Telltale Signs of a Work-at-Home Job Scam

The first rule in spotting a work-at-home scam is keeping in mind the adage:  "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." A work-at-home job opportunity, whether it arrives through email, a website, print publication, TV, postal mail or even a friend, may well be a work-at-home scam.

Be wary and avoid work-at-home scams by doing careful research before you send money. Look out for anything that requires you to pay.

Real work at home employers will pay you, not the other way around.

Just use common sense and learn the tricks that con artists running a work-at-home scam use. Typically, anything that advertises as being a "legitimate" home job is anything but. Check out this list of the typical work at home scams.

Unusable Contact Information

Person working with laptop computer and digital tablet and smart phone in modern office with virtual icons interface
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Scroll to the bottom of a site. Or scan the top for "About us" or "Contact Us."

Most legitimate companies have links to real contact information and sometimes their physical address and phone number at the bottom. In work at home scams, often the only contact information is an email form or email address. There is no way of knowing who, if anyone, receives these emails, but now they have your address.

If there is an email address, what kind is it? If it is Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other free email accounts, be wary. Legitimate companies usually have their domain. Though, having a domain is certainly no guarantee of legitimacy.

Found in Sponsored Links or Google Ads

Woman searching on Google website using iPad tablet computer
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Work-at-home jobs promoted through paid online ads are rarely legitimate. These links labeled "Sponsored Links" or "Sponsored Results" can be found in search engine results from Google, Yahoo,, Bing, and others.

Also look out for Google Ads on otherwise legitimate websites, like this one. These ads are placed on pages based on keywords found in the text. Because I am writing about "work-at-home jobs," ads targeting those keywords are likely to be placed on the page in the section labeled "Sponsored Links." However, I have no control over these ads.

Legitimate employers looking for potential workers, usually take a more targeted approach than paying for an ad that reaches thousands of people who simply did an Internet search. But scams must cast a wide net to find prey.

No Details

Terms and conditions computer keyboard
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If the main point of the website or ad is that you can telecommute or work from home, but it's light on details of what you will be doing, be suspicious. Legitimate telecommuting job ads usually will first advertise the line of work and then mention that telecommuting is possible.

Read everything carefully. If it seems unclear exactly what you will receive or would be expected to do, that's probably no accident. Look for asterisks and disclaimers, though often these are added to make a web page look legitimate. Envelope-stuffing schemes are known for deeming work submitted as unacceptable quality and refusing to pay. The clause about how unacceptable work will be rejected is in the informational materials, but the definition of what is unacceptable is not.

Big Claims, No Proof

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport and Super Sport
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Some sites will tout mentions in well-known publications, like the USA Today or The New York Times, but then do not provide links. You've got to wonder why they decline to offer proof. If no link is provided, then I assume they are either lying, or the coverage was unfavorable. Sometimes they will say well-known companies like Coca-Cola use their services. The hope is that by associating themselves with a trusted brand, they will appear more trustworthy.

Emotional Sales Pitches

Car Salesman with Couple
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It is really where you need to use your common sense. When websites use an emotional sales pitch (often with a voiceover on the webpage), saying "You deserve this" or showing the fabulous cars and homes of its success stories, be very suspicious.

If their product or opportunity is that great, why must they try to convince you with such an off-topic plea? What you want to hear are details about the opportunity they are presenting not a rags-to-riches fairy tale.

High Pressure Tactics

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"The Next 23 People to Click…" or "Free Today Only!" What's the hurry? They are counting on you to make a quick decision to fork over your money. A measured look at their site might reveal suspicious information.

And if you do get scammed, don't sit back and take it. Contact the Better Business Bureau or  Federal Trade Commission.