Data Entry Scams

Data entry scams come in many forms, but they all want one thing--your money!

Data entry scams
••• Getty/Andrew Brookes

Trying to tell data entry scams from legit data entry jobs takes careful research and common sense. Common sense tells you that low-skill jobs never pay high wages. And legit data entry salaries typically pay very little. It follows, then, that data entry jobs promising big money are scams. Careful research will help you ​locate legitimate work-at-home opportunities.

Do Your Research

For starters, you should do an Internet search to see where the firm is located, a description of what they do, how many people they employ, when they were founded, etc. If you don't find anything online, that's a clear signal they are not legit. If your web research turns up some information but it looks sketchy, then check them out via the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) websites. If you can't find them on the SEC or BBB site, you're better off walking away.

Even if the company seems legit it pays to visit the BBB website because they list known business schemes under their "Scams" banner. Also, unless you recognize the name of the business, avoid any company operating outside of the U.S.—if they are a scam operation, you won't have a legal leg to stand on.

Red Flags That the Jobs are Scams

Fraudulent data entry schemes are no different from other typical work-at-home scams such as pyramid schemes, bogus classes, fake certifications, or payment for resources available for free elsewhere. If a work-at-home data entry job asks you to pay an administrative fee or asks you to layout money in order to receive the information you need to get started, be cautious—data entry jobs should not require you to make any kind of initial outlay.

Scams will often ask for a small fee upfront to "show you are serious." These are all telltale signs of a work-at-home scam.

What Data Entry Scams May Look Like

One of the negatives about the Internet is that you don't always know who's behind the computer. And, while new scams are created every day, some of the more popular ones look like the following:

Affiliate Marketing. Sometimes data entry scams are really affiliate marketing business opportunities. Often these are labeled "non-traditional data entry." And, while affiliate marketing is a legit home business, what makes these scams are the misleading advertising and promises of big earnings. Affiliate marketing is not a quick and easy way to make money. First, you have to build a website, and then you have to drive traffic and generate sales. No one can sell you a legit turnkey operation that can do this.

Along these same lines are the work-at-home opportunities that require you to post ads to online forums. These opportunities may very well be pyramid schemes because they only pay for recruitment of more people who will post more ads.

Classes, Business Kits, Training, Certification, etc. Often the non-traditional data entry (or affiliate marketing) "opportunities" are only tutorials about affiliate marketing, which may or may not be helpful. Other data entry scams may sell classes, training, or certification that promises to help you get a job. You might also run into a situation where the company says the training is required in order to work for them. While some specialized data entry jobs, like medical or legal transcription or medical coding, do require special training, most do not.

Investigate carefully any training or certification before making any kind of commitment.

Transcription Jobs. Transcription is one form of data entry. Data entry scams dressed up to look like transcription jobs will often require paid training or a fee in order to get a list of employers. They could also require tests or demand administrative fees. One scam is to require applicants to take a test (which is not uncommon for legit data entry jobs), but everyone (or nearly everyone) fails.

Medical Coding and Transcription. Data entry scams that tout medical coding jobs often require that you pay for bogus certification or training. These will also sometimes offer turnkey business opportunities. If the jobs are positioned this way, they definitely are not legit. See Legitimate Medical Transcription Jobs for a number of reputable medical transcription businesses.

Process Rebates Scam. The pitch in these work-at-home scams is that you make money just by filling out online forms—everything you need is provided. This is your classic bait-and-switch scam because, in reality, you have to send $150-$200 (or more in some cases) for a program that lets you process rebates at home." At best, what you get is information that could get free elsewhere. At worst, you are hooked into a work-at-home scam in which you use your money to process rebates and then you're never reimbursed.

Ways to Protect Yourself

There are several things you can do to make sure you don't fork over money to a scammer, and ensure you get paid from a digital boss.

  • Insist on a binding contract of employment that clearly states your hours, pay, and benefits (if any). Don't start work until both you and the employer have signed the contract. You may also want to have an employment lawyer look over your contract.
  • Don't hand over any of your personal information (especially your social security and checking account numbers) until you know who you're dealing with. There are scammers out there that can steal your identity and some scammers are in the business of selling your stats to hackers who are expert at identity theft.
  • Don't ever trust Yelp reviews or testimonials on a company's website. It's best to ask for references and contact those people directly. Just be sure the references are on the up-and-up (and not somebody's cousin) by asking them detailed questions. And, if possible, speak to the person on the phone—if you do it via email you could be talking to a 12-year old in Russia with access to a computer.
  • Have your wages deposited in an escrow account. Then, wait to start work until your escrow account has been funded.