The Internet has opened up many new employment horizons for industrious work at home mums. Unfortunately, there are many misleading “opportunities” and outright scams lurking among the genuine jobs. While this does mean you should be more cautious when looking for work from home opportunities, you certainly shouldn’t avoid working from home altogether.

There are plenty of excellent and legitimate work from home opportunities out there however there are also plenty of scams. It’s all about knowing the warning signs of a work from home scam and spotting them before you get sucked in. Most commonly, work from home scams are advertised through emails, advertisements or through social networking. They generally require you to pay for something upfront before you can start the job and, once you have transferred the money, they give you nothing and become uncontactable.

If you Google working online from home, you will find bewildering numbers of opportunities for work at home mums. Starry eyed amounts of money can apparently be earned with just a few simple keystrokes. But as a WAHM, you need to be on the scam alert – there are probably more scams out there than real opportunities. So how can you tell the good from the bad?

Spotting work from home scams

It’s not easy to spot a scam. If you are desperate to work at home and looking for something that’s already set up for you (in that you don’t have to actually start your own business), you might be tempted by these offers to work at home. There are several criteria to help you determine if you are dealing with a legitimate work offer or someone trying to scam you.

Big pay for easy work

First, if an offer promises big pay for easy work, it might be a scam. The reality is that few people can get paid big dollars for easy or little work. Big pay usually is a reward for big work, so while it might be tempting to think that you can get paid big dollars for not doing much, you have to objectively consider the possibilities there.

Chances are an opportunity that is too good to be true, isn’t legitimate work. The offer often looks like you are making a large sum of money each week but doesn’t go into much detail on how this will be accomplished. This type of claim that doesn’t expect their workers to have some sort of skill and is open to anyone and everyone will be scam. Look out for companies that don’t state their name and other important information.

Paying to work

Any offer that promises you a lot of work for a fee is likely not on the up and up. A common scam is a company asking you to pay a fee up front for materials and you will make a profit on your investment. A good rule to always follow is to never pay for work opportunities. This should be a red flag for you as real work from home jobs won’t ask.

Employers should be paying you for your work and time, not the other way around. You shouldn’t have to pay to work. Of course, some businesses (like businesses where you sell products as a consultant for a company) will require a small up-front investment. In that case, however, you are investing in your own business. You are investing to get the products you need to run your business and that is decidedly different than paying to get a job.

If you do need to make an investment in product or materials (not for the job itself) use your credit card. Don’t write a check or use a debit card because those will be harder to get protection with. If you use a credit card, you may get some protection from the credit card company if things go wrong.

Vague descriptions

Any advertisement that only very vaguely spells out the pay and job requirements is a possible scam. If selection criteria are not present and a resume not requested, there is little chance this is a real job opportunity. If the job posting provides very little information about what the job entails or makes promises of quick and easy hiring, that might signal it’s not a real job.

If the ad never mentions a website or phone number that you can contact, then consider other home business opportunities. The offer needs to be clear about how much money you will make and how often you will be paid or have a way you can find out this information.

The job offer hasn’t come from a reputable source

Where did you receive the offer? If you receive a job advertisement via email that is not from a source you recognise, immediately be wary. Similarly, direct messages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter from an unknown source should generally be ignored, as they are not real job opportunities.

Research the organization

When you find an opportunity that might seem too good to be true, chances are it might be a scam. The first thing you need to do is research it thoroughly. Do search engine checks for the company. You should be able to dig up a street address for the company, the names of the relevant players in the company and you should be able to check the company’s history with the Better Business Bureau and other such agencies.

The majority of work from home opportunities are web-based so there is simply no excuse for a business without a website. Likewise, most businesses are engaged with social networking so you can search for the business name on Google and see what comes up. If there is no online presence whatsoever, start to ask more questions.

Read any articles or claims about the company. If you can’t find positive information about them it is better to avoid getting caught up in this potential scam. The real work from home jobs will be from proven legitimate companies.

Ask questions

Don’t sign up for a job or to work with a company without talking to someone on the phone or in person. Don’t settle for the information available on a website in the FAQs. Instead, make sure you can make contact with someone you can talk to one-on-one (not in email). If you can’t do that, you might want to look elsewhere. Ask questions. If you get vague answers, or your questions are ignored completely, that should set off a few warning bells with you.

Do your research and understand the various risks and rewards of the company you are considering there are many bad deals out there and many scams, but if you do your research, you should be able to find the right opportunity for you.

work from home job scams

Common work from home scams

To help overcome the drama of trying to weed out the scams from legitimate work from home opportunities, here are some of the more common scams.

Freelance writing sites

Watch out for freelance writing sites that charge a large fee to join. While some reputable sites and organisations do charge a subscription fee, it’s highly unusual. Beware sites that offer to give you access to assignments in exchange for “just” $70 or “only” $40. There are plenty of writing studios that will allow you to sign up for free.

Data entry CAPTCHA jobs

These “jobs” are often advertised as data entry positions. In reality, you’ll be circumventing automated robot detection systems by decoding CAPTCHAs: distorted images of text which computers often can’t read but which humans can. This enables the automated creation of online accounts by spammers and cyber criminals. Remuneration is always low while targets are kept impossibly high; even after decoding thousands of CAPTCHAs, you might never see a dollar in earnings.

