Careful, it’s a scam! 5 ways to recognize legitimate work from home offers

by Michelle Arios

The anonymity the internet provides makes it easier for scammers (or at least shady businesspeople) to present opportunities that aren’t nearly as lucrative or safe as they seem. Found an amazing work from home offer? Great! But before you get too excited at the prospect, make sure you’re not falling for a scam.

1. What kind of information do they want from you?

Be careful what you send out. It’s not unusual for a work from home job to require some kind of resume, but it shouldn’t require you to submit a wealth of personal information to an entity you do not know. Make sure you’re following good cybersecurity habits and a healthy dose of caution. Don’t send too much of personally identifying information to an employer you can’t verify. There’s no reason to give them your social security number or any financial information – especially not at the beginning of the process. Never send out anything that makes you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable.

2. What do their other employees say?

Research other employees of the company. Perhaps they have an employee recognition program or dedicate blog posts to top performers. Reach out to featured or noteworthy employees and ask them what they think about working with the company. If they really love their jobs, they’ll respond to you. You might even be able to independently research them on websites like LinkedIn to confirm the legitimacy of their employment and review their career success.

If you like what you see, by all means apply for the job! But if none of those people respond to your messages, or they are trying very hard to steer the conversation clear of any details – that’s a big red flag.

3. Are you an independent contractor, freelancer, or employee?

Most legitimate work from home opportunities are designed for independent contractors or freelancers. As a freelancer, your relationship with your employer is slightly untraditional. You’re allowed to do things the way you want to and make your own schedule – you only have to meet deadlines and have an end product that fits the employer’s specifications. If the company is trying to call you a freelancer or an independent contractor while treating you like an actual employee, they’re up to no good. Make sure you understand what your role will be and what freedoms (and responsibilities) that role entails.

4. Where did you find the job?

Most legitimate job boards and freelancing platforms have strict standards. They vet people on both ends. They want to know that people posting job opportunities are legitimate companies, and will often verify their identities. Scammers are banned from posting once they’re caught. When you’re considering a work from home opportunity, consider the source.

If you got a random email about a job, saw it on a public forum where nearly anyone can post anything, or found it like a normal advertisement on the internet, you should initially be skeptical. This likely means that there was no oversight or authority to verify the identity and intentions of the person who made the post. Even if you did find the position on a traditional job board, you should always Google the company before you respond with your resume.

Careful, it’s a scam! 5 ways to recognize legitimate work from home offers 5. Do you need to buy and sell things?

Be wary of any work from home job that requires you to buy and sell things. When you become an independent retailer of anything, it’s an exorbitant investment right off the bat. You’re expected to put a lot of cash on the line, sell what you buy, and order more inventory. These multilevel marketing companies often place emphasis on recruiting other people to sell underneath you, promising you a percentage of their total earnings.

This works out well for a select few number of people. After 28 full recruitment cycles, absolutely everyone in the world would be selling that product. It’s not sustainable in the long term. Many people leave multilevel marketing systems with an insurmountable debt and a bunch of inventory they don’t want or need. Think carefully before signing up for one. 

The best way to protect yourself from scams is a combination of thorough research and contemplation. Plenty of people who work from home wouldn’t have things any other way, and they’re quick to spout the benefits of their work-life balance. Just make sure you’re actually being offered a real position.

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Eugene Chystiakov, edited by New Worker Magazine.

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