More than 5% of Americans work from home, and that number is growing every year.
With the average commute now 26 minutes each way, it’s no wonder that workers want to work from home.
I’ve worked from home for years, and I love the convenience of going straight from breakfast to my desk. It’s easy to fit a workout or load of laundry into my schedule. Eliminating the need to get dressed up also saves time every day.
Working from home is appealing, but it’s not always easy to find a job that allows it. And if you’re not careful, you could get caught up in an internet scam.
6 Most Popular Work-from-Home Scams to Avoid
If a work-from-home job sounds too good to be true, it may be. Some sites advertise fake jobs to steal money or personal information from you.
Any time you’re thinking about working for a company, search their name to see if any complaints come up. And when you’re searching for a work-at-home job, look out for these common scams.
1. Envelope stuffing scams
Envelope stuffing jobs can sound appealing. Promoters make it sound like you can make money by putting ads or circulars into envelopes and applying postage.
In reality, most envelope stuffing “jobs” will ask you for payment upfront. They’ll also likely ask you to recruit your family and friends into the scheme.
2. Medical billing scams
Fraudulent sites that operate this scheme claim that individuals can make money by processing medical bills for doctors and medical offices. These are usually scams, asking for hundreds of dollars beforehand in exchange for software and lists of doctors.
In reality, most doctors and hospitals process bills in-house or outsource the role to a company, not to individuals.
3. Pyramid schemes
Participants in a pyramid scheme make money by recruiting new members to work beneath them rather than selling a legitimate product or service.
This is different from a multi-level marketing (MLM) company where members sell makeup, lotions, clothes, or some other product or service. However, you should be wary of both.
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Many MLMs promote huge payouts or lavish rewards, like luxury vacations or new cars, if you meet your earning goals. But in reality, less than 1% of MLM participants make a profit — the rest lose money.
4. Mystery shopping scams
Mystery shopping sounds like a great opportunity to make money while shopping and eating at your favorite stores and restaurants. While there are some legitimate mystery shopping jobs available with companies like Pinnacle and A Closer Look, there are also lots of scams.
Never work with a company that asks for payment ahead of time for training, “certification,” or job guarantees. Likewise, don’t wire money to anyone or deposit a check into your checking account.
5. Product testing sites that require payment upfront
Avoid product testing sites that ask for your credit card upfront. Most sites that ask for payment first are not a legitimate opportunity.
To avoid a scam, skip any site that asks for payment in advance. Instead, sign up for product testing jobs at Vindale Research or Pinecone Research.
6. Survey sites that require payment to join
A survey site that requires payment to join is probably a scam. Avoid sites that require you to pay, and register with a paid survey site like Survey Junkie or Swagbucks instead.
How to Spot a Work-from-Home Scam
You can spot most work-from-home scams by some of these tell-tale warning signs.
Get-Rich-Quick Mentality: If a job ad promises you’ll make money overnight, look elsewhere. Any work-from-home job or online business will take time to grow. If an ad makes quick-income promises that seem too good to be true, it’s probably not legitimate.
Asks for Credit Card or Bank Information: Steer clear of any job that asks you to provide credit card or bank information. Only scams will ask you for sensitive financial information as part of the process. They’re likely trying to get your personal information, not employ you.
Asks You to Deposit a Check to Pay Someone: Some online scams may ask you to deposit a check and then send that money to someone else.
What actually happens is you deposit the check, withdraw the money, and then the check bounces. When this happens, you’re stuck covering the funds that you withdrew.
Asks for Payment to Get the Job: Some work-from-home scams ask you for money upfront to pay for training, certifications, or lists of potential clients. A fake job might tell you that you have to pay for equipment or software before you start.
Don’t fall for this. No legitimate company will charge you money to get started. A real job will provide all of the training and materials you need.
Ad Doesn’t Provide Job Details: A fake job ad won’t contain many details about the job itself. A very vague job post that doesn’t actually tell you much about the position is probably just a way to collect your personal information. Often, the person who posted the job is collecting your details to sell to scammers.
There are Plenty of Real Online Jobs
Despite the fact that scams do exist, there are lots of legitimate online jobs and opportunities to work from home.
You can start a side hustle tutoring students online, building websites, or managing social media accounts for local businesses to bring in some extra income. If your goal is to start a business and leave your full-time job, there are ways to accomplish that, too.
If you’re a wordsmith, a career as a freelance writer or proofreader may be a perfect fit. A marketing background could open you up to even more opportunities. You could manage Facebook ads for local or online business owners, write SEO content for blogs, or offer branding and graphic design services.
When looking for an online job, consider your current skills and experience. The easiest and fastest way to start earning money online is to lean in to what you already know. With a solid offering and some internet savvy, you can avoid scams and start earning money at home in no time.