Millennials are more likely to fall for online scams than older generations.
At least two studies in recent years show that millennials are the most susceptible to internet scams. In 2019, the FTC reported that millennials are 25% more likely to lose their money to these scams. A 2015 FlexJobs study found that 20% of millennial respondents fell for some sort of job or work-from-home scam, while only 13% of seniors reported being the victim of a job scam.
If you’re interested in starting a side-gig, this reality can be disheartening—but that doesn’t mean that you should give up. The best way to protect yourself and find the best job opportunities for solopreneurs is to learn how to identify—and avoid!—work-from-home scams.
Seller beware! 5 work-from-home scams
The first step you can take toward protecting yourself is to see what type of scams exist. Here are some of the worst work-from-home scams you can find online.
1. Stuffing Envelopes
The idea of stuffing envelopes while you listen to your favorite entrepreneurial podcasts, monitor your kids’ schoolwork, or binge-watch your favorite series sounds ideal. And the fact that you can supposedly earn up to $1,200 a week without any special skills makes it all the more attractive.
Unfortunately, it’s a total scam. Here’s how you can tell.
First, these companies require an up-front investment fee. Second, envelope stuffing companies don’t have anything to stuff into envelopes. According to CBS News, these companies want you to entice others to join the company. The only way you earn money is if someone else signs up for the same scam.
2. Mystery shopper
This is a legitimate premise. Retailers often hire mystery shoppers.
Here’s the scam, though:
A company will send you a large check that you’re supposed to deposit into your personal bank account. You’re supposed to withdraw funds from that account to shop. You spend a small amount for the work you do, while the company requires you to return the rest of the money to them via wire transfer or mail.
The check they send you is bogus. The check will eventually bounce, and you’ll be out the amount you transferred to the “company.”
3. Paid survey taker
This seems like another ideal part-time work opportunity, one that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower and one you can still do even if you have a lot going on at home.
You’re promised a full-time income (you’ll get some extra spending money at best from taking surveys)
You have to enter sweepstakes or other offers (which is actually a way for the company to make money off of you)
4. Assembling products
If you love working with your hands and want to make some money, assembling products in the comfort and convenience of your own home sounds like a great idea.
Sadly, this is another scam. You have to buy the supplies and assembly equipment through the company. Or you have to pay a “one-time” enrollment fee.
Once you’ve spent the money and assembled the product, the company will most likely reject your work, claiming it doesn’t meet their quality standards.
5. Data entry jobs
Some data entry jobs are legitimate, but you’ll want to look out for promises of high pay. If the company does pay their workers, it won’t be a lot. This type of job requires little-to-no expertise, so they’re not going to pay you thousands of dollars a month.
Also, some of these jobs aren’t jobs. Instead, a scammer will entice you with false promises, while asking for you to pay some sort of fee. It could be an application fee, or they want you to invest in a special type of software. According to the Better Business Bureau, the scammer can get between $25 and $250 from you.
How to avoid work-from-home scams
With so many people out of work due to the pandemic (particularly women), the idea of being able to work remotely for a good wage can make them more susceptible to scams. Scammers know that people are desperate, that they want to work from home, and that many parents are looking for lucrative part-time work because they’re homeschooling their kids.
You should always have your guard up about online scams but especially right now. Here are steps you can take to protect yourself from scams while finding job opportunities that are worthwhile.
No up-front fees: Your new job isn’t an investment opportunity. It’s a job. You get paid for the work you do. Consider this difference: Vector Marketing, a direct sales company, doesn’t require any investment money. The cutlery you talk to customers about is on loan from Vector, not something you have to purchase.
No need to recruit others: The only reason you should try to get others to join the company you’re working for is because you truly love your work and the company itself. The amount of money you make should not depend on the number of people you recruit.
No fund transfers: A legitimate company will never overpay you and then request that you refund them.
“Legitimate opportunity:” Typically, if a company has to say it’s a legitimate opportunity in a job posting, it’s not. Look for proof that the company is legit. Don’t just take them at their word.
Ready to start a side-gig? Choose a company with a respected reputation
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from work-from-home scams is to do your research.
Check them out thoroughly.
See what kind of reputation they have online, both from a sales-rep and customer perspective. You can look at review sites or social media to learn more about them and find out if they’re a company you want to work with.
Taking the time to do a little research can help you avoid scams and find the best job opportunity for your needs and entrepreneurial goals.