5 Clever Work-From-Home Scams And How To Avoid Them (+ 7 Signs Of Legit Online Opportunities)

With the rise of online jobs, work-from-home scams are more popular than ever.

But in reality, real online work opportunities far outweigh the scammers. However, knowing how to identify online scams is key.

This will help you discern between a scam and a real opportunity to work remotely and thrive.

This article will arm you will all the information you need to protect yourself against them, and how to discern whether a remote job or potential online business is legitimate or not.

Key takeaways

  • Working from home or online businesses is not a scam in itself, but several scams disguise themselves as them
  • The 5 most clever scams are pyramid schemes, email phishing, data entry scams, payment scams, and requests to buy training materials.
  • There are several red flags that scream “scam”, but the bottom line is – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Signs that point to a legitimate job posting include transparency, good communication, and verifiable credentials.
  • If you see a scam, avoid, block and report it. Contact local enforcement if possible as well.

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What exactly is working from home, remote work, online work, etc? 

It’s simply a type of employment arrangement that allows you to work and earn money without having to commute to the workplace.

The core idea is that it can be done anywhere, as long as you have internet and a laptop. 

We can work in the middle of nowhere, just with our laptops and satellite internet (we use Starlink)

There are many ways to make this happen – from swapping your current role to an online one, to freelancing, to owning an online business (what we do!).

However, we’ve been told that working remotely is a way to achieve a dream life overnight.

And that you’ll become a millionaire in the process, of course…

That concept is a scam. But, sadly, it has become synonymous with online work, giving it a bad reputation.

Remote work and online businesses etc. are not scams. The concept of earning money quickly and effortlessly is.

5 Clever (and sadly, common) work-from-home job scams

These are the most common scams related to remote work. Being aware of them gives you a huge advantage – you’ll know how to identify them, and avoid them:

1) Pyramid schemes

In a pyramid scheme, scammers get money from the fees paid by new recruits. This makes it a form of fraud, thus illegal in Australia.

The description usually promises that the “job” pays extravagant profits.

These are often gained from recruiting others into the scheme, rather than selling actual products or providing legitimate services.

Participants usually have to pay a fee to enter and recruit others to do the same, creating a pyramid-like structure.

These scams often disguise themselves as work-from-home opportunities or multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses.

That said, real MLM schemes do sell physical products or offer specific services, making them legal companies in Australia. They also rely on recruiting, though.

Thankfully, there are many ways to make money online without recruiting!

Some MLM companies are legitimate, however, you need to research these opportunities heavily as we have found there are more MLM scam companies than real ones.

S&C Travel Tip

2) Email phishing scams

Email phishing scams are sneaky tricks used by cybercriminals to ultimately take your sensitive information – passwords, credit card details, or personal data.

These crafty work-from-home scams often come disguised as authentic emails from well-known companies, banks, or even government agencies.

However, there’s always a tell-tale sign that it’s a scam – a typo on the email sender or a physical address that isn’t right, for example.

To avoid this type of job scam, always verify the sender’s identity (check if the senders domain looks legitimate) and don’t click on unfamiliar links.

Also, be cautious of requests for sensitive personal information – genuine companies won’t ask for it via email.

3) Data entry scams

Data entry job scams often look like enticing opportunities for remote work, promising huge pay for simple tasks.

These scams prey on the desire for a flexible and convenient job that requires no qualifications. Scammers know this and take advantage of it.

But it can be a way to get your personal information or even have you tied to the company without a steady workload.

Legitimate data entry jobs exist. They may not offer sky-high pay, but they provide a consistent workload and fair compensation.

To get them, make sure to do your research and verify the legitimacy of the job before signing anything.

4) The payment scam

Here, scammers may offer you a work-from-home job but ask for an upfront payment or personal financial information first. This is a HUGE red flag.

Legitimate employers never ask you to send money or give them your banking details before hiring you.

To avoid this, get into the habit of researching the company and reading reviews before sharing sensitive information.

5) Buy materials out-of-pocket

Here, recruiters ask you to purchase expensive training programs or materials beforehand, or shortly after the hiring process.

This can be under the excuse to “prepare you” for the job you’ll do.

In reality, legitimate employers provide training as part of the job, never at your expense.

And if you need specific equipment, they usually give it to you – they don’t ask you to buy it out of pocket.

