Avoid Being a Victim of Online Scams
Updated: Jun 13
When prospecting for potential projects, clients, and jobs, specifically online work, I've come across numerous scams. You'll see them everywhere, especially on websites like Craigslist.
You have to be cautious when looking for work online. If it seems too good to be true, then it's probably a scam.
Here are some things to consider:
1. It is NOT that easy!
Working from home takes a lot of work and patience. Essentially, you are your own boss. You must set your own hours and ensure you follow through. There isn't any "hand-holding" when you work from home. And, you will work far more hours than any employee out there since you'll be wearing all the hats as the business owner/contractor, accountant, employee, etc.
If you see something like: "Make $1000.00 a week!" "No experience necessary!" "Work from home - 10 hours a week, 10K a month!" If it were THAT easy, everyone would jump on that train. Flag it and keep moving along.
2. Legitimate companies are transparent.
Ask as many questions as you feel necessary. Any company unwilling to answer your questions or provide a better job description should set off an alarm. Why would a legitimate company have any objection to answering your questions? A reputable company will not have any problem with your questions.
Scammers are vague on job details, such as payment or company information. Many will avoid your questions or ask for personal information such as your social security number, birth date, address, and bank or credit card details during an interview. Many are very abrupt and push hard to obtain these vital details.
Never EVER give out personal details to anyone before you research and confirm the legitimacy of ANY company. Search for their financial information, a company website, social networks, and reviews. This will help you develop a better understanding of any company you may be interested in working with.
3. "Jobs" involving money transfers are a guaranteed scam.
Let's say someone approaches you with a job, and it seems legit. So, part of the details includes receiving your payment via check. You receive a much larger amount than previously agreed on. They tell you that it was a mistake and need you to transfer part of that to another person. You transfer the money. Your account is suddenly negative because the check bounced!
About 10 years ago, this almost happened to me. I thought I was signing up for a short project transferring data from word documents to spreadsheets. The client claimed he needed to send a check for me to process because he was out of the country. I thought it was odd, but I decided to see what would happen if the package were sent. I received a notification from Guru.com letting me know they banned this client for being a scam artist, aka a criminal. Immediately I sent him an email letting him know not to contact me any further. I never opened the package and let it go back to FedEx.
4. Don't get scammed out of your written content.
Many companies will advertise for writers. They request a "test" article to see if the writer can write the content they want. Most companies pay for these test articles, which I'm absolutely fine with doing. However, others use this method to obtain content without paying for it. Imagine the numerous aspiring writers who are ripped off this way—oh yeah, it's a LOT. I've been down this road a couple of times before I wised up—no more free content from me.
Other companies obtain work from writers, pay for a few articles, and do NOT pay for anything else. They may even reject the article, citing missing keywords or the format is incorrect. However, if a client does that, check for your article online. There is a very good chance that they copied and pasted the article anyway.
A form of insurance is to take your articles and post them to a blog before receiving payment for them. This way, someone cannot simply steal the content you created. I have never done this, but I know other writers do.
On the note of writing positions - TRUE "typing" or "data entry" positions are very hard to come by. Most of these are scams, and you shouldn't look twice at them.
Also, if a company wants to write articles for their "new" magazine for free because you'll gain "exposure" to the writing world, keep moving. Many places offer residual income, instant publishing, and the content remains yours. Maybe you don't mind working for free, but if you publish an article that goes viral, then you can make a lot of money off of it. Why would you want to give that away to some company that isn't paying you for your hard work? Just my opinion!
5. Most companies do not charge a fee.
If a company is requesting that you pay an application fee, membership fee, certification, or even a fee for your background check, then most likely, it isn't legit. There are few exceptions to this rule.
Research the company in question by visiting sites like the following:
6. Other common scams (or signs of a scam):
Envelope Stuffing - This has been around for a LONG time.
Mystery Shoppers - You wire money. It is the same idea as the check-cashing scheme - you cash a check, wire money, and then the check bounces. While there are some legit mystery shopping gigs, they don't require you to send them money—ever.
Assembly Work at Home - Definite waste of time.
Sites that charge a fee for you to join - This will be a scam nine out of ten times. Just don't do it. You can find the same jobs on free job boards, like the ones I've listed for writers here: Top 11 Freelance Writing Job Boards. The resources are out there, but you have to look for them.
When the link you clicked on takes you elsewhere, this is known as phishing. You may think you are entering your personal data into an application for a job, but really, you are giving criminals the tools to use against you. Click here for more information on phishing: How Phishing Works
The spelling/grammar in the ad is terrible. Everyone makes typos, but most scams contain multiple errors. Carefully examine the ad/email for mistakes.
Find additional information on scams here:
If you fall victim to a scam, report it:
Econsumer.gov (transactions with foreign companies)
You can report them to the BBB and Ripoff Report (above) as well.
When in doubt, I research everything. I recommend you do the same. You have to trust yourself. If it doesn't seem right, then it probably isn't. Always research and ask around.
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