Work-from-home scam

Many people have legitimate jobs that allow them to work from home. If you’re looking for a work-from-home gig, you need to be especially aware of the possibility of falling prey to an online predator.

It works like this

Work-from-home scams fall into two categories: those that steal your money and those that steal your personal information.

Suppose you’ve landed what looks like the perfect job, but your new employer requires you to purchase specialized equipment, or obtain a special kind of secured Internet connection. The company sends you a check with instructions to wire some amount to their vendor or supplier.

Or maybe your job is to process checks from customers. You deposit the checks and wire your employer the money minus your pay. Or the customer sends you a check for too much, claims it is a mistake and asks you to wire them the difference.

They’ll pressure you to do it now, and they’ll have a credible-sounding reason for the urgency. In reality, they want you to act quickly so they can make off with your money before you realize the check was a fake. Legitimate employers will pay the vendor directly, and not get you involved as a middle-man. And legitimate customers will simply cancel payment if they’ve sent a check for the wrong amount.

Even more insidious than stealing your money is stealing your personal information. It seems perfectly normal – expected, even – that your new employer needs your name, address, social security number and date of birth to set up your employment file. Want to set up direct deposit? No problem! Just take a photo of a check and send it. Now this person has everything they need to hijack your identity.

The warning signs

  1. Legitimate employers will want a face-to-face interview, even if it’s over video phone, like Skype or Facetime. If your employer hasn’t asked for a face-to-face or has resisted your request for one – be suspicious.

  2. A real employer would not ask you to pay up front for a starter kit, specialized equipment, uniform or anything else. A real employer would simply take it out of your first check and skip the possibility that your check will bounce. Be suspicious if your new employer is asking you to send or receive money almost before you’re hired, or as a part of the hiring process.

  3. If the job description sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Likewise, if the job listing is so vague that you can’t figure out what the job entails, it’s probably a fake job.

  4. If you found the company’s website, check the URL. It’s easy to make a website look legitimate, but often the URL will give it away. If it’s a large company, go to their website and compare it to the one the supposed employer is using. You can also put the prospective employer’s URL into a google search box with quotes around it to see if any scam warnings pop up. Or search on the name and the word “scam.”


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