Five Worst Mistakes by Work-at-Home Job Seekers
Chris Durst and Michael Haaren
In our 11 years of helping people find home-based work, we've seen job seekers make a variety of missteps (we're all entitled to a few), just as in the brick-and-mortar world. But in the work-at-home arena, there's a hitch.
Because of the prevalence of scams, when you make mistakes in your search for home-based work, the consequences can be dire. They can include high credit-card charges, ruined credit, and in the case of "money mule" scams, fines and even jail.
Here are the five worst mistakes home-based job seekers make as well as suggestions to stay safe as you look for legitimate jobs:
1. Believing that you can make a lot of money for little work. We see job seekers make this mistake again and again. "Earn $5,000 a week for just 30 minutes a day." The "job" will often involve basic administrative tasks -- data entry, envelope stuffing, rebate processing -- so the widest range of people will be drawn into the trap.
How can you protect yourself? As the cliche goes, "If it sounds too good to be true ... " Consider those high-income claims a red flag, especially when the "job offer" arrives in your inbox as spam.
2. Paying for work-at-home "kits," "systems," etc. It's all too easy to find an old list of "mystery shopping jobs" and charge desperate job seekers $49.95 for a copy. Indeed, if we had a dollar for every one of these offers we've seen, we'd be as rich as the people you see in bad work-at-home ads.
As a general rule, you shouldn't pay someone for work. They pay you to work for them. (One of the few exceptions is in the virtual call-center industry, where independent contractors are sometimes charged for training or equipment.)
3. Accepting TV work-at-home infomercials at face value. If you spend some time on the Federal Trade Commission website (FTC.gov), you'll see a number of enforcement actions involving infomercials. Why? Because like any other advertiser, con artists know that TV's a great medium for reaching the consumer.
When watching infomercials for any service or product, remember Chris & Mike's Cream-puff Rule. Everybody would like to find a "cream-puff" used car in The New York Times, but no one expects The New York Times to verify that three-digit odometer reading, or the claim that the owner is a widow who only drove the car to church on Sundays. In other words, "caveat emptor" applies to all purchases.
4. Accepting website testimonials at face value. Scammers routinely steal photos of stay-at-home moms, seniors, families -- everything but Bigfoot -- for bogus "testimonials" in their job offers. (We call these "testiphonyals." And they'd steal Bigfoot's picture, too, if they thought it would help.) The images are often taken from stock photography inventory, but they can also be stolen from blogs, corporate or consumer websites, etc.
What can you do? View all testimonials with a grain of salt, regardless of the offer. Always read the fine print (scammers often include carefully-hidden disclaimers to try to avoid FTC action). And if your intuition tells you to distrust the "happy camper" in the testimonial, you probably should.
5. Believing that the work-at-home sector is only as competitive as the brick-and-mortar world. This is a big mistake. As high unemployment persists and commutes worsen, more and more people want to work from home.
What to do? Expand your online network (work-at-home jobs are typically advertised online), don't listen to the naysayers, and upgrade your credentials at every opportunity.
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