During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, telecommuting became the norm. Additionally, millions of Americans lost their jobs, causing them to seek out remote opportunities. The slew of professionals seeking out new roles was a prime environment for work-from-home scams. While many are easy to spot, some can be surprisingly tricky to identify, even by discerning individuals. If you’re looking for a remote job, here’s what you need to know about work-from-home scams.

Warning Signs of a Work-from-Home Scam

Many work-from-home scams aren’t easy to identify. They may be listed on reputable job boards or classified ad sections of leading newspapers. At times, the work looks legitimate on the surface, too.

However, if you dig a bit deeper, you can usually spot the warning signs of a work-from-home scam. For example, if it offers high pay for simple tasks or doesn’t require prior experience or any specific skills, that’s a red flag. Promising that you’ll make thousands of dollars easy also isn’t a great sign.

Additionally, if you have to pay upfront to apply, to access training, or for materials, you’re probably dealing with a work-from-home scam. With those, the scammers take your money and then disappear.

Poor written communication skills – such as frequent misspellings or grammar errors – can potentially indicate a scam. Additionally, a lack of company information or listing a free email address – like a Gmail or Outlook.com email – should also be cause for concern.

A general rule of thumb is if a role seems too good to be true or anything doesn’t feel “right,” it’s better to walk away or, at least, do a bit more research.

Common Work-from-Home Scams

Start Your Own Internet Business

This work-from-home scam tries to entice you with the idea of being your own boss and making money quickly. The scammers say they’ll help you get set up, but you’ll need to pay for the service. Then, they may claim you won’t succeed unless you buy the more expensive services they offer.

Primarily, this scam focuses on offering you phony services with the promise of being able to run your own online business. In the end, you shell out a lot of cash essentially for nothing.

Stuffing Envelopes

The stuffing envelopes at home scam has been around for decades. With this, the company promises to pay you after you pay to get started. Then, at best, you receive a letter saying you’ll get paid if you get other people to sign up or something similar.

In some cases, once you pay, that’s the end of your interactions with the scammer. They may charge your card once and disappear, or steal your card number for other purposes, including buying products or services, selling it to other people, or other activities along those lines.

Assembly and Crafts

With the product or craft assembly scam, the scammer claims you can earn money by putting together an item. They sell you the materials, and then you make the product, sending it back once it’s complete to qualify for payment.

But, after you do, they claim your work doesn’t meet their standards, and they refuse to pay. You’re stuck with a bunch of over-priced materials and no additional income.

Processing Rebates

Usually, with the rebate processing work-from-home scam, the scammer charges a fee to train you in the process or for a certification. The materials you receive tend to be of very poor quality. Plus, once you’re done training, there’s never any rebates to process, so it never pays back what you spent to train, let alone turn a profit.

Medical Claims Processing

Medical billing or medical claims processing scams are fairly widespread. They promise a significant amount of money for processing paperwork electronically. However, if you reach out, you find out that you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get set up with your own online medical claims processing business, including the required software, or for training, as well as client lists, technical support, and more.

However, what you get usually won’t pan out. The software may be bogus, or the list of potential clients might be incredibly out of date. Even if the doctors on the list are legit, they usually aren’t in the market for claims processing assistance. As a result, making your money back is nearly impossible.

Mystery Shopping

While not all mystery shopping gigs are scams, a lot of them aren’t legitimate. This is especially true if they ask you to evaluate check cashing and money wiring services, a scam that involves giving you a fake check to cash and having you send the money to them, making you financially liable for the fraud. Others try to charge you to access mystery shopping opportunities, or make you pay for training or certifications that you don’t actually need.

Multilevel Marketing

Multilevel marketing (MLM), also known as network marketing, involves buying products that you then sell. You can earn commissions, as well as get money if anyone you recruit sells their products.

The structure leads many to equate MLMs with pyramid schemes, and some certain qualify. If the company relies solely on recruitment to survive, it’s an illegal pyramid scheme.

Others may seem somewhat legitimate since people do by the products. However, they offer incredibly poor money-making potential. The cost of buying the products to sell can be incredibly cumbersome. Additionally, most sellers only have access to a small network of potential buyers, usually family members and friends, not all of which will be interested. It’s fairly normal for sellers to never recoup their initial costs, let alone turn a meaningful profit.

What to Do If You’re a Victim of a Work-from-Home Scam

If you’re a victim of a work-from-home scam, your first step should be to request your money back. If you can secure a refund, that may be enough to put your mind at ease.

Otherwise, let the company know that you intend to contact law enforcement about the scam. Then, you can file a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. You can also find your Attorney General’s office and reach out for help, contact the publication that ran the ad to let them know it’s a scam, and reach out to the Internet Crime Complaint Center if the scam was online-based.

Finally, you may want to call your local police and inform them of the incident. That way, they can remain informed about scammers targeting people in the area and provide information to others who may have questions about the scam or local organizations that can help protect community members.

Have you ever been caught in a work-from-home scam? Do you have any other tips that can help people spot work-from-home scams before it’s too late? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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