Envelope stuffing

You might remember seeing these ads in newspapers years ago, promising “easy money!” for stuffing envelopes. The ads are generally targeted to moms at home, students and retired people. It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that you can make money by stuffing envelopes for businesses, but in reality, you don’t.

You are asked to send money and in return, you will get a list if of businesses you might contact to try and get their envelope stuffing business. The reality is that few, if any, companies hire people to stuff their envelopes. And these days, with more and more people relying on online methods to contact potential customers and clients, they need this service even less.

Sometimes people who pay the money will be given information on how to advertise in newspapers and online for people to start an envelope stuffing business. You make money off these poor people as they contact you for more information.

If you see this offer, or it’s sent to you directly, it’s best to ignore it, no matter how tempting.

Multi-level marketing (MLM)

Don’t get me wrong. There are many multi-level marketing companies that achieved much success.  But don’t be easily fooled with pyramid offers. A problem with this system is that the emphasis is more on expanding the pyramid rather than pushing the product.

Plenty of online scams would offer you products for free. But the catch is that you need to grow your network and find new people to join the pyramid. If the only way you can make any real money from the system is to bring others into it, rather that selling the product or service offered, than steer clear. If it’s legit, you should be able to make money from the product offered, without ever having to recruit someone else. If you are seriously considering this, look into the fine print before joining an MLM business online. You might just be wasting your time and money. Better yet, just go into a direct-selling business or open an online store.

Before you engage in anything, do your homework and research online. Search for feedback, Google the email address/company, and see what others have to say. Remember network marketing and MLM’s are technically businesses, not jobs.

Manufacturing and packing jobs

The scam starts with an advertisement offering home working activities or packing jobs from home — often handicrafts such as beadwork or light assembly tasks like putting together a small electronic device, things which are ideal for a stay-at-home mum. The tasks are simple enough to learn easily, yet complex enough to make the attractive pay rates seem credible. All these jobs will have something in common, however: to get started, you’ll either have to provide free work or pay a fee.

The commonest version asks for a payment up front, to cover the cost of your first batch of materials but usually several hundred times what they’re worth. (Alternatively, the fee may be for a manual or a set of detailed instructions.) The company guarantees that you’ll get your money back — all you have to do is satisfactorily complete a sample piece and return it to them. Of course, no matter how closely you follow the instructions, you’ll never complete your sample piece to their satisfaction.

A few simple rules can help you avoid this kind of scam. Steer clear of jobs which require you to pay a fee. These are virtually certain to be scams. Run a Web search on the name and contact details of the company; this will often bring up information regarding their track record for fairness and reliability.

Completing surveys

While maybe not technically a scam, one of the biggest over-hyped “money making opportunities” is completing surveys online. Although most of the sites are only looking for respondents in the USA and Canada, there are sites which recruit people from Australia and New Zealand. Beware of companies making big claims about how much you can earn. It simply isn’t feasible to earn thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars a month from completing surveys online. Look for companies offering modest earnings, they are more likely to be truthful.

Most of the information about companies who will pay you to take surveys on line is available free. So be very cautious of any company which tries to charge you for access to these companies. A few dollars is probably OK, more than that, and probably you should pass. Be aware that awards, testimonials, pictures of big money checks and the like can easily be forged. So don’t let yourself be taken in.

Although completing market research surveys online is a genuine way of making money, it isn’t the best way to optimize your time. Surveys can be quite time consuming, and it has been calculated that an experienced person with a good internet connection who can type fast and has a fast computer would probably average an income of less than fifty CENTS an hour.

Filling in surveys does have some advantages. Anyone can do it, it doesn’t take much skill. It’s quite enjoyable and easy work, and you do sometimes get the chance to test out new products or enter competitions. It can be a useful way of earning a few extra dollars each month, and provided you don’t pay anything for the privilege, completing surveys online can be a small addition to a basket of activities. Just as long as you’re not expecting to cover your full time income.

How to search for legitimate work from home opportunities

When it comes to online jobs, there has been a stigma in the past about their validity however there are many legitimate ones available. Here are a few tips to avoid the scams as you search for work that will sustain you and your family.

  • Change your search parameters – everyone is aware that most at home job searches involved the words “at home work opportunities” or “at home jobs.” Adjust your wording to ones that are less likely to be used by unscrupulous types.
  • Use legitimate websites for your job search.
  • Always do your homework and research the companies that interest you. This includes salaries for at home work, company atmosphere, opportunities for advancement and more. Online companies may not perform face-to-face interviews so communication skills that involve email and social media will help you.
  • Read the entire job description. Sometimes you will find clues that the job may be flexible or able to be done from home in the description. Alternatively, the job description may give you some red flags that tell you to avoid it.

Don’t let your need for paying positions cause you to skip your due diligence. Make sure that the opportunities match up with your expectations when it comes to choosing an at home job. Do your homework and remember if it sounds too good to be true, it just might be. You can also keep up with the latest scam through websites like Scamwatch and Behind MLM.