Remote work opportunities have exploded since the pandemic, with more and more companies offering workers the chance to avoid the commute and work from home instead.
At the same time, opportunists have identified a window for fleecing workers looking for these roles, and the remote work scam is becoming more common than ever.
However, it shouldn’t put you off your job search, or your desire to work from home. With a little vigilance you can easily dodge these scammers, and we’ll give you the tools to do so.
Eight Ways to Avoid Remote Scams
Remote work scams are big business for scammers. They prey on vulnerable victims who get suckered in with promises of their dream job and sky high salaries, only to be left jobless and potentially losing huge sums of cash too. Follow our advice to dodge the fakers and stay safe.
1. Avoid jobs with ‘fees’
If a new remote job involves any sort of cost to yourself, such as background check fees or training, consider it a huge red flag. It’s a common scam technique to try and squeeze some money out of the victim by claiming that there are some costs involved before they are allowed to start their new role.
In some instances the ‘employer’ may even promise that these charges will be refunded when the job starts. They won’t.
2. Insist on speaking with the employer
If you were going to employ someone and give them a salary, you’d probably want to introduce yourself in person, right? A lot of scams thrive on email/text only communication. It’s a lot easier to convince someone of a scam if you’ve got time to think your answers through. It’s a lot harder to pull this off on a phone or video call.
Scammers going the extra mile with a call isn’t unheard of, but if all your communication is in writing, be cautious.
3. Research the employer
It’s always a good idea when applying for any role to do some research on the company and your prospective employer, but it’s also a great way to weed out scammers. Google makes it very easy to find information about a company, so see what you can find out online about the firm. Ask your contact for a physical company office address, and double check this too.
It’s also worth researching the person who you’ll be working for. Do they have an online presence? Are they on LinkedIn, with the company they work for listed?
Sometimes scammers will claim to be contacting you from a company that is genuine, but the job offer isn’t. If you’re suspicious, there’s no harm in calling the company directly and asking to speak to your contact. You could make the call under the pretence of wanting to find out a bit more information before you start. If the job offer isn’t genuine, the company will likely be glad to know about it.
4. Look out for unnecessary pressure
It’s a textbook scammer’s trick to try and get the victim to respond as quickly as possible. When we’re flustered, our decision making suffers, and we don’t take the time to fully evaluate the situation.
A genuine employee would never demand an answer to a job offer immediately, nor threaten that the role could go to someone else should you not respond quickly enough.
5. Be suspicious of large salaries
Let’s be honest, we’d all love a big fat pay check at the end of the month, but if a job is offering a lot more than you’d usually expect, don’t let the cash cloud your judgement. Scammers will always make fake job offers look as tempting as possible, including promising you big bucks.
Be truthful with yourself about the salary being offered. If you’re new to the field and don’t know what the going rate is for the role, take a look at some job sites to see what similar positions offer.
6. Don’t give personal details too soon
While scammers love to get hold of cold, hard cash, personal information can be just as valuable. With this, fraudsters are able to steal your identity, access bank accounts, and more.
While a legitimate company will need information such as your social security number and bank details, they won’t ask for this until way after the interview, and definitely not until you’ve accepted the role.
7. Be wary of unsolicited job offers
While it may be flattering to be contacted out of the blue with a job offer, take a step back and ask if the offer looks legitimate. Scammers will often approach victims blind and offer an incredible sounding job with a sweet salary to boot, but realistically, no company makes contact with a job offer straight away. Even if you're lucky enough to get head hunted, the firm or recruiter will want to speak to you first, and won't ever make you a job offer straight away.
8. Carefully check any written communication
If you're in email contact with a potential employer, there are several easy steps you can take to weed out the fakers. Firstly, check the spelling and grammar. It's an age old tell for scams, but usually they'll give themselves away with poor English. Also, check the domain in the email address. If Bill Gates is offering you a job at Microsoft, but his email address is Bill.Gates7543@yahoo.com, that's a red flag.
It's also worth checking any links in the email too. If they're purporting to be a from a legitimate company, do the links match with the name of the organization? Don't click on links if you're unsure, simply hover over them and check the URL that appears at the bottom of your screen.
How to Find a Legitimate Work from Home Job
There are more remote jobs than ever before right now, and even though some large companies, such as Amazon and Twitter are grabbing headlines for clamping down on remote work, there are still many, many companies with generous work from home policies. Some may allow you to work from home full time, while others may ask you to come into the office a certain number of days a week. Whatever suits you best, we're confident that your ideal remote job is out there.
In order to find your perfect job, here are a few pointers:
Research companies with solid WFH policies
Companies are very open about whether or not they'll allow staff to work from home. The last thing any company wants is to go through the recruitment process, only for the candidate to baulk at the idea of coming into the office and reject a job offer. You can make a start by checking our guide to companies that let you work remotely.
Also be sure to scrutinize job descriptions when hunting. Most companies should state what their remote work policies, and if not, there's no harm in reaching out to them directly to ask.
Make sure your field is open to remote work
Some roles are more open to remote work than others. If you're looking to be a waiter, then we've got some bad news about your prospects of working from home. There are many jobs today that lend themselves to working from home, but some common ones are customer support, programming, copywriter, graphic designer, bookkeeper and more. As you can see, there's a huge array of the sort of roles that people can do at home these days. If your chosen career isn't remote-work friendly, and you're dead set on ditching the commute, it may be time to retrain.
Ask your current employer if you can work from home
If you're currently in a job that is office-based, and dream of working from home, try talking to your manager. Many companies are more open than ever to having staff work remotely, and no firm is going to chance losing a valuable team member over such a request. It may be a slow process, and you're likely to have to start slowly with a trial at first, to see if it works for both you and your employer, but you could keep the job you have, without the travel.
Is Remote Work Safe?
Remote work is more common than ever – over half of US workers have been given the option to work from home in some capacity. In fact, we're so eager to work from home, that most of us would happily take a pay cut for the privilege.
There are also huge benefits to working from home. Studies have found that the US workers actually saves 55 minutes a day when they work from home, and not only that, but they actually live longer. There are many great reasons to work from home, but you might be concerned about just how safe some of these potential job offers are.
Scammers are opportunists by nature, and will latch onto any emerging trend in an attempt to try and immorally extract money or information from victims, but despite this, remote work is a legitimate area of employment that is only going to grow and grow. In some fields, it has even become more common to work from home rather than head to the office, with the tech industry leading the way.
As long as you're vigilant when applying for remote jobs, and watch out the for the warnings signs we've covered here, you can land yourself a legitimate remote working role, and hang up your commuting coat.