! Or, even worse, there is a very pushy contact person who is desperately trying to talk you into the job.

Take your time! Don’t decide to go for it straight away. Wait a couple of days or talk to your family or friends about to get another opinion. Don’t let them urge you into something.

6. Dodgy Appearance

If the ads are poorly written or have blurred graphics in it, it’s not necessarily a sign of professionalism. How about the contact details? Is there a way of calling them or emailing a second contact person? Is the company based in a very unusual country?

Also double check their website. If it looks like it was created in a 10-minute rush, it’s not a good sign.

7.  Research

Before you accept any job, run a search on the company. See what social media or Google tells you about it. Search specifically for the company name + “review” or “scam”.

If you saw the ad on a certain platform, e.g. Upwork, check the feedback of former clients. If you can’t find anything, ask them directly for references and check them. Do they cooperate with any reputable company which can confirm that? Always do that research BEFORE you sign up for something.

8. More Research

If Google or job platforms don’t come up with any clear results, you could also go one step further and check out the following websites:

Better Business Bureau (BBB): A national database with companies they have received claims about.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC): They go after individual work from home scams and provide information about debunked ones. If there are any civil or criminal complaints about the company you are suspicious of, they will let you know.

9. Posting Place

When you google things like “work from home jobs”, you will find plenty of scams among the results. Often these fraud companies pretend to be a popular company and copy their design or concept, so look closely. For example, might sound real but it has nothing to do with (the original).

Also be very careful with websites like Craigslist and such. Literally anyone can post a job posting there. A great and easy way for scammers to reach many people with no effort. Instead, go for reputable sites, for example FlexJobs, where frauds have a much harder time.

10. Response To Questions

Often enough work from home scams provide only very vague statements about what you are going to do and how you get paid. So make sure you clarify these things. Ask question like the following and see how they react:

  • What exactly will I have to do? What are the daily steps of the job?
  • Who is my contact person if I have job related questions?
  • Will I get paid based on a commission or a fixed salary?
  • How will I get paid (PayPal, check etc.)?
  • When will I get paid?
  • Who will pay me?

11. Trust Your Gut Feeling

As with many things in life, trust your gut feeling. If something sounds dodgy about the job or company, even if you don’t have a rational explanation for it, stay away from it. Brie Weiler Reynolds writes at FlexJobs:

“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.”

I Fell For A Scam! What To Do Now?

Ok, you got taken away by the excitement about that incredible job offer and it sounded all so legit. You have signed up for it, gave them your banking details or transferred money. Now you have realized that you made a huge mistake. You didn’t receive the promised product, didn’t get paid or just found bad reviews about them on the internet.

What to do now?

  1. Don’t panic! That never helps.
  2. Contact your bank or credit card company and see if there is any chance to transfer the money back. If you haven’t transferred money yet, but gave out your financial details, ask your bank to block potential collections.
  3. Get all the information you have about the company (website, ads, contact person etc.) and make screenshots of it. Also save your emails or any other type of conversation you had with them. These companies are usual quick to delete their websites and disappear entirely. Make sure you collect all information as long as you can.
  4. Depending on the country or state you are in, report the scam. In many countries a criminal complaint to the police would be the right thing to do. Reporting the company to the attorney general is also an important step.
  5. Apart from that it would help others to spread the word. Share your experience on the internet and name the company and the way they tricked you to warn them.

Want to learn what jobs are legit work from home jobs? Check out the linked list!

Work From Home Scams, Telecommute Frauds, Digital Nomad Mistakes,

Not All Online Jobs Are Scams

People who never had anything to do with online jobs often think that this is all scam and you can’t make money online. This is not true. There are so many opportunities for remote jobs out and many people have been generating a full-time income with it for years.

But yes, there are also many work from home scams which take advantage of trustful people. If you have a job offer that sounds like the ones mentioned above, stay away! If you are still not sure whether to go for the job or not, stick to the listed tips.

When in doubt, decline the offer and look for better ways to make money online.

Do you have any experiences with work from home scams? Share your story with us in the comment section below!

Work From Home Scams, Telecommute Frauds, Digital Nomad Mistakes,

Denise Mai

Denise Mai

Founder of Digital Nomad Soul

Hi, I’m Denise – a travel addict and remote work enthusiast. I have been traveling the world since 2008 and explored, worked, and lived in more than 80 countries. To me, there is nothing better than the freedom and flexibility that comes with a location-independent lifestyle.

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  1. Thanks for your comment, Fabio! Unfortunately, you’re right. It seems like there are more and more people out there trying to sell super expensive courses without having much real-life experience and/or making up any income numbers. It’s often really hard to tell which ones are honest and worthy and which are fake :/ Yeah, that’d be interesting. Will see if we ever find out ;)

  2. just to add another example I’m seeing often in the last months: people pretending to show themselves as digital nomads and wanting to help you do the same using their same technique: selling third parts online e-courses.
    And all of them like posting random travel pictures with an earning bar showing the “today” “yesterday” “last 7 days” income, all with the same graphics and fonts.
    Well I’m still wondering which is the scam website behing all of this :)

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