May 12th, 2017

Spam And Scams From My Inbox

Spam And Scams From My Inbox

Once in a while I like to check out the spam box of my email account. Not only does this allow me to catch the false positives in there, some of the scams are educational to see. Most are pretty obvious when you look at them carefully, but they fool enough people that the scammers keep trying.

Not all of these are work at home scams. They’re just the ones I found interesting enough to share here. I’m going to ignore all the sex and dating ones. There are just too many. Be ready for lots of screen shots.

Amazon Order Scam

fake Amazon order

Where, oh where to start with this one?

We have the misspelled “Responde.” I can hardly even type it that way.

Next is the pathetic lack of trying on the “Amazon.com” that looks nothing like the logo. They weren’t even trying there. All in all, I’d call that a good thing. Makes them easier to spot.

Then there’s request to confirm the order. By email. Yes, hovering over that link indicates that it will start an email.

Less obvious, perhaps, is that the email is sent to an address starting with “ctedh2i.” I assume the sender used bcc and had to have something in the to: section, because I don’t have any email addresses like that.

Fake ATM Card

fake atm card

I have to admit to some curiosity on this. Just how does an ATM card “in cure demurrage” anyhow? What does that even mean??

It amazes me every time that I see it that this scam is still going around. Sure, they’ve change it some – it’s not a mysterious inheritance or some rich guy just deciding to give you money to avoid the government getting it. This time it’s a CORPORATE ATM CARD ALL IN BOLD from some African bank.

And then there’s poor DHL waiting to get a confirmation on your address. And you can see the pending scam so easily with the need for a Tax/Stamp Duty to be procured before shipment.

Alas, it will be a long wait for them because I’m not replying. I hope no one else does.

As a side note, I still get the standard mysterious person wanting to send me tons of money scam too. Often. Some even claim to be passed through the FBI.

Amazon Secret Shopper Employment

Here’s a long one. They’re trying hard to look real.

Amazon secret shopper scam

I love that Gmail not only put this in the spam file, but warns that this email fails Amazon.com’s required tests for authenticity. Good job all around. The email is painful to read, with the random new paragraphs, usually in mid sentence. I think I can tell how long a line their text editor had, because it’s pretty consistent.

This is an example of the standard secret shopper scam, which is still going strong. This one is quite blatant about saying you will get a money order for more than you need. For those who haven’t heard of it, the money order is fake, but they’ll have you cash the whole thing and send all but your “pay” back to them. Banks and stores are getting better at spotting the fake money orders, but some still get through, and it’s the person who cashed it who is liable. The $800-4500 this email quotes would be painful to pay back, wouldn’t it?

They’re trying hard to push the legitimacy button by claiming membership in the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) and naming their supposed business. There really is a company called “Secret Shopper” and they are listed on the MSPA website, but this is not from them.

Nor is it from Amazon or Western Union. I’m quite certain cares very little about lapses in Western Union services. It’s not their problem. I’m somewhat amused that they want shoppers to find their nearest Amazon and Western Union outlet – I’ve been to the Amazon store in San Diego, and I don’t think they do that. I suppose it’s possible that an Amazon Locker location might also have Western Union services, but I don’t think it’s that common. But, the scammers promise you can spend $100 in the Amazon section, so I somehow think they’re trying for the stores.

Company Rep Scam

Finally something short and, well, not sweet, but at least it’s short.

company rep scam

Trust the red section from Gmail on the top. It’s a scam. They’ll steal your information, and if they get you to do anything else, it will be fake check or money orders, or forwarding packages bought with stolen credit cards. Either way, it’s bad news.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

January 24th, 2017

What If The Work At Home Job Is Legitimate But Illegal Or Unethical?

Most of the time when you look at a work at home job opportunity, you only have to worry about whether the job is legitimate. If the company is real, and they pay you, most of the time you’re in good shape. But there are a few cases where you may need to consider whether the work you’re doing is legal or ethical.

College Essay Writing Services

College essay writing services are one of those special cases where you should really think about what you’re doing. Writing for pay as such is legal, but in some states writing college essays for pay for someone is illegal. Consider California Education Code Section 66400:

“66400. No person shall prepare, offer to prepare, cause to be prepared, sell, or otherwise distribute any term paper, thesis, dissertation, or other written material for another person, for a fee or other compensation, with the knowledge, or under circumstances in which he should reasonably have known, that such term paper, thesis, dissertation, or other written material is to be submitted by any other person for academic credit at any public or private college, university, or other institution of higher learning in this state.”

Or Florida Statutes Section 877.17:

“It shall be unlawful for any person or business entity to sell, offer to sell, or advertise for sale any term paper, thesis, dissertation, essay, or report or any written, recorded, pictorial, artistic, or other assignment which the seller or advertiser knew or reasonably should have known was intended for submission by a student, unaltered to any substantial degree, in fulfillment of the requirements for a degree, diploma, certificate, or course of study at a university, college, academy, school, or other educational institution in the state.”

