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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Many work-from-home scams have glaring red flags that make them easy to spot, like vague payment details and required up-front payments.
  • Researching a company and its website can tip you off that it’s illegitimate.
  • Turn to the Attorney General or Better Business Bureau to look for existing complaints about a company and its potentially fraudulent activity.

Time to Read

6 minutes

October 3, 2022

It sounds like a perfect gig: ditch the commute, work from home and make tons of money. Sound too good to be true? That’s the first sign it probably is.

Scammers know that working from home is an appealing—even ideal—job opportunity for many. While there are legitimate ways to make a living by working from the comfort of home, there are also many folks with schemes to gain access to your money and/or identity through fraudulent work-from-home job offers. Learn how these job scams work, how to spot them and how to check companies to make sure they’re on the up-and-up to avoid becoming a victim. 

How Job Scams Work

Work-from-home job scammers are after two things: your money and/or your identity. They start by dangling a plum job offer—even reaching out to you after finding your resume online. Once you engage with them, they’ll ask for money—for training, parts, software or other job-related costs—and then they’ll ask for information. The information they ask for is standard for employment—Social Security Number, bank routing number, a copy of your driver’s license. The difference is, they intend to use it to steal your identity. Scammers try to appear legitimate, but they often throw up red flags that can help you avoid even clicking on a suspicious link. 

Spot the Red Flags 

The first tipoff is an offer that sounds too good to be true. Getting rich quick, working two hours a day and earning a six-figure salary, earning hundreds of dollars an hour performing a menial task—these are all fantasies. Before you click that link or call that number, give yourself a gut check. 

But common sense may not be enough, as not all work-at-home scams advertise outrageous fortune. Here are some other types of job listings you should avoid:

  • Any cash, check or money wiring services are always to be avoided. In this case, a scammer posing as a company or person mails a fake check and asks you to cash it and wire back the money. When you go to the bank to cash it, the bank is obligated to make the funds available to you so they cash or deposit it. However, when the bank analyzes the check, they’ll determine it’s fraudulent and ask for the funds to be returned. If you’ve transferred that money back to the scammer, you’ll owe the funds back to your bank. Always avoid this type of offer so you aren’t on the hook for fraudulent funds. 
  • Pyramid schemes, which are actually illegal, require you to “invest” in a company and, in order to get paid, recruit other investors who in turn must recruit even more investors. Those at the top of the pyramid make the most money. It’s fraud—don’t do it. 
  • Home assembly jobs aren’t what they sound like. They require you to pay for a kit or materials first and then assemble the parts—if the parts ever arrive. This isn’t a cost-effective practice for real companies and is almost certainly a scam. 
  • Envelope stuffing is a job that’s handled by automated machinery at real mailing and printing companies—stay away.

Other jobs that may be legitimate, but are often used as a model for scams, include direct sales or multilevel marketing, taking online surveys, medical billing, mystery shopping and data entry. Unsure whether or not these are legitimate companies or job offers? Here are some details to watch for: 

  • The job requires you to pay for something in order to perform your work
  • Payment terms are vague and/or confusing
  • The name of the company is generic or nondescript
  • The job listing repeatedly claims it’s legitimate

If any of these warning signs are present, check into the company before going any further. 

Do Your Due Diligence

If anything about the job listing or your interactions with the company give you pause, check into them thoroughly. 

Visit their website. Some scammers will imitate large corporate sites by using a URL or web address that’s similar to the real corporate site. Go to the main corporate site and look for the listing instead of the URL you’re given. If it’s not there, it may be a fake. 

Having a polished website isn’t proof enough that the company is for real, though; you’ll need to dig deeper. Search the name of the company or the project and include the words “scam,” “complaint” and “review.” If others have fallen victim to the scam, they may have reported it, and this might save you from their fate. 

Finally, check with your state Attorney General, local consumer protection agencies and the Better Business Bureau to see if anyone has made complaints about the company. 

If someone reached out to you on LinkedIn, use the following tips to help guide you. 

  • If someone reached out to you through LinkedIn or another social media site, research their photo. Scammers may use someone else’s photos in their profile picture, and you can determine if that’s the case by doing a reverse Google image search. (In Chrome, right click on the profile picture in question and select “search Google for image.”)
  • Inspect their profile. You want to find out if they’re an actual employee of the company they claim to represent. Look at their first-degree connections to see if they’re connected with others in that company. Parse their profile for spelling mistakes while assessing if their work history and education fit their persona. 
  • Check out their email address. A legitimate recruiter, HR employee or hiring manager will contact you from a corporate email and never a free personal email address—like Gmail or Yahoo. Don’t let a corporate logo set you at ease—scammers can steal logos and company names. The truer proof is in the email address. 

There are ways to work from home and make a fair living. Just make sure you take your time and do a thorough job evaluating the company and job opportunity. Ask questions and get everything that the company agrees to in writing before sharing any information with them. The time you invest in research—and the paycheck you’ll get from a real work-at-home job—will make working in your bunny slippers all that much sweeter. 

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, or to learn more about protecting your finances and identity, contact Navy Federal immediately.

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This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.