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Look out for work-at-home scams

With unemployment rates soaring and the coronavirus circulating everywhere, there’s a renewed interest in work-at-home opportunities.

Scammers know this and are trying to cash in on what they see as a golden opportunity—potentially desperate people, possibly facing financial difficulties, who might just fall for their cons.

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says:

“When money’s tight, a work-at-home opportunity might sound like just the thing to make ends meet. Some even promise a refund if you don’t succeed. But the reality is many of these jobs are scams. You end up paying for starter kits or certifications that are useless, find your credit card is charged without your permission, or get caught up in a fake check scam.”

Sure, lots of companies (including TDS) are offering more work at home opportunities for their employees right now. However, true opportunities are easily outpaced by scams from con artists.

What these scams can look like

The most common red flag that signals a likely work-from-home scam is an offer of big money for what seems to be a relatively easy job or small amount of work.

The AARP says, “typical ploys invite you to get to work stuffing envelopes, processing billing forms for medical offices, filling out online surveys, doing typing or data entry, or assembling crafts. The common thread is that you’ll be asked to pay something upfront for supplies, certifications, coaching or client leads.”

The FTC also adds mystery shopping and multilevel marketing job postings to this already long list.

A common element? They often promise big money for very little work and/or no experience.

Warning signs

Taking a cautious approach will help you avoid being tricked. According to the FTC and AARP here’s what you should and shouldn’t do.

Do:

  • Do thoroughly research any individual or organization offering work. What do others say about them? Do they have a verifiable business address? The FTC says to research the company name plus the words “scam”, “complaint,” or “reviews” to learn more. The AARP also suggests checking the company out with the Better Business Bureau in your community.
  • Do be skeptical. If the job ad promises big money, it’s probably a scam and not a legit opportunity.
  • Do ask for additional information. The FTC has a Business Opportunity Rule requiring companies to give you a one-page disclosure document that offers key information about business opportunities—including references and they must back up claims about how much you can make. The FTC also says you should ask about:
    • the tasks you’ll have to perform
    • if there are additional steps involved
    • the salary, who will pay you, when you will get paid
    • and if you must pay for supplies and equipment, find out exactly what you will receive for that money.
  • Do think about the source of the job posting. Does the website with the job posting screen the opportunities and the companies listed? If not, be extra cautious.
  • Do watch out for imposters. Some scammers offer fake federal government jobs that were “previously undisclosed” as if they have the inside scoop on new jobs. This is NOT true. Information about government jobs is available—for free—on usajobs.gov.

Don’t:

  • Don’t automatically trust offers you see posted on reputable websites or in newspapers. Scam offers can make it onto these sources too, so do your own homework.
  • Don’t pay upfront to anyone claiming they can find you a job. Reliable employment agencies earn their money from employers, not employees.
  • Don’t pay in advance for supplies, equipment, training, etc. At the very least, don’t do this without some careful research. It’s very rare that a legitimate opportunity requires you to pay for anything up front before starting work.
  • Don’t trust unsolicited contact from a potential employer. Sometimes scams start with someone contacting you saying they found your info on a jobs board. If you didn’t post, you know it’s a scam. If you did post your information, be sure to do your homework using the other tips listed here.
  • Don’t give out your payment or bank details up front. Being cautious will help you avoid identity thieves looking for a quick score. Check out the employer carefully before giving out your banking information.
  • Don’t put much value in testimonials. Sometimes testimonials are not real or entirely made up. You should not place much stock in them unless you can verify the praise through research.

One more thing: nowadays, scammers are also using phone and video calls to appear like a legitimate business. A virtual interview is no replacement for some good old-fashioned research. Get on the internet (using information you look up yourself) and find out what you can about the business on your own.

If you’d like to check out TDS’ career opportunities, be sure to check out our website. To learn more about the most common fake work-from-home jobs and how to spot them, visit: FTC Work-at-Home Businesses.

 

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids. You can find Missy on G+ and on Twitter.
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