Looking for jobs online can be exciting – but it can also be scary.

When you dive into the brick and mortar-free realm, you’re often dealing with faceless people.

You may only know them by screen name, an obscure business with a newly built website, or possibly an email address.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to avoid getting scammed into working for free on the internet and even in person. We’ll also talk about forms of work scams that are even worse – where the victims end up shelling out money to work remotely and never see a return on their investment.

remote jobs that require no investment

When I was new at remote working, I started on Craigslist.

I know, I know, who even uses Craigslist anymore? But Craigslist was one of the first places you could find remote jobs postings. It’s also one of the first places you could find online job scams.

And of course, they go back way before that.

Humans have been falling for a variety of work scams for ages. They’ve been integrated into get-rich-quick scams, credentialing or education scams, and sometimes packaged as entrepreneurial opportunities.

Sometimes, you can actually make money through these scams but it often involves ripping off someone else that’s placed their trust in you while they were looking for the same kind opportunity you were hoping to find.

And that’s just messed up.

Some of the oldest work-at-home hustles people fall victim to are:

-Selling makeup or cosmetics from home

-Selling cleaning products or other domestic items from home

-Pushing insurance and finance products

Often, these companies hire you as an independent agent and sell the “work opportunity” through the appeal of freedom; being able to work whenever and wherever you want. Their products tend to be of mediocre quality. The companies are usually privately held and do not share earnings or other financial data pertaining to company performance publicly.

The “data” they share tends to be marketing blurbs of half-truths and skewed accounting.

Data on sales to actual product users, rather than on the individuals that purchase the products for resale, is shadowy if at all existent. Word-of-mouth is a huge deal here. Ask for your friends and family if they have any opinion on the product or service you’re thinking of investing in.

A lack of official data makes it’s hard to determine the whether sales that the companies do report are generated from people that are buying inventory to try and create their own business (aka recruits, aka you), or consumers that purchases the products loyally and can potentially become your customers one day.

So, these scams existed way before the internet but they have a lot in common with online work-at-home scams of today. The business model often starts with a party or other social gathering where the products are demonstrated and then guests are pressured into buying the product or even worse, pressured into becoming recruits for the company.

The party or event host is really just recruiter that uses the approach of flattery; they’ll single out each guest individually during a private moment during or after the party. They’ll tell them they see they see potential in them and invite them to join them in the program, which can be their ticket to financial freedom and the ability to work from anywhere.

Often called multi-level marketing, these programs are a spinoff of the oldest pyramid schemes in the book, which are illegal in the United States, Canada, and many developed countries. Any multi-level-marketer will argue with me on this until they’re blue in the face.

At the end of the day, if you sign up for any of them the probability of failure is extremely high and more likely than not, you’re being hustled.

A few things these scams have in common is that there is often an upfront cost to start.

You usually will need to pay (sometimes through the company) for training to become licensed, certified, on-boarded, or purchase some inventory of your own. When you sell it, your recruiter will earn a commission and then equally as important, you’ll need to recruit others, convince them to sign up too, and hope to earn commissions from their sales.

Your recruiter will encourage you to prey on your closest friends and family members as your first customers or recruits. This will make sense to you because of course; why wouldn’t they want to help you out?

The truth is, nobody wants to be guilted into doing business by a loved one. How lame.

Internet Scam Red Flags

If your job offer has any of the following elements, beware:

  1. No skills or experience needed, no interview needed.
  2. Online reviews are all positive and fairly new, or many negative reviews all saying the same thing (common complaints often reflect the truth).
  3. No legal records of the business or a masked legal presence.
  4. No website or a poor quality website. No social media presence.
  5. Lack of affiliation with personal profiles that belong to REAL people, tenured employees etc. You can check this out on LinkedIn, Glassdoor and even Facebook.
  6. It’s being offered to you by someone on YouTube through a video they filmed while in their mansion as they show off their expensive cars and lifestyle. People that are really that successful aren’t going to be found online showing off under the guise of trying to e-mentor you. Nor will they be teaching you everything they know for just $59.99 when you buy their program.

What A Remote Job Really Is

It’s like any job – but you don’t go into the office do it.

You can be an employee or a contractor, and there will be formalities like interviews or assessments to make sure you’re actually qualified, background checks, legal paperwork etc., involved in the hiring process.

Like any job, you should have a clear job description, goals, and a schedule. It may be a fixed schedule or be flexible, but you’ll need to be accessible during certain times when the business is operating.

It will require skills or provide you with paid training as needed, and it will not expect you to go out and find your own customers or work without getting paid. If it’s a commission only position there’ll be a guarantee period during which you will be paid until you’re able to consistently earn commissions.

There should be a paycheck or a clear payment schedule from the company even if it’s a gig.

There will rarely be a promise of financial freedom attached to it. You’ll be paid a fixed hourly or project-based rate. It will not claim to make you a millionaire.

When you work remotely, you’ll always feel a bit apprehensive and should proceed with caution when taking a look at new opportunities. Can you think of a time that your worked remotely and weren’t actually sure if it was legit until you got your first paycheck? Or, has the opposite happened when you’ve taken an online position and it turned out not to be what you expected?

Help your fellow remote workers by sharing in the comments.

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