Looking to Work From Home? Here's How to Avoid Falling Victim to Scams

Maurie Backman, The Motley Fool

Many people who report to an office would do just about anything to work from home. But if you're not careful, that desire (or desperation) could lead you to fall victim to a work-from-home scam.

FlexJobs reports that 20% of job seekers have been hurt by such scams, and that 80% of searchers are on guard or concerned about scams when exploring work-from-home opportunities. If you have similar concerns, here are a few signs that you're headed for a trap.

1. You're asked for too much personal information up front

In the course of applying for a job, you're likely to be asked to provide some amount of personal information, like your name, address, or phone number. But if you're asked to give out financial information, like bank account details, consider it a major red flag. Furthermore, while some employers will require you to submit your Social Security number once an offer is extended, you shouldn't have to share that information during the application process, so if you are asked for it, proceed with caution.

Woman typing on laptop in home kitchen

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. The job listing doesn't look clean

It's one thing for a job listing to have a single spelling or grammatical error. But if it's loaded with mistakes, there's a good chance it's not legitimate. Most reputable companies have the resources to hire recruiters who can compose grammatically intact sentences and run a spell-check before blasting job openings out to the world.

3. The job requires you to be a recruiter

If you're not familiar with multi-level marketing schemes, here's a quick overview: You sign up to sell a product (typically from home), but the real way to make money is to recruit other people to work under you, and then take a cut of their sales proceeds. It's a system that works for some people, but it may not work for you -- especially if you're required to build a team of underlings.

4. You can't find any information on the company

These days, most valid companies have a website. If the company whose job listing you're reading doesn't have one, and there's no way to research it at all, then there's a good chance it's just not legitimate. The same holds true if you can't find a way to reach that business by phone.

5. The offer seems too good to be true

Tons of money for very little work? Most jobs don't function that way. You might make a lot if you put in the time, and if you're only looking to work a few hours per day, your earnings are likely to take a hit. But if you see an offer advertising a six-figure income for a mere 15 hours of work per week (and from home, no less), take it as a sign that it's probably a scam.

Of course, this isn't to say that there aren't plenty of legitimate work-from-home jobs out there. These days, many employers hire remote staff to save money on office space, and you may even get hired for a valid job over the phone without having to attend an interview in person. The key, however, is to be aware of the signs that indicate that a work-from-home job is a scam, and avoid those so-called opportunities at all costs.

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