Anyone doing an initial online search for work from home jobs could quickly find themselves convinced that there are thousands of highly-lucrative opportunities out there.
The truth is that there ARE loads of opportunities. But they’re hidden in plain sight among just as many scams and false promises.
A good general rule is the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
This particular article is a practical guide to avoiding scams when you’re looking for freelance work. At HomeWorkingClub, we set out to review lots of the opportunities people find when they go looking, but it’s always a race against time to keep up with every new website and service popping up. These often seem to offer huge financial rewards to people with limited experience. It’s unrealistic to expect this,
So, with that in mind, this article will teach you some tricks to help you do your own research into whether something you find online may not be exactly what it claims to be. I will teach you some of the tricks I use to uncover information for HomeWorkingClub, and empower you to do some “due diligence” of your own on websites we may not have had time to look at yet.
The Obvious Checks
When you arrive on a website for the first time, you can very quickly gain a sense of how transparent the people behind that site wish to be.
I’m going to use this site as an example of the kind of things you should look for.
First off, at the top of the HomeWorkingClub site, I have links to my social media presences:
Amongst these is a link to my professional LinkedIn page. This immediately allows people to click through and verify I’m who I say I am.
Then at the bottom of the site, there’s an “about” page, which also has a link to my writing portfolio.
Also in the footer of every page, you’ll notice a link to my UK limited company. Anyone who wants to can click through to this, and they will find not only a postal address but a land-line business phone number.
You’ll also notice the “featured / quoted in” section, which shows the places where the site has received publicity. It’s easy to check whether such claims are true – just Google, for example: “Ben Taylor lifehack.” There, near the top of the results, you’ll find the relevant article:
Now, if you’re suspicious that you’ve found a site that may be a scam, what you’re looking for is the absence of these reassuring signs. For example, the following things should ring alarm bells:
- Social media links that lead to dormant or abandoned profiles, or to profiles that don’t seem to tally up with what the site is saying.
- “About” pages that don’t give any sense of a “real person” or team behind the site.
- A lack of a postal address, phone number, or indication of a genuine business behind the site.
- Impressive looking logos that appear to add authority to the site, but where you’re unable to find any real connection between the sites when you investigate.
Note that the absence of some or all of these things doesn’t necessarily indicate you’re looking at a scam. However, you need to use your judgement to question why a company or individual might want to ensure they are hard to reach, or be reluctant to reveal who they are.
The question to ask yourself is where you would go or what you would do if you had cause for complaint. If that question is hard to answer, caution is advised.
Delving deeper into information about work from home jobs
Thankfully, you don’t need to rely on what people choose to tell you. You can always do a little research of your own.
To start with, Google is your friend. It’s always worth a straightforward search for the company in question, or a search that includes words like “reviews” or “scam.” Be sure to always look at several links to get a cross-section of opinion, rather than risk believing the views of a single person with an “axe to grind.”
This is especially important when it comes to work from home jobs; Often the reason people don’t succeed with freelance endeavours is because they don’t put the necessary work in, and it’s sometimes easier to blame a product than face up to one’s own shortcomings! This happens online a LOT!
A search on Glass Door is worth a go too. It’s a site where employees can appraise companies they’ve worked for. This can provide a useful insight, but be similarly wary of people using it as a place to vent unfair frustrations. Just like with TripAdvisor hotel reviews, you want the overall impression across several reviews, not just the view of one person.
Researching a company offering work from home jobs
If you want to find out more about a company in the UK or the USA, there are some online resources that can help.
It’s particularly simple in the UK; Companies House maintains a central record of all limited companies, and it’s open to anybody to search – for free.
If you look up a UK company using this service, you can find out when it was incorporated, whether its legal and financial obligations are up to date, and even who the directors are.
In the US, it’s a little less straightforward, as companies are registered at state level. This online resource provides links to all the relevant departments.
Finding out who’s behind a website
Thanks to free online services that allow you to look at the details registrars hold about website ownership, there’s even more you can find out.