It’s a second degree misdemeanor in Florida.

Essay writing services try to get around these by saying that the papers are for use as guidelines, or for use in citations. You should decide how much you’re willing to trust these disclaimers before accepting such work.

Illegal or not, you should also consider the ethics of the matter. Are you comfortable with what your work would be used for? How would you feel about someone who had used essay writing services to make it through college, rather than graduating entirely on their own merits? Then there’s the risk to the student if the college catches them using a service. No college allows students to buy papers – all work must be your own.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing opportunities can be legal or illegal, depending on how they’re done. There are plenty of legitimate companies which focus on making sales rather than recruiting. But there are too many companies which are pyramid schemes, and are illegal.

The difference is in the focus. Is the company more interested in how many people you recruit or how much you sell? Some recruiting is necessary in any multi level marketing program, but it shouldn’t be the main thing. Too much focus on recruiting is one of the signs of a pyramid scheme.

Also look at the claims made about the products you’re selling. Companies as well as individual recruiters can make inappropriate claims about the products they sell, and if you make those claims, you may be liable for it.

You especially see this in any products related to health. Any claim about curing, treating, mitigating or preventing actual diseases has to be proven. Don’t make health claims that aren’t backed up by studies. There’s a fine line between stating your own experience with a product and making a health claim that might get you in trouble. If you’re looking at joining a company that makes any such claims about their products, find out how they back it up. Not only are such claims illegal, they’re as unethical as can be when they’re wrong.

Beware of making income claims too. Overstated income claims are all too common, and can get people and companies into trouble. There’s a huge difference between what top earners make in an opportunity and what the average person makes. The FTC expects income claims to be what someone can actually expect to make. Appropriate disclosures must be made before a new distributor can join.

What About Other Illegal Work At Home Jobs?

Most other illegal work at home jobs I already list in the scams section. Often enough, the illegal part hits victims fast enough that they won’t make money – they’ll be out money.

Take the reshipping scam, for example. You receive goods at your home and send them off to someone else. It turns out that the goods were paid for with a stolen credit card or counterfeit check, and you have now helped them in that crime and can be in legal trouble yourself. They might even pay you with a counterfeit check or money order. It’s just a nasty business all around.

Then there are the classic envelope stuffing or email processing scams. They’re pretty much the same thing – when you respond to the ad, you get instructions on how to place the same ad and have people pay you for the instructions. You might make some money, but the method you’re using is illegal. There are several variations on this theme, but they all amount to the same thing.  Just don’t.

I haven’t names every illegal job you could do at home. If you have your doubts about a work at home job or home business opportunity, investigate it and make sure it’s neither a scam nor illegal, and that you’re comfortable ethically with what you’re doing.

Of course, none of what I’m saying here is legal advice. If you’re concerned about any of these issues, take a careful look at what concerns you and decide if advice from an attorney is necessary. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you keep aware of the law.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

January 23rd, 2017

The Check Cashing Scam Is Still Around

One of the scams I’ve seen here and there for years is the check cashing scam. It’s still around, but now the FBI says it’s targeting college students. That makes now a good time to review that scam so that you won’t fall for it and you might be able to help others avoid it as well.

The scam is pretty simple. You answer a job ad, and your supposed employer sends you counterfeit checks. You deposit it in your account, keep part and send the balance back to someone as a wire transfer. In this particular version, they may claim you’re sending the money to a vendor to buy equipment or other supplies for the job. You won’t know that the check is bad until it’s too late.

When you look at it, the scam ought to be easy to spot. This doesn’t keep people from falling for it, of course. Legitimate employers do not send you payment before you’ve even started to work, for starters. They also don’t generally send you a check and tell you to go through their vendor to buy the supplies you need for the job. You certainly don’t normally wire money to a vendor to pay them.

A legitimate employer will either expect you to buy what you need on your own or send the equipment and supplies to you themselves. I occasionally see job listings that say you will be allowed a certain amount of money to buy equipment, but that’s not likely to be mixed in with your regular pay… especially when you haven’t actually started yet.

This kind of scam can make your life very difficult for a time. Your bank account could be closed due to the fraudulent activity. You will have to pay bank back for all the money. You may have shared personal information that will make it easier for your identity to be stolen.

Scams like this are why you should always be careful when applying for work. That means here on this website, on your college job board, or any other job board. If something sounds wrong, check into it more carefully before sending in your personal information. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartbreak and financial trouble by avoiding work at home scams.

As a general rule, if you see a job opportunity of any sort, but something seems off about it, be careful. Scammers are often not native English speakers, and this may show in the job ad. Misspellings, strange capitalizations and poor grammar are clues that something might be wrong. Too much money for too little work is another clue.

