January 8, 2009

Want to work at home? Beware of scammers!

For many people, working from home seems like the ideal situation (and I work from home, so believe me, I get how great it can be!)

Maybe you are a new mom and want to be home with your baby.

Maybe you are sick to death of your boss and want some autonomy. Maybe you were recently laid off and think you would be better off freelancing than competing with every other Joe looking for a job right now.  Or maybe you just really want to be able to work in your pajamas (yes, as someone who works from home, I can tell you that you *can* work in your jammies… but I don’t recommend it!)

Whatever the reason that you want to work from home, it can be a great gig. You can usually set your own schedule. You do have more time with the kiddos. You avoid that whole morning commute. You save big on lunches out and dry cleaning. And then there is that whole pajama thing.

But there are a lot of potential negatives of working at home, too. You need a lot of discipline. It can be lonely. If you’re a freelancer, the income isn’t steady and that can be unnerving — especially these days. And, for many would be work-at-homers, you have to sift through a mountain of scams in order to find legitimate opportunities.  In fact, according to a recent CNN article on working at home, scams beat out legit gigs 54 to 1!

Scammers are busier than ever because tough economic times are making people more desperate to make money, says Christine Durst, CEO of Staffcentrix, a company specializing in home-based careers that sifts through home-based job leads every day.

Durst says people are searching more for home-based jobs to save money on gas, clothing and child care. Seniors are also looking to supplement their dwindling retirement income.

Durst says Staffcentrix researchers screen about 5,000 home jobs leads every week, and there is a “54-to-1 scam ratio.”

How can you avoid getting scammed? Here are three surefire ways to sniff out a scam job:

1) Don’t ever pay for the privilege of working.
Let me say that again: DO NOT PAY MONEY TO GET A JOB.  Not $3 and not $3000.  And whatever you do, never, ever, ever give someone you do not know electronic access to your checking account. It could be wiped out faster than you can say “work at home”.

2) Distrust exaggerated salary claims.
Some people make six-figure salaries working from home, but most do not. Not even close. If an ad promises improbably high salaries for improbably low work hours, run, don’t walk, in the other direction.

3) Avoid Craigslist repeaters.
Craigslist is a wonderful source of work from home opportunities.  But it can also be scam central. Before you apply for a gig, try running a search on other cities’ listings as well. If the same ad keeps popping up everywhere you look, odds are it’s a scam.

Besides spotting the scammers before you get scammed, what else can you do to protect yourself? Set up a separate email account just for your WAH (that’s short-hand for Work at Home) job applications. And be sure not to give out any personal information like address, home phone or social security.

Have you ever been scammed by a work from home scheme?

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