The effort to earn money while you stay home to care for the kids or simply avoid the commute could end up costing you plenty… maybe even jail time.
This post is part of Phoenix Web Consultants continuing series that focuses on the issues that resonate with many families world-wide.
When Teresa Lynn Pisano’s youngest child, aged 2, needed surgery and the medical bills started to pile up, the Sunnyvale, California, mom decided she might want to find work she could do from home on a flexible schedule to add to her husband’s earnings as a teacher.
She’d been out of the work place for four years, since the birth of her now 4 years old son and they were getting by. But a little extra would be more than welcome.
She looked at a number of possibilities for working at home and rejected a few. Some didn’t interest her; some seemed like a bad fit or possibly a scam. For several months she sold skin care products for a company and she was quite happy with the job. But she found the continuous need to approach friends and family for introductions was making her feel uncomfortable… and losing her friends. She knows that not everyone who grabs a stay at home work opportunity do that well.
Whilst she’s one of many thousands of happily employed people who celebrate they can work in their pyjamas, the desire to work from home provides a huge target that has many scammers celebrating. There are so many phony jobs on offer that target work from home moms and dads. In fact, consumer protection organizations and legitimate businesses that offer opportunities to work from home frequently warn stay-at-home employees to be careful.
The number of potential victims is substantial. According to the Pew Research Center, the past 10 years has seen a decrease in in the number of moms who work outside the home. The 2014 report said that 71% of all mothers work away from home. That leaves a large number of moms at home and an unknown percentage of them try to increase family income with jobs they can do from home. That doesn’t include the growing number of dads who would work from home.
Brie Reynolds, director of online content for FlexJobs, a job search company that vets listings and specializes in telecommuting, part-time, freelance and other flexible jobs says
“Unfortunately, scams are a big part of work from home job listings online. People are familiar with the emails that go straight to your spam folder because even the robots recognise them as unwanted. These are more sophisticated. Scammers are real people, posing as real companies that you interact with.”
Three scams are hitting stay-at-home folks hard right now, joining a long list of bogus opportunities. FlexJobs estimates that for every legitimate work-from-home job listing, there are 60 to 70 scams. Its own survey found that 17 percent of job seekers have been scammed at least once and 81 percent were “very concerned” or “on guard” because a listing or offer didn’t seem right.
Three new scams actively recruiting right now include “repackaging/reshipping” jobs, help getting jobs that don’t actually require special help, and online “interviews” with fake employers who use a real company’s good name to steal personal information.
The repackagers who take the bait could even get into legal trouble, in some circumstances, said Reynolds. She describes the basics: Someone gets hired to receive goods and repackage them to be shipped somewhere else, usually overseas. The problem is, the goods are often stolen goods and that worker could be charged in connection with the theft. “Reshipper” in the job listing is a clue to be wary; newer verbiage includes “merchandising manager” or “package processing assistant.”
Instead of being paid, one might even be required to provide some money up front to get started. That money’s probably never coming back.
What’s being called the “Post Office” scam targets people who hope to find lucrative federal jobs. “Businesses” advertise in newspaper classifieds or online that, for a fee, they can help job seekers find and apply for federal or Postal Service office jobs. Some sell study materials to prep for the exam that’s required – an offer that sometimes comes with a money-back guarantee. But the money’s not returning.
Reynolds said it’s an example of promising to make getting a job much easier. It preys on the feeling people have that acquiring a job somewhere like the U.S. Postal Service must be complicated. Scammers may promise to reveal “hidden” jobs that the public doesn’t know about. Such help is not needed, however, and often doesn’t deliver on the promise. And there are no hidden postal jobs. Job listings are all online. “It’s a complete waste of money,” she said.
Note that these listings sometimes use sound alike or official sounding titles, like “U.S. Agency for Career Advancement” or “Postal Employment Service.”
No such agencies exist.
The third scam circling the job-hungry takes advantage of legitimate companies and their good reputations. The scheme consists of an online interview process using a spoofed website that may look just like the real deal. Once someone is “hired,” they provide Social Security number, bank information, etc.
GE features information on its website to warn people about these scams that can facilitate identity theft and use applicants’ bank accounts to move money or stolen goods around, which Reynolds said can result in federal charges.
To avoid it, don’t click any links provided. Use a search engine to find the official website for that company and see if such a job is listed. Search for the job online, too. “If the result comes up in other cities with the exact same post,” a FlexJob advisory warns, “it is likely to be a scam.”
Not all bad
Many work-at-home jobs provide good opportunities for those who look for them. Building a business and income is very possible, but care is needed.
The Better Business Bureau offers advice to identify probable scams and avoid being ripped off in a work-at-home job hunt:
Promises of big pay with little effort. “Those who succeed by working at home have several things in common,” the BBB said: They have training or experience in what they are doing; they work hard and efficiently; they work for a salary; or they spend time and money developing the market for their work. They have not stumbled onto a magic formula for getting rich quick. Even in this new world of telecommuting, the same old rule applies: to be successful, you must work hard and work smart.”
- Claims of no experience needed or offers to provide inexpensive training.”Only $29.95 will bring you thousands in earning power.”
- Pressure to sign up right now, without taking time to think about it or vet the offer.
- No regular salary.
The BBB said scam promoters don’t offer a salaried job. They will use testimonials from supposedly successful workers, but not provide the means to check with them. They often require an applicant to pay something up front and provide sketchy or few details about the job.
Fraud.org warns against companies that give you an “advance” on your earnings. That gives them access to one’s bank account information. Chances are, too, the person will be asked to refund some of the money; too much was paid. After that, the check may bounce, creating double harm and a mess to sort through.
Pisano said she’s happy working from home in part because she trusted her instincts as she explored opportunities to work from home. She skipped any that made her feel uneasy and loves Infinii, the company she’s now settled with… especially as it means she doesn’t need to approach her friends for referrals and customers.
FlexJob’s Reynolds said trusting your instincts is a good idea, but even if a job fails to set off your internal warning system, investigate a little to be sure there’s no problem. It’s often not hard. If you search online for keywords like the job description and “complaint” or “scam” information often pops up immediately.