In many cases, companies make use of ownership privacy services so that they don’t publicly advertise their contact details on these records. Despite how this may sound, this doesn’t mean there’s anything dodgy going on. I personally use domain privacy, because I’ve found in the past that if you don’t you get bombarded by sales calls and emails from companies who use these records to source leads.
Regardless, you can still glean useful information about a website from its “WHOIS” records. And here’s how:
- For most websites visit ENOM’s WHOIS lookup.
- For UK-based sites visit Nominet’s WHOIS lookup tool.
Then type or paste the address of the website you want to investigate into the search box.
The image below if the WHOIS lookup for this very website:
(I’ve realised on editing this that where it says “the company the site is hosted with,” it should really say “the company with whom the domain was registered!”)
As you can see from my notations above, you can still find out a few juicy details about a site even if they’re using domain privacy. And if they’re not, you’ll find the contact details of whoever registered the website’s domain.
In addition, there’s another little trick this can prove useful for:
Sometimes, scammers set up one scam site and then move onto the next one when people get wise to it. While they often use different names and different details, there’s a good chance they will use the domain registration company and host they’re already familiar with.
SO – if you ever want to find out if someone behind one website is also behind another, run a WHOIS search on both and see if they use the same hosting company, or if any other details match. If they do, it’s reasonable to suspect something may be amiss – although it’s far from a certainty!
Uncovering Work from Home Jobs Scams: Conclusion
It’s always a good idea to check who you’re doing business with – especially before handing over money. It’s a shame there are so many work from home jobs scams out there (here is a recent example), but at least – armed with the knowledge in this article – you’ll feel in a better position to avoid them.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.
4 thoughts on “Work from Home Jobs: Avoiding Scams”
I entered the following domain: jobs.theamericancareerguide.com
I used the link you provided for ENOM WHOIS to Search. It asks to click to prove I’m not a Robot. But I never get any results (I also tried it the the https prefix). I get no results. Just an explanation about the ENOM appears below. No results. I tried YOUR URL. Same results. What’s up?
That tool seems to be acting up at the moment, you could try this one (link). Not that you’d need to just put in the basic domain, not the jobs. bit.
Great information, Ben. In my current job, I get a front row seat to a lot of the scams being run out there. I could darn near write a book on them! Unfortunately, many scammers are savvy enough to come across as exceedingly legitimate, or spoof legitimate companies. Two additional warning signs I’ll offer in case a “potential employer” passes initial scrutiny and someone accepts a job:
1. Be wary of third party checks to cover expenses for home office setup or even travel costs for an in-person interview. The checks, which are fraudulent, will typically be below $5,000 and will come with instructions to deposit them in your bank account then immediately withdraw cash or wire the funds to another bank account purported to be the person making your travel arrangements or fulfilling the PO for your office equipment. Wires are the most common method fraudsters will use because, due to the nature of the wire transaction, the funds are available immediately in the destination account and are not reversable. By the time you realize you’ve been scammed, the funds are long gone and your bank will charge back the fraudulent check to your account.
If the instructions are to withdraw cash, they will either have you purchase money orders or wire the funds via money transmitters (i.e., Western Union, Moneygram, etc.).
In either case, there will be a sense of urgency to transfer the funds as they are trying to get you to act before their check is returned as altered or fictitious.
2. Secret shopper scams: Much like the first scenario, you are sent third party (fraudulent) checks, once again in amounts under $5,000, which you are instructed to deposit then withdraw in cash. You’re “job” is to use the cash to purchase Amazon, iTunes, or other gift cards, scratch off the coating to reveal the card’s claim code, and photograph the cards with the claim code visible. You are told you will receive your pay once “the agency” verifies you sent all the photos of the cards, usually by text to the phone number they provided. Of course I don’t have to tell you how this is turns out.
Reading these, it probably sounds silly anyone would fall for them, but fraudsters are very good at social engineering and picking their targets. I see far too many people fall victim to these scams and lose anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
Thanks for shining some light on how to avoid work from home scams, Ben. We can never have too much info for protecting ourselves!
Some great tips there – many thanks!