If you are scammed online, you can report it to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/. You can also report it to the police. Local police may be limited in what they can do about an online crime, but it can be helpful for them to know what’s going around.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 14th, 2016

The Work at Home Job Seeker’s Guide to Scams

The Work at Home Job Seeker's Guide to Scams

You don’t hear as much about work at home scams as you used to, but they’re still out there. It’s just that they’re no longer in the FTC’s top 10 complaints. Other type of scams are currently more common. But if you want to work at home, you want to know how to avoid the ones that are likely to be a problem during your search.

FTC complaints

Here are some ways to recognize that someone might be trying to scam you as you look for a work at home job.

They Really Want Your Bank Account Information

It’s reasonable to share your bank account information when you’re signing up for direct deposit of your paycheck with your new job. Direct deposit makes getting paid so much easier, especially when you work at home. Otherwise you have to wait for your check to come through the mail. But an employer who is too interested in your bank account information is more likely to be a problem. If they’re more interested in your bank account information than your qualifications for the job, it’s probably a scam.

Don’t share your bank information until you are confident that the job is the real thing. This isn’t always easy to figure out, but pay attention to what your potential employer is saying and doing to figure out if they’re real.

Email Address Isn’t From the Company Domain

fake work at home job leadsMany popular work at home companies now have warnings on their websites about scammers pretending to be with them. One of the simplest ways to recognize this scam is when they use an email address from someplace other than that company’s domain name. Usually it’s a free email service such as Yahoo or Gmail. Others will register a similar domain and try to fool you with emails from that server.

If you think you’re in contact with a company about a job, but you aren’t certain, check the email address you’re communicating to them with. If it’s not clear that they’re legitimate, contact the company on your own, through a source you know is legitimate. A contact link or form on their website would be a good choice once you know you have the right website. These companies whose names are falsely associated with scams due to these people would rather you contact them and ask, right or wrong. Both of you will be happier knowing that you aren’t going to be scammed and blame the wrong people because the scammers fooled you.

Pay Is Too High For the Work

Being overpaid sounds so nice, but it doesn’t happen for most of us, especially for the kinds of jobs offered in “easy work at home” scams. They’re often oddly simple sounding jobs claiming to pay thousands of dollars a month, or hundreds for a basic task.

It’s just not realistic. No matter how desperate you are to earn money from home, be realistic, especially about earnings. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Any time a job offer or business opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If the work is too easy and/or the pay is too high, be careful. There’s likely a reason you feel that way.

The use of all capital letters or lots of dollar signs or exclamation points are indicators of a scam as well. Real job listings don’t need them.

They Want You to Pay

Be extra careful any time a potential employer wants you to pay for anything as a part of applying for that job. Sometimes it’s legitimate. There are employers who expect you to pay for a background check and are legitimate.

Others are just a scam. They’ll claim to have an application fee or something along those lines. An employer should pay you, and the costs associated with finding new employees should be on them, not on applicants.

Common Types of Work at Home Scams

Work at home scams go beyond fraudulent job listings. These are some common scams you can learn to recognize without contacting them for more information.

High Priced Training for Business Opportunity

Starting a business isn’t always easy, so it sounds nice when they offer training to help you get started. The problem is that sometimes the training is expensive, not that helpful, and the money people earn from referring others to training may be the main way they earn from that business opportunity.

Check Cashing/Money Orders

Check cashing and money order scams prey on your greed. Sometimes the check or money order arrives unsolicited, with instructions to do a “mystery shop” with it, cashing the check, keeping part, and wiring the rest to the company scammer.

The catch here is that the check or money order is fraudulent, and suddenly you are on the hook for the entire amount. You may even be in legal trouble if there is any indication you knew it was fraudulent.

Don’t let greed beat out common sense. There is no place that it makes sense for someone to send you possibly thousands of dollars as a money order to cash, have you keep a couple hundred and wire the rest back to them. If they really needed to mystery shop a place that way, a much smaller amount would do, and they’d work with a standard mystery shopping company.

If you receive one of these checks or money orders, do not cash it. Take it to your bank or the police and explain your concerns. Sometimes even banks will be fooled for a short time, but if you cash it, you’re liable for it. You don’t need that trouble in your life. It’s much better to give it to the professionals who can use it for evidence against those who tried to fool you.

Typing/Data Entry Scamsdata entry scams

Doing data entry from home sounds so easy, and sometimes you’ll see an ad promising great pay for it. The problem is that it’s too easy. Most times I see real data entry jobs, they’re in an office, not at home. After all, if it were already in the computer, they wouldn’t need you to type it in, would they?

If you want to type from home, learn how to do transcription – there are more jobs in that area, although you will be competing with voice recognition software. The software isn’t good enough yet to entirely beat humans out, so there are still jobs out there.

Most often, these opