Updated: Apr 28, 2021
With an incredible 16.8 million Americans filing for unemployment over the past three weeks, and a large percentage of US businesses moving online amid calls for social distancing, there's currently a spike in the number of people seeking remote work. Unfortunately, scammers see this as a prime opportunity to cash in.
The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit consumer watchdog, recently issued a warning about fake job listings in the wake of the pandemic:
"Many people are looking for work online in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns," the bureau's website reads. "These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing."
Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Remote and flexible jobs site FlexJobs put together nine common work-from-home scams to avoid. Here they are, with some real-life examples.
1. Online re-shipping What they are: These jobs promise payment for packaging and shipping goods — the catch is, you probably won't get paid, and you're helping ship goods that are often stolen. Excerpt from real scam: "Honest workers needed for a package processing company located in NY, but any location in US are welcome! We have customers worldwide and started that position to suit they needs. We offer you 40$ for each processed package." Here's a real example of the scam. 2. Data entry scams What they are: These jobs promise good pay for entering data into spreadsheets, but are really just a ploy to get your personal data. Excerpt from real scam: "Numerous companies are looking for workers to submit information into online forms and they will pay you nicely in return. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme but a legitimate way to earn money from home. For Full Details please read the attached .html file." Here's a real example of the scam. 3. Stuffing envelopes What they are: These scam listings claim to pay you for simply stuffing envelopes for a business or nonprofit. Once you enroll, you're asked to recruit others, and you receive a small commission when someone else falls for the same ploy. Excerpt from real scam: "$550 to $3,000 weekly. Ten dollars for each circular you mail…Free postage…Free circulars…No newspaper ads…No magazine ads…No bulletin board ads! Paychecks mailed to you every week! Advance paycheck forms included in your package!" Here's a real example of the scam.
4. Wire transfers What they are: Wire transfer scams involve moving money quickly from one account to another. Excerpt from real scam: "We are small new firm engaged in export of goods to overseas outside my country. We have won various small exports contract at one time or the other, recently we were (engaged) contracted to supply financial programs for market analyzing, management project software in USA which was successfully done. We do not have so much time to accept wire transfers and can't accept cashiers checks and money orders as well. So we need your help to accept this payments in your country faster. If you are looking to make additional profit we will accept you as our representative in your country. You will keep 10% of each deal we conduct." Here's a real example of the scam. 5. Pyramid marketing What they are: These illegal jobs usually ask you to pay an upfront cost to invest in a product or business and then recruit your friends to pay, too. Excerpt from real scam: "My name is Michael. I've made it my job to help people succeed online. I'm constantly on the lookout for the best ways and means to make your job simpler, and I pass the good stuff on to you. I have developed the eBay Cash Machine – it allows everyone to make a great income on eBay 99% automatically. It only takes a few minutes to set up and once that is done you will have your own eBay Businesses that literally run on auto-pilot! You just wait for the money to come in!" Here's a real example of the scam. 6. Unsolicited job offers What they are: Scammers will send you a message via email, LinkedIn message, or even on social media claiming to offer you an interview for a great job. Excerpt from real scam: "We highly appreciate honest and creative employers. You do not need to invest any sum of money and we do not ask you to give us with your bank account requisites! We are engaged in totally officially authorized activity and working in our corporation you can reach career growth at a permanent job."
7. Rebate processor What they are: These fake positions mislead job seekers by promising good pay in exchange for processing rebates at home. Usually, there's a nonrefundable "training" fee," which is how they get your money. Excerpt from real scam: "Make money simply by filling out online forms – Enter the data into the forms that we provide you, click submit, sit back and collect the money. You'll earn $15 per rebate processed. Opportunities like this do not come by every day – act now!" 8. Assembling crafts or products What they are: These scams might ask you to purchase supplies or pay an enrollment fee before you get started building an object to mail in. The company, however, will reject the object you send in, no matter how perfectly it's constructed. Excerpt from real scam: "The first thing that you'll be receiving is a portfolio of all of our companies, their pay scales and the things you can assemble. That's so you can pick out your job because there are about 85 different jobs for you to choose from and you are guaranteed any of those jobs. We do have a one-time, lifetime enrollment fee of only $38.95. Now, that enrollment fee is backed with a 90-day Satisfaction Guarantee. All we ask is that you participate in the program for 60 days." 9. Career advancement grants What they are: This scam is geared towards job seekers who may want or need to gain extra education or certifications for their career. Excerpt from real scam: "Hi, hope you are doing well. We were notified that you may be eligible for the new Career Advancement grant. If you have not taken advantage of this program, the deadline is approaching soon. $5,730 can be direct deposited into your account, should you qualify for the grant. Last week 71 members took advantage of this Career Advancement grant. This is a grant from the government and does not have to be paid back."