7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Work-at-Home Scams

Working from home is becoming more common, as people realize the advantages of not having to commute to an office to bring in an income. However, it is important to be aware of work-at-home cons and scams, which can put you at risk. By unknowingly giving your personal information to a scammer, you run the risk of losing all of your money and other assets. Here's how to protect yourself to avoid this type of trouble.

01
Know How to Recognize a Scam

Illustration of a hand reaching out of a computer monitor for credit cards on a desk, representing online scams.
Magictorch / Getty Images

Knowledge is the best defense when you venture onto the internet in search of home-based employment.

So before you do, take the time to learn how to tell which opportunities are legitimate work-at-home jobs and which are work-at-home scams. The more work-at-home job postings and ads that you call, the more scams you will encounter and a pattern of deception will become clearer.

This, in turn, will make the truly legitimate work-at-home jobs easier to spot. You will begin to discern the tell-tale signs of a work-at-home scam, in part, because of the sameness of their pitches.

02
Use Your Common Sense

Businesswoman with arms crossed.
PeopleImages / Getty Images

When evaluating an opportunity, first think if it seems profitable from the company's perspective, particularly if it seems very lucrative. How would the promoters of the opportunity make money if they are paying you so much for so little work?

Also, if a company's marketing strategy is based primarily on appearing legitimate, that is likely because it is offering a work-at-home scam or, at the very least, a poor money-making opportunity. That's why any job that promotes itself in search engine ads as a "legitimate work-at-home job" most likely is not legitimate.

Remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn't a good opportunity. But scammers are sneaky, so common sense alone is not enough.

03
Keep Your Emotions in Check

Woman surrounded by dollar signs.
Brand New Images / Getty Images

The most common way that scammers find victims is to play on their emotions. When you want something badly, your emotions can lead you to make illogical decisions in pursuit of it. Finding a work-at-home job is not easy, so you will need patience and a clear head. Be especially wary of any opportunity that tries to play on your emotions by saying you "deserve" something.

04
Do Your Homework

Woman on laptop in cafe
Alys Tomlinson / Getty Images

Begin by doubting everything you see, then do your research with a clear head. Even if an opportunity looks honest, do not send money to any organization without thoroughly checking it out. This includes finding out where it is physically based, determining if there is contact information, and contacting them via phone. Look it up on social media and do an internet search for any reviews. It often helps to do an internet search with the name of the company and "scam" or "review." The results may not yield much concrete information, but it can be a starting point. Keep in mind that most legitimate companies do not charge job applicants and that business opportunities are never risk-free.

05
Be Aware of Risky Opportunities

Magnifying glass over the word "fraud."
Günay Mutlu / Getty Images

While work-at-home scammers are always coming up with new schemes, they tend to vary on a few themes. Some of these opportunities should be avoided, while others may be legitimate work-at-home jobs. However, often they are not, so be very careful with any of these:

  • Direct sales or multilevel marketing

  • Pyramid schemes—always avoid!

  • Business start-up kits

  • Anything involving cashing checks/wiring money—always avoid!

  • Home assembly/envelope stuffing—always avoid!

  • Becoming a product re-seller or wholesaler

  • Stock trading systems—always avoid!

  • Directories of telecommuting jobs or businesses

  • Taking online surveys

  • Mystery shopping

  • Data entry/call centers 

One tricky scam technique is to set up a whole website dedicated to revealing work-at-home scams that funnels people to the few "legitimate" work-at-home jobs, which, of course, are not legitimate. 

06
Avoid Opportunities on Search Engine Advertising and in Unsolicited Emails

Google Search results page for work at home jobs
Screenshot by Laureen Miles Brunelli

Use traditional channels for job searches to find a work-at-home job, such as job boards, job search engines, and newspapers. While there is no guarantee leads found in these places are always legitimate, those sent via email or found in internet ads usually are not. Always go directly to a company's employment website if you find a job opportunity in another place. Not only can you check if it's legitimate, you can learn more about the position and the company.

Keep in mind that companies hiring for legitimate work-from-home jobs are looking for qualified, reliable people to do the work. Screening applicants is a time-consuming process, so those casting a wide net by using Google, search engine ads, or social media advertising are not as likely to be legitimate.

07
Don't Pay for Opportunities

Hand holding a credit card.
Jacques LOIC / Photononstop / Getty Images

Employers don't charge employees to work for them, and scams posing as legitimate business opportunities will ask for money. The pitch is that businesses are expected to have start-up costs. However, true businesses are typically not simple exchanges of unskilled labor for payment, as in home assembly and envelope-stuffing schemes. A true home business is developed over time with careful planning and research, not purchased online sight unseen. There are many free reliable resources that list legitimate companies offering work-from-home jobs by industry. 

Report Scams

If you suspect that you have been scammed, report it immediately. If you've given out financial information, contact your bank or credit card company and report it to your state's attorney general or any number of other authorities.