Scams vs. Real Work-From-Home Jobs: A Job Seeker’s Story

If you want to work from home, you’re going to come across a lot of scams during your search for a telecommuting job. As mentioned here before, 95 out of 100 search results from the phrase “work from home” are scams, which is a scary statistic indeed. Even the F.B.I. has joined the fight against work from home scams, designating “work from home” as one of the top scam phrases to beware of.

Some job seekers are lucky enough to spot the scams and avoid them, but far too many are duped by the ever-more-convincing scams that keep cropping up. Irene L. of North Carolina is one of the many job seekers victimized by job scams, and her story proves that just about anyone can fall victim to the scams. However, Irene’s experience also teaches us that you can find legitimate, professional work from home jobs amid all the scams if you know where to look. Thankfully, Irene agreed to share her story to educate fellow job seekers, help people avoid scams, and find real telecommuting jobs. As Irene said, “In this job market, people need all the good stories they can hear!”

One Job Seeker’s Scam Survival Story

In 2012, Irene marked her 15th year of telecommuting in various customer service, sales, and problem resolution jobs and was looking for her next work-from-home job. But even a telecommuting veteran can be tricked into a work-from-home scam. So, how did Irene fall victim? Here’s her story, in her own words.

“A while back I had been ‘hired’ by a small company in Florida that had contacted me through my LinkedIn profile. To make a long story short, I worked for them for three weeks, they never paid me a dime and I was VERY discouraged.” Irene said that for her three weeks of work, she was owed $1,000.

Even when using a reputable professional networking site like LinkedIn, job seekers need to be aware of potential scams. Irene told us, “The sales manager contacted me through my LinkedIn profile and the owner interviewed and hired me. It was all outbound calling. I worked for them for three weeks and two days, and out of the blue got a phone call they decided to ‘go in a different direction’ and said they would send my paycheck. It never arrived.”

Job Scams and Independent Contractors

One of the important parts of Irene’s story is that she was hired by this scam company as an independent contractor, often called a “1099” after the tax forms that self-employed professionals must fill out.

“I found out the hard way that a 1099 has no rights whatsoever as an employee - no matter what you got in writing! The Department of Labor, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, and every organization I contacted said they couldn’t help me, that all I could do was sue them in court. The reality is that, to sue, it would cost the average person more than the company owes them, so they will continue to pull this scam on many more people that are desperate for a work from home job,” said Irene.

While contractors do have very different rights than at-will employees, and in many cases inadequate rights when it comes to getting a client to pay up, they do have some rights. For example, independent contractors have the right not to be told where and when to work, what tools to use, who they can hire, where they can buy supplies and services, who has to do what work, and what order tasks have to be accomplished.

If you are considering independent contractor jobs (aka - freelance jobs, self-employment, 1099s), be aware that you are responsible for protecting your rights as a professional. Because you are not considered an at-will employee, you will not have the same rights that employees traditionally have. Here are some tips on What to Do if You Don’t Get Paid as a freelancer.

How can job seekers who want to work from home protect themselves from job scams?

  • Do Your Research: Always search for a company’s name along with keywords like scam, bad, ripoff, and other negative words to see if others have reported the company as being a scam. Check with the Better Business Bureau and to see how they are rated.
  • Use the Right Keywords: Phrases like “work from home” and “work at home” are commonly associated with scams. Instead, use words like telecommute, telecommuting, and remote work to find more real, scam-free job listings.
  • Be Wary of Instant Job Offers: Be skeptical of out-of-the-blue job offers you receive on LinkedIn or other job search websites. Most employers will not offer you a job right off the bat if they contact you through job search websites or LinkedIn. Instead, they’ll request a job interview.
  • Don’t Accept Offers Quickly: Scammers will usually pressure you to accept their job immediately and give you little or no time to think it over. They don’t want you to be in a rational state of mind when making your decision, and they don’t want you to have time to research their offer. Take your time and be clear about exactly what you are accepting before you do so.
  • Protect Yourself as a Freelancer: Use Reputable Sources to Find Jobs: After being scammed, Irene decided to sign up for FlexJobs, the only telecommuting job search site recommended by Undress4Success.

Irene signed up for FlexJobs after being scammed because she was looking for a safe place to find legitimate work from home jobs. FlexJobs lists only pre-screened, verified, and legitimate telecommuting jobs and other jobs that offer flexibility (flexible schedule jobs, freelance jobs, and part-time jobs).

Of her experience job searching through FlexJobs, Irene said, “FlexJobs really does work. I decided to pay for a subscription to FlexJobs and within four days I found a posting. I submitted my resume, took their online assessment tests, and they hired me. I had two weeks of training and after six weeks I can say this is looking like the best work from home job I have ever had. That’s saying a lot as I have worked from my home office for 15 years.”

Hopefully, Irene’s experience can teach fellow job seekers to be alert when it comes to work from home jobs, learn to spot scams, and avoid frustrating situations. There are definitely real telecommuting jobs out there if you know how and where to look.

Guest post by Brie Weiler Reynolds, Director of Content and Social Media at FlexJobs and a former career advisor.

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