8 red flags that scream “scam”

The principle is that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. As tempting as it may be if you see any of these warning signs, run away because it’s probably a scam:

  • Lots of income for little to no effort.
  • A “secret” or “exclusive” way to be rich, or a “shortcut” to wealth.
  • “Guaranteed” or “immediate” returns on your investment, a specific job, or a certain income.
  • Join a group or program where you’ll ultimately have to recruit new members to make money.
  • Sell goods or services that have little or no value, but only serve to promote the scheme. 
  • Asking for money up-front to pay fees or to purchase the materials and/or equipment you’ll need to work from home, promising reimbursement.
  • Pressuring you to take action (e.g. sign a contract or share your personal information) as quickly as possible.
  • Offering you money out of the blue

If you see any of these red flags, avoid the job at all costs. Block the sender and contact local law enforcement.

7 signs that a remote job is legit

Just as there are many red flags that point to a scam, if these signs are present, you’re likely looking at a real job posting:

  • They contacted you after you applied for their job posting.
  • The job description is clear, detailing the role and its requirements – it’s not vague or ambiguous.
  • The hiring process is transparent and the employer communicates openly about the next steps and timelines.
  • The communication is professional and free of grammatical errors and typos.
  • They’re open to communicating through video calls or phone calls, not only through emails and/or SMS.
  • The pay structure is regular and transparent.
  • They don’t ask you to give money upfront for fees, materials, etc., or to handle money on the company’s behalf.

How to avoid falling for a work-from-home scam?

First and foremost – use your instincts. If something feels off, too good to be true, or too rushed, be extremely careful.

Other things to do to avoid being a victim of a WFH scam are:

Don’t give up your personal details unless needed

Especially your card details, giving someone your details for little to no reason can scream of a scam.

It’s important to do your checks that a place is legitimate. Even some scams will use all the same branding as you bank. So just make sure that you know why they are contacting you. Why do they want your personal details?

If you’re unsure call the place, read their reviews, triple check what is going on! It is better to be sceptical than get scammed.

Do your research

During a job search for example, take the time to research the companies you’re applying to. Look for reviews, check their website, and verify their contact information.

Legitimate companies usually have detailed websites with information about their services, teams, and contact details. Scammers often lack this credible online presence.

Also, research the average pay of the role. It can help you rule out whether the job offer is real or it’s a scam. Forums can help with this.

We recommend using Glassdoor for researching company reviews and salaries.

S&C Tip

Avoid unsolicited offers

Be wary of unsolicited or unexpected job or business offers that land in your inbox without you applying.

Legitimate work opportunities typically require active job hunting and applying through reputable platforms.

Also, genuine employers don’t typically reach out without prior contact.

The exception is LinkedIn, where recruiters may reach out to you, but they’re still backed up by reputable companies you can easily research.

Never give money upfront to get hired

A genuine remote job will never ask you to use your own money to pay for training, materials, or application fees.

Real work-from-home opportunities don’t require any upfront payments. Legitimate employers will hire you because they value your skills and expertise.

They will pay for any training you need and provide the necessary equipment for you to do your job.

Use trusted job boards

Several legitimate job sites connect you with real work-from-home opportunities.

Some of the boards we recommend for remote jobs include:

Ask questions

When unsure about a remote job opportunity, don’t hesitate to ask questions about the role, responsibilities, and compensation.

Real employers will gladly give you the information you need.

If you’re getting interviewed for a big company, the representative should at least have a company email – e.g. [email protected].

If that’s not the case, ask your questions directly to the company. Their official contact information should be easy to find on their website.

Never try to contact them through suspicious links or emails.


How do I know if I’m being scammed for a remote job?

If the offer is too good to be true, you may get scammed for a remote job. Other things to watch out for include:

– Upfront payment requests.
– Unsolicited job emails.
– Lack of clear job details.
– Pressure you to answer or sign a contract.

How do I not get scammed at work-from-home jobs?

To not get scammed at work-from-home jobs:

– Stick to well-known job boards.
– Avoid responding to unsolicited job offers.
– Research companies, read reviews, and verify their legitimacy.
– Never pay for training or materials upfront.
– Don’t provide sensitive information or money before the hiring process.

Is it normal for a remote job to send you money to buy equipment?

Some large remote companies may offer reimbursement for necessary equipment, but it’s uncommon for them to send you money upfront.

If a job asks you to deposit a check and wire back the excess, it’s likely a scam. Job scammers often exploit this tactic.

Authentic employers will discuss equipment requirements and reimbursement processes transparently without asking for financial transactions upfront.

The bottom line

While work-from-home scams exist, they can be easily avoided with vigilance and a few essential tips.

Remember to research the companies you’re interested in, watch out for red flags, and trust your instincts.

By following the advice provided in this article, you can confidently navigate the world of remote work and find legitimate opportunities that align with your skills and goals.

This article is part of our series debunking remote work myths.

Other myths include not being able to earn consistent income (yes, you can!), or that the only way to earn money online is by owning a business (no, you don’t!).

Learn about those and other common remote work myths here!

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