More and more, older Americans are choosing to stay in the workforce out of the necessity for income, the desire to stay professionally active or both. And one common way of doing this is by finding a flexible job or one that lets you work from home.
Unfortunately, there are loads of scams in this type of job market. In fact, the FBI and the Better Business Bureau have put out warnings about them to job seekers.
A recent survey showed that 83 percent of job seekers are “on guard” or “very concerned” about job scams. But how can you steer clear of the scams? Here are five tips:
1. Be on guard when an employer contacts you out of the blue. Yes, it is possible that a legitimate employer will find your LinkedIn profile, see your years of experience in its field and send you a message hoping to connect. But scammers go the extra step by offering you a job straightaway, rather than asking for an interview.
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If you’re offered a job unexpectedly and the person urges you to accept quickly or wants you to quit your current position, it’s definitely a scam. Crooks capitalize on job seekers’ desperation for money and recognize that applying a time limit paired with an increase in pay makes it difficult for people to consider the offers with a critical and skeptical eye.
2. Know how to spot a fake web address. A common work-from-home job scam involves using a well-known company’s name, such as CNBC or Google, to lure unsuspecting job seekers into a trap. For example, http://www.cnbc4newsworld.com could be a convincing imposter for the real CNBC website.
To test the web address of a company, open up a new browser, run a Google search on the business and compare the URLs. Also, visit the firm’s career page and compare your potentially false job listing to the open positions on this website.
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3. Know how to distinguish legitimate at-home jobs from scams. Legit jobs that let you work from home are much like regular in-office jobs. You’ll find them in a huge variety of career fields, with many of the same job titles as traditional positions.
Common, legitimate work-from home job titles include writer, consultant, customer service representative, account manager, project manager, marketing director, insurance adjuster, case manager and many others. But the most common work-from-home scams include jobs like envelope stuffing, rebate or forms processing, craft assembly and others you wouldn’t typically find in a professional job search.
4. Be skeptical about unorthodox job-application methods. Scammers have started turning to chat services to communicate with prospective applicants and to conduct fake job interviews. When a company will only communicate with you via online chat, the chances are very high that the business is not legitimate. If you are approached through your online chat program, be sure to request that the company give you a call and research it before interviewing to see if the results yield any red flags.
Another red flag: a lack of English language and punctuation skills in the application.
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5. Don’t give a company money to get the job. Scammers know that if they ask for relatively small amounts of money for reasonable-sounding things like training materials, office equipment, software and “work-from-home kits,” job seekers might pay up. But don’t get out your checkbook just yet.
The Federal Trade Commission has refunded more than $2 million to 90,000 individuals who were hooked by a work-at-home scam (operating under the names Google Money Tree, Google Pro and Google Treasure Chest). These people paid for $4 shipping fee for a “work from home kit,” but weren’t told that by ordering it, they were also disclosing their account information and would be charged an additional $72.21 each month.
Although these type of scam tactics have been used for decades (originating in newspaper and magazine ads), they have effectively made the leap to the Internet and have continue to take advantage of job seekers every day.
Sara Sutton Fell is CEO and founder of FlexJobs, the leading online service for professionals seeking telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time and freelance jobs.