12/14/2016 Steph Anderson

Work from home: How to distinguish real jobs from the scams

shutterstock_400131289Thanks to advanced technology, working from home is a rapidly expanding opportunity for many people. It’s for more than just data entry clerks and telemarketers; work-from-home options are flourishing for experienced professionals as well.

It’s a great perk that supports work-life balance and speaks volumes to the modern employee. Millennials adore working from home, or wherever they feel they are most productive, such as the park or coffee shop. For those with young families it can provide the flexibility needed to be more active in their children’s lives. For people caring for an aging parent or special-needs family member, it allows more time for appointments and therapies. For the aging workforce, it finally takes the dreaded commute out of the equation.

And the employer can benefit, too. While not possible for every industry or profession, hiring a work-from-home employee can save lots of money on expenses associated with equipment, electricity and more. Turnover may be less and engagement may be higher, providing further financial benefits.

While legitimate work-from-home opportunities are growing across the country, it also has opened the floodgates for scammers to take advantage of job seekers. You’ve probably heard nightmare stories of someone paying hundreds to set up for a telecommute position, only to learn it’s a fake job and the money went to a criminal. Or, they provided confidential information to the “hiring manager” and later learned they were a victim of identity theft.

In fact, an estimated 2.5 million Americans are victims of job scams each year. Real opportunities are available, but you need to know these best methods for finding them.

Become a master of the search

Proactively searching for a work-from-home job is the best method for finding a real opportunity. Because LinkUp only pulls open positions from companies’ websites, it’s an easy option for avoiding scams. Use search terms like “telecommute” or “telecommuting” along with other industry terms to customize your search to your skill set.

Note the details

Hints that a job is a scam can often be found in the minor details. Does an email’s domain match the company’s name, or does it appear to be a personal email? Is there a phone number and address available? To test the waters, send an email asking for missing information. You could also check company info and the person’s credentials on LinkedIn.

Get ready to research

Once you find a potential opportunity, research to gauge its authenticity. Find the company website and search for the job opportunity directly on the site. Next, do a Google search of the company name followed by “scam” and see what pops up. When in doubt, trust your gut.

Understand your options

Some telecommuting jobs pay hourly and others are salaried. Still others might be structured to pay based on sales or productivity. Recently multilevel marketing jobs have grown, but many are misleading about the amount of money people can make. Have realistic expectations and know your options. Remember, a legitimate work-from-home opportunity should never require money in order to assume the position.

The allure of flexibility causes otherwise smart folks to let their guard down, and they end up applying for scam positions. If you have a family member with medical problems, there can be even greater pressure to find work that will give you more time to care for them properly.

If you find yourself in this scenario, research the Family and Medical Leave Act and how it applies to your current position. If you and your employer meet the requirements, using intermittent FMLA might be a good option, so talk with your HR representative. They may be willing to help you out in other ways, too, if you just make your voice known.