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The 10 Latest Work From Home Scams You Need To Know

Are you looking for a new job? Don’t get caught by a work-from-home scam. Here’s how to stay safe while looking for work online.

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      How Do You Know If a Work-from-Home Job Is Legitimate?

      A Kansas City woman thought her exhausting job search had finally come to an end when she received a remote job offer. The company’s first task seemed simple: Cash a check, pay for supplies, and wire them back the remainder. 

      But days after completing the “work,” her bank flagged the original check as fake — leaving her nearly $5,000 in debt [*].

      While the number of remote work opportunities has grown in leaps and bounds, so, too, have job scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel report [*]:

      Close to 100,000 Americans fell victim to job-related scams in 2022, with victims losing an average of $200 — three times the average of other types of scams. 

      If you're looking for a work-from-home job, you need to be cautious. In this guide, we'll explore how work-from-home scams work, how to spot the most common scams, and what to do if your information or money gets into the wrong hands.

      {{show-toc}}

      What Are Work-From-Home Scams? How Do They Work?

      Work-from-home scams occur when fraudsters create fake job listings with the intention of taking advantage of applicants. 

      Scammers prey on people looking for work who may overlook some of the warning signs. In total, job-related scams led to $367 million in losses in 2022 — up by 76% from the previous year. 

      Most work-from-home scams fall under one of three categories:

      1. Identity theft scams convince applicants to reveal personally identifiable information (PII) on fake applications. 
      2. Financial scams come with associated fees, equipment purchases, or fake checks.
      3. Manipulative scams use people to perform illegal or unscrupulous tasks.
      Example of a fake work-from-home job email. Source: Northwestern University
      Example of a fake work-from-home job email. Source: Northwestern University

      Here's how the typical work-from-home scam works:

      • Scammers post fake work-from-home jobs on legitimate job sites and LinkedIn. The jobs almost always entail simple labor and offer a “too-good-to-be-true” starting salary.
      • When you contact them, they ask to conduct a quick job interview over WhatsApp or another messaging service. 
      • You’ll quickly be "hired" and asked to either provide sensitive information, perform illegal work, or cash a check to pay for supplies. 
      • Any information you provide can be used to steal your identity. Any checks will eventually bounce — leaving you stuck owing the balance for any cash that you spent or sent back to the scammer. 
      • When you catch on to the scam, the fake “company” will cut off all contact. 
      🛡 Secure your identity (and finances) with award-winning protection. If you accidentally give scammers your personal information, they could empty your bank account or steal your identity. Try Aura’s award-winning identity theft protection free for 14 days and keep yourself safe from scammers.

      How To Spot a Job Scam: 16 Warning Signs

      Scammers regularly create new ways to target and con victims using work-from-home scams. 

      Their methods vary and change over time. However, there are clear warning signs and red flags that can help you identify whether or not a job is legitimate:

      1. Job offers come unsolicited or a little too easily. 
      2. The job listing promotes good wages, easy tasks, and little experience required.
      3. The job description is vague, and information online is sparse or nonexistent.
      4. The interview process is short, and all communication takes place over a messaging app. 
      5. The employer is out of the state or country and cannot do a video or in-person interview.
      6. You can’t find credible information about the company online. 
      7. The starting pay doesn't match up with industry standards for the role — especially for part-time work.
      8. There are no employees on LinkedIn and no company reviews online. 
      9. The recruiter seems unusual, uses strange language, or has poor grammar. 
      10. The recruiter uses a personal or unofficial email address.
      11. Communications are missing important details or contact information.
      12. You’re asked to provide personal information or banking details early in the process.
      13. You are asked to pay for supplies, training, or certification.
      14. You are sent a check and asked to cash it in your personal account before you have even worked. 
      15. Part of the job involves recruiting other people to join.
      16. The pay structure is unorthodox, such as 100% commission or per-package.

      The bottom line: If something feels off about a job, or a recruiter asks you to do something you’re not comfortable with (provide information, send money, buy supplies), trust your gut. Walk away.

      The 6 Latest Work-From-Home Scams To Avoid

      1. Reshipping or reselling scams
      2. Virtual personal assistant job scams
      3. Mystery shopper job scams
      4. “Start your own online business” scams
      5. Medical billing or data entry job scams
      6. Fraudulent recruiters who promise job positions

      To avoid work-from-home scams, you need to know what they look like. Here are some of the most popular work-from-home scams to watch out for.

      1. Reshipping or reselling scams

      Reshipping or reselling scams often appear around the holidays when package mail is at its peak. Scammers post employment ads looking for people to receive items, inspect the goods, and ship them to another address. 

      But the goods have most likely been purchased using a stolen credit card — unknowingly turning you into an accomplice to a felony crime.

