By now, we all know not to open an email if the subject line reveals that we’ve won $5 million in an overseas lottery or inherited a fortune from our distant relative at an undisclosed location. But spotting scams is not always as easy when you’re a freelancer and are looking for work online, because they may not be obvious. Work-from-home scams are currently a widespread occurrence on the Internet. Bankrate.com reported that there are 57 at-home job scams on the Internet for every real one. So, with all the unwarranted and frankly annoying activity being undertaken online these days, here are some tips to learn how to avoid online job scams.
8 Simple Tips to Know How to Avoid Online Job Scams
Avoid jobs that look too good to be true
Remember the adage: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Avoid job listings that adamantly declare the job will pay for practically no work at all. Some popular sham titles include “Make $1,000 a day from home!” and “Get paid to shop online!” Sure, in a perfect world, these would be true. But in the real world, a promise of significant income for little-to-no-work is never going to be true.
Use a trusted freelance job website
Don’t just Google “work from home” because this can lead you through a maze of scams. Additionally, websites such as Craigslist, although they are popular, are magnets for scammers. Secure job sites have features to help protect you, such as payment by Escrow to ensure that the client has allocated the funds for your job before you begin. Reputable freelance job websites also have features to allow you to view the prospective client’s profile and view his job history on that site.
Do your homework
When you find an online job listing that interests you, take a few minutes to research the company. If you find a company website, look for a “contact us” link and see if a physical address is listed for the company. Check for BBB (Better Business Bureau) or Trust.org endorsements. Look to see if positive customer testimonials are listed on the site or other service review sites. At the very least, you should find a telephone number and business hours for the company.
Be wary if there is no interview process
Most of the time, you should not anticipate a traditional “interview” when working online. However, there should be something that fills the interview gap. It may be that the client asks to see samples of your previous work, requests a brief Skype chat, or wants to view your resume. The prospective client should check to see that your skills and experience match his or her needs. If a job does not require any skills, knowledge, or credentials, be suspicious.
Know what to look for
Before you begin looking for opportunities to work from home, you should know what types of industries commonly hire independent contractors. What types of jobs can you complete from home? Currently, the five most common stay-at-home careers are virtual assistant, medical transcription, translator, web developer/designer, and call center representatives.
Don’t give out free samples
After applying for an online job, you may receive an email from the prospective client asking you to complete a “small work sample” about a provided topic to see if you are the right fit for the job. It’s best to politely inform him or her that you will provide the sample for a discounted rate and to arrange payment terms. Otherwise, you may give the work sample and never hear from the client again, as he or she will move on to another person who is willing to complete the task for free.
Recognize these common red flags
Don’t ever give out your social security number. If you apply for an online job, then receive a follow-up email that involves wire transfers, Western Union, or dealings with any financial transaction, delete the email and discontinue correspondence. After responding to a job posting via email, you may receive an email asking you to follow a link, then fill out a form to prove that you are not a spammer. Do not follow the link—it is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Lastly, if you attempt to research a company’s job listing online and cannot find a single thing about the company anywhere, it is probably not real.
Trust your instincts
If a job posting is for a management position and states “no experience necessary,” you should know that something isn’t quite right. An online job posting should name the company and provide contact information for a real person. The job requirements should be specific, and you should have detailed instructions on how to apply for the job. With a little bit of savvy internet investigation, and the willingness to invest the time in the job search, you can find real, profitable at-home jobs online.