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Spotting Those Work-from-Home Scams

I’ve been scammed plenty of times. And I do mean plenty! By now, I can smell a scam a mile away, right? Not always. It seems like the smarter I get the slicker the scammers seem to get. See, when I decided that I wanted (needed) to work from home, I knew that I didn’t want (or need) to pay a company to get a job. Nor did I wish to recruit tens or hundreds of people in order to get paid for whatever job I did get. All I wanted was to do a better job than my competition. You know--like I used to do in the “real” world. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that there were a lot of other people, just like me, who had to struggle to avoid the emotional and financial pain of being scammed.

I realized that there is no 100-percent, sure-fire way of protecting myself. But I did learn how to recognize some red flags and how to lower my risks of getting burned. I eventually put my experience to work and created a web site, TeleworkRecruiting,Inc., to help other people who want to work from home. Following are guidelines that I use as I research jobs for inclusion on the site. They’re actually pretty simple; and I offer them below with the hope of helping you find legitimate home employment.

  1. Don’t pay for employment. This seems almost obvious. But, if asked to pay a company to work for them--even an application fee--cross that ad off your list.

  2. Look for these flag words and phrases. If an advertisement contains any of the following words or phrases to describe a job, stay away: These are indicative of either scams or business opportunities.

    "Down line, Up line, Power line"
    "Quick, Easy, No work"
    “Cash machine”
    “Self replicating”
    “No experience”
    “System or Program”
    “Unlimited Income Potential”
    “Free details”
    (That’s probably all that will be free!)
    “Residual income”
    “Multi-level, Ground-level, Levels deep”
    “Big money fast”
    “Make money while you sleep”
    (I’ve never been paid to sleep on the job! Have you?)

  3. Be suspicious of companies that hire “internationally”. Chances are that the “company” is really a person who happens to have an up line, down line, or whatever.

  4. Don’t send an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) for further information about a job. If the company can afford to buy stamps, it can’t afford to pay you--at least not for very long!

  5. Never call a 900 number for information about a job position. This is obviously the same as paying for information.

  6. Avoid paying the hiring company for materials or training needed to get the job. Either you have it, or you don’t. If the company requires special training, then they should be paying you.

  7. Save yourself valuable time by reading an entire ad carefully responding to the ad. There might be fine print somewhere, where the words Up line, Down line or whatever are lurking!

  8. Find out how long a company has been in business before agreeing to work for it. Your hard-earned pay might end up being the owners’ grocery money, because they didn’t budget their start-up money properly.

  9. Check out a company you’re considering with the Better Business Bureau. Although companies pay to be listed there, any company that gets complaints will also be listed--for free.

  10. Join free support groups. There are numerous online support groups where everyone is in the same boat that you are in. These groups’ members love to blast a scam when they find one. That alone will save you a lot of time and trouble.

My absolute final guideline: Pay attention to your instincts. Don’t ever feel so desperate to find home employment that you ignore or overlook indications that something is a scam. Scammers prey on people’s desperation (particularly women’s). Know that you aren’t alone. Don’t make what you might think of as a desperate situation worse by letting yourself be taken in by a scam.

- Pamela La Gioia

Pamela La Gioia is the creator and Webmaster of Telework Recruiting, Inc. She has been researching work-from-home issues since 1993, when only a handful of other webmasters recognized the growing trend of working from home. For more information, contact Ms. La Gioia via e-mail at: All questions and comments are welcome.
© Pamela La Gioia