One day, I received a message from someone on LinkedIn. A company I’d never heard of offered me a work-from-home position. The pay was phenomenal. All I needed to do was turn in my first assignment quickly, I’d get my first paycheck, and then we could settle in for a more regular agreement.
Now, I’ve been offered legit opportunities through LinkedIn before and even done work (and been paid!) as a result of connections through the site.
Unfortunately, this was not one of those situations.
I re-arranged my schedule, turned down other work, and found myself out $800 when the company, which called itself “Write Stuff,” disappeared after I submitted my writing assignment.
Did my spidey-sense go off during any part of this interaction? Sure it did. But it’s easy to get swept up in the idea of making a lot of money quickly, and I ignored some red flags. Don’t end up like me. Here’s how to spot work-from-home scams.
1. Amazing income claims
One of the biggest red flags is the idea that you can solve all your money problems with this one work-from-home system, said John Rampton, founder of the freelance invoicing and payment-processing app Due.
“In the back of our minds, we know there’s no such thing as easy money,” he said. “But our common sense tends to flee when offered the potential for big gains.”
If someone offers you a large sum of money for relatively little work, or if they have a “system” that promises to replace your day-job paycheck within a few weeks, run the other way.
“There are legitimate ways to make money online from home,” continued Rampton. “But just like anything else, they require that you put in time and effort. Don’t believe someone who claims that you can see instant income.”
2. You have to pay something up front
Some work-from-home scams prey on the unsuspecting by asking that you foot the bill for “upfront costs.”
According to Rampton, some of these costs seem reasonable. “Maybe they tell you to pay for a background check, or insist that you send money for a special piece of equipment you need for your job,” he said.
But most legitimate businesses won’t ask you to cover the expense for these things. They pay for background checks and send you any custom items you need for the job.
Additionally, Rampton warned, don’t send money via Western Union or wire transfer. “Maybe you’re told to wire $500 for a specialized headset,” he said. “You send the money, but the headset never comes, and the company disappears, leaving you poorer.”
The same is true of ordering special work from home kits. Back in 2012, the Federal Trade Commission helped consumers get back more than $2 million after they were scammed by fraudsters using names such as “Google Money Tree” and “Google Treasure Chest.”
Consumers purchased $4 kits, providing personal credit card information, only to find out later they had also signed up for recurring monthly charges of $72.21. Consumers were told the kit would help them make $100,000 in six months.
Stay away from work-from-home kits or systems. They cost money, and rarely work as promised.
3. Worthless contact information
When you look at the contact information for a work-from-home opportunity, is it helpful? Or is it useless?
“Many scammers set up legitimate-looking websites, but when you look for contact information, all you end up with is a submission form,” said Rampton. “That’s a major red flag. There should be an actual email address for a point person.”
You also have to watch out for scammers posing as real companies, Rampton added. Take the information you receive, and compare it to what you can find for the company through a separate online search.
Another course of action — instead of taking a company’s word for it — is to check the database on FlexJobs. These are legitimate companies with flexible work-from-home opportunities. You can cross-check what a company sends you with the database.
4. Questionable URL
Increasingly, scammers are becoming more sophisticated. They offer URLs that seem legitimate and spoof official websites, said Rampton. Some of the ways scammers do this include:
- Adding an “inc” added to the company’s name in the URL
- Using a “.net” version of a company’s URL
- Switching two letters, with your eyes skipping over the error
Carefully vet the URLs of work-from-home jobs you see. If the work claims to come from a specific company, compare the listing with the careers section of the company’s official website.
5. Very few details
Work-from-home scams tend to provide scant detail about how the job works or what you’ll be doing. In my case, the “recruiter” just told me they needed something, stat, and that I’d get more information after finishing the first piece. They dangled the fabulous payment as a carrot, and I went along.
If you aren’t being offered full details ahead of time, take a step back. “When someone is trying to hide what’s happening or gets skittish about going into depth, that’s a sign you could be dealing with a scam,” said Rampton.
6. You’re contacted out of the blue
This one is tricky. As a freelancer, I’m often contacted with work offers. However, there’s a difference between being offered a freelance job and a work-from-home scam where someone offers you a full-time job — without you applying.
“It’s true that you might be headhunted,” Rampton said. “However, once the initial contact is made, you need to be alert for other red flags. Be skeptical of someone who just offers you a job you didn’t apply for without asking for an interview or going through some other process you’d see with a normal job.”
7. It just feels sketchy
Beyond any specific warning signs, Rampton said, you should trust your gut. “We all have this voice in our heads telling us something just isn’t quite right,” he said.
If it feels a little off, it probably is. When something seems too good to be true, that’s a sign you could be looking at a scam.
Avoid work-from-home scams
Most work-from-home scams have at least two or three red flags, said Rampton. “If something isn’t sitting quite right with you, investigate further,” he suggested. “There’s a good chance you will find other signs that this opportunity really isn’t one.”
Instead, if you are looking for a legitimate work-from-home career, check out some of our articles on real home-based jobs:
- 14 Work From Home Websites to Find Your Dream Job
- 7 Great Perks the Best Work From Home[q] Jobs Provide
- How to Find (Legitimate) Work From Home Jobs
- 5 Easy Side Hustles You Can Start Tomorrow
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.49% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
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3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.48% effective April 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
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