      How to spot (and avoid) this work-from-home scam:

      • Beware of job listings for “package handlers" or similar positions. These scam jobs offer good wages for seemingly simple work. Other common positions include "shipping coordinator" or "package processing assistant."
      • Avoid jobs that promise payment after you ship the items. In many cases, fake employers will disappear once you send the items — wasting your time and any money you spent out of pocket on shipping costs and supplies.

      The bottom line: Never accept packages from people you don’t know. If someone offers you money to repackage or reship items, it is almost certainly a scam. 

      💡 Related: How To Spot a LinkedIn Job Scam (11 Warning Signs)

      2. Virtual personal assistant job scams

      Personal assistant job scams typically include a potential employer that needs an assistant to make purchases for them. The “employer” sends money and then requests that the “employee” return some of it using a different format — such as a payment app or wire transfer. 

      But after the “employee” returns the money, the original check will bounce — leaving the victim stuck with bank fees and missing funds. 

      How to spot (and avoid) this work-from-home scam:

      • Be extremely cautious with employers who are always busy or traveling. Scammers often claim that they are occupied out of town, state, or country. 
      • Don’t fall for sob stories. Scammers may request a refund of money they’ve sent to you for honorable deeds — such as donating to orphans. But this is all a ploy to get you to look past the warning signs of a scam.
      • Ignore any job that sends unearned money. These scams typically send money upfront via check. They ask you to deposit the check into your account and then wire them money or transfer money to gift cards.

      The bottom line: Never return money from a “cleared” check. There’s typically a gap of a few days between the time when your bank reflects the money from a check in your account and when it has actually been cleared. If you send money to someone during this time, it’s essentially coming out of your account. 

      3. Mystery shopper job scams

      Mystery shopper scams promise to pay participants to shop and report on the experience. Depending on the version, scammers may send mystery shoppers fake checks to cover their expenses or ask participants to pay to start the job [*]. When the scammer disappears, so, too, will the money you spent.  

      How to spot (and avoid) this work-from-home scam:

      • Be wary of jobs that charge you money upfront. Scammers may sell training, credentials, or products that offer little value. You should be paid for your time, not the other way around. 
      • Bypass job postings from the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA). Fraudulent listings may use the MSPA name to sound official, but this trade association does not hire mystery shoppers directly [*].

      The bottom line: Ignore jobs that ask you to pay to work by using your own money. Mystery shopping jobs that ask you to return unused funds or buy gift cards are usually scams. 

      💡 Related: Why Do Scammers Want Gift Cards?

      4. “Start your own online business” job scams

      The "start your own online business" scam usually involves a fraudulent business coach or a fake recruiter in a pyramid scam. 

      Depending on the scam, you may be asked to buy educational materials or sell goods and recruit new business owners. The goods you buy will prove worthless, or you'll only make money by scamming others.

      How to spot (and avoid) this work-from-home scam:

      • Look out for any "get rich quick" business opportunity — they don't work. Having your own business takes a lot of hard work. Be cautious with recruiting jobs that offer freedom and riches. While there are legitimate companies in the multi-level marketing space, they rarely offer high-paying jobs [*]. 
      • Be on your guard for business coaches who preach a “proven” system. If there was a way to guarantee success, everyone would do it. Paying for a program or course that claims to include the keys to success usually contains useless information and materials.

      The bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While many people start their own online businesses, there is no easy road to success.

      5. Medical billing or data entry job scams

      Medical billing and data entry job scams take different approaches. Some jobs sell fraudulent apps, training programs, or certifications to new hires. Some ask for personal information that leads to identity theft. Others combine this scam with the fake check scam to rob new "employees."

      How to spot (and avoid) this work-from-home scam:

      • Be careful of work-from-home opportunities that you never applied for. These scams usually come out of nowhere and offer excellent wages with little or no training and experience required. They tend to promise flexible hours and the ability to work from your home computer. 
      • Steer clear of any jobs that conduct interviews via messaging apps and text messages. Many scammers use messaging apps (such as Telegram) to disguise their identities and make it more difficult to track them.  

      The bottom line: Never give your information or money to companies without doing your proper due diligence first. Data entry scammers may pose as legitimate companies and post job listings on job boards — it's up to you to spot the frauds. 

      6. Fraudulent recruiters who promise positions

      Fraudulent recruiters prey on job seekers by offering appealing but fake job offers. Applicants may go through an interview process and be directed to an onboarding portal to fill out their personal and financial information. Once you submit the contract with your Social Security number (SSN) or banking information, you likely won't hear from them again. 

      How to spot (and avoid) this work-from-home scam:

      • Disregard any opportunities that send immediate job offers. Fraudulent companies can be convincing. They may have websites, official-looking documents, and legitimate company names. But real companies go through a proper interview process. If it feels too fast, it's likely a scam. 
      • Be on the alert for recruiters that don’t have official company email addresses. Scammers often pose as employees of real companies. One possible clue is the email address. Read over the address and all contact details carefully to spot the fakes. 

      The bottom line: You need to investigate every job offer carefully. Look into the employer’s background, check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and search for scams involving the company. Legitimate companies or recruitment services will have publicly-listed phone numbers to verify job offers.

      💡 Related: How To Tell If an Email Is From a Scammer

      Four more work-from-home scams to watch out for

      There are countless other scams that capitalize on unsuspecting job seekers. The scams listed above highlight the most popular schemes out there, but you may also encounter some of the following: 

      • Envelope stuffing. This is a pyramid scam that requests an upfront payment to join. Participants package and send solicitation mail for others to join the pyramid and rarely get paid [*]. 
      • Assembly at home. This scam involves building crafts or toys at home for a promised per-unit price. Participants typically have to pay to receive the materials and will not make their money back.
      • Investment scams. In this scam, fraudsters trick people into believing that they can beat the stock market. Vulnerable investors pay for trading advice and services that lead to market losses [*]. 
      • Survey scams. This scam offers compensation for completing surveys at home. To receive the money, participants typically have to provide personal or financial information to the scammers. 
      🛡 Get award-winning protection against scammers. Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution has been rated #1 by Money.com, USA Today, Tech Radar, and more. Try Aura free for 14 days and safeguard yourself against job scammers.

      Did You Give a Job Scammer Money or Sensitive Info? Do This!

      If you fall for a scam, you need to act quickly to reverse or limit the damage that the scammers cause. 

      Follow these steps to protect your identity, secure your funds, and defend against fraud in the future:

      1. Collect all information about the incident. Gather everything you have about the scam, including communications with the company, the job posting, and any company details you can find. 
      2. Contact your financial institution. Ask to have any outgoing payments reversed or canceled. Look for any irregularities on your account, and file a fraud report.
      3. Notify all vendors of fraud. If you've been scammed out of money, call every vendor involved — including gift card companies, wire transfer companies, and payment apps. Let them know the transaction was fraudulent and see if they can cancel it. 
      4. Reach out to your insurance provider. If you have identity theft protection, discuss your options with your provider. They should be able to walk you through the recovery process and provide you with details about your coverage.
      5. Call the credit bureaus. Freeze your credit with all three of the major bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This will stop scammers from using your credit to apply for loans or open accounts in your name. You can then temporarily lift the freeze when needed or remove it permanently.  
      6. File a report with the FTC. Visit ReportFraud.ftc.gov to file a claim and start a consumer protection investigation. You can also go to IdentityTheft.gov if your personal information has been compromised. 
      7. Secure your devices. Log in to your online accounts and change your passwords. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to bolster your accounts. You can get extra security with a password protection tool like Aura's Password Manager.
      8. File a police report. Contact your local law enforcement agency to initiate an investigation. Be sure to have all documentation, including the scam details, financial information, and your FTC report. 
      9. Alert other authorities. Depending on the nature of the scam, you may need to reach out to other authorities, such as the USPIS for mail-related scams or the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for various cybercrimes [**]. You can also file a complaint with your state Attorney General. 
      10. Share your story. By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid similar scams in the future. Consider reporting the business and scam to the BBB's Scam Tracker. Your local news organization might broadcast your story for greater reach.

      How To Avoid Work-From-Home Scams

      Even with a strong response and recovery plan, work at home scams can be disastrous. If you're looking for an online job, follow these steps to avoid falling for a scam: 

      • Pay attention to the warning signs. Beware of listings offering large salaries for "easy" work, and stay away from messaging app interviews. Don't assume listings on legitimate job boards are trustworthy, and question high-pressure sales tactics.
      • Get as much information as possible. Research the company online, on social media, and on the BBB. Visit the company website and call the company directly to learn more. Ask plenty of questions, and talk to someone you trust about the job opportunity.
      • Protect your finances. Never pay for the promise of a job, and never trust "cleared" checks. Even official bank checks can be counterfeited. Under no circumstances should you transfer or wire money for an employer. 
      • Protect your identity. Withhold your sensitive information until you have verified the job and the employer. For added security, consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. 

      The Bottom Line: Don’t Fall for Work-From-Home Scams

      Work-from-home scams are a reality. When you're looking for a remote job, you should know what job scams look like and the warning signs they present. 

      If you do fall for a scam, act quickly. Try to reverse any payments, and shut down scammers before they can use your identity to take over your accounts and access your finances. 

      For robust protection, consider signing up for Aura. 

      Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution can help safeguard your sensitive personal information, financial accounts, and devices against scammers. And if the worst should happen, you’ll have access to 24/7 U.S.-based support from Aura’s Fraud Resolution Specialists along with up to $1 million in coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft. 

      Keep your data safe from scammers & identity thieves. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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