Telecommuting is on the rise, with 37 percent of workers in 2015 saying they’d worked from home at some point, according to Gallup, and one in 11 workers reporting that they telecommute on most work days. But, finding legitimate work-from-home jobs can be a challenge, especially when scammers are coming out with new and more genuine-sounding frauds all the time. Take, for example, this new work-from-home scam, dubbed the “Online Interview With a ‘Real’ Company” scam by FlexJobs, a fee-based flexible-job search site that vets its listings to avoid scams.
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Here’s how it goes: a seemingly legitimate company with a name you recognize and a brand you trust posts a job listing or contacts you online via a “recruiter.” You connect with their representatives and set up an interview, which will take place over instant messenger. The manager asks you to download an instant messenger program and answer questions. You’re then offered the job.
“Don’t take it!” advises the Better Business Bureau, which covered this scam on their site. “Job scams steal money and/or personal information from victims. In one version reported to Better Business Bureau, the ‘job’ is actually a crime. The position involves assisting criminals in transferring stolen money or good out the country. If you participate, you could be prosecuted.”
Of course, the trusted employer has nothing to do with the scam, which was cleverly designed to appear to originate from a company the victim wouldn’t question.
How to Avoid This – or Any – Work-From-Home Job Scam
“The best protection against job scams is to equip job seekers with information about the latest techniques scammers are using to trap their victims,” said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, in a statement. “Many people believe that job scams are always very obvious and easy to avoid, but unfortunately there are an increasing number of sophisticated job scams.”
Sutton Fell estimates that there are 60 to 70 scams for every genuine work-from-home job listing. In one FlexJobs survey, 17 percent of job seekers reported being the victim of a scam at some point during their career, and only 5 percent said they’d never seen a job search scam – as far as they knew.
So how can you avoid getting taken in by this or other job scams? A few rules of thumb apply:
1. Don’t send money. Legitimate employers will never ask you to pay to apply to their jobs.
2. Don’t expect to “get rich quick.” If people really could make their fortune stuffing envelopes, the job listers would be doing that instead of trying to persuade you to do it.
3. Watch out for specific job titles, like “secret shopper” or “package processing assistant” – or any job that doesn’t require much training or education, but promises a big paycheck.
4. Compare job listings on external sites against those on the company’s website – and navigate to that website on your own, not via a link in the post. Remember that it’s fairly easy to imitate a company’s website, at least on first glance.
5. Be wary of any unprofessional behavior, including multiple typos or grammatical errors in the listing, “recruiters” who pursue you with too much persistence, or on-the-spot job offers extended when you’ve never met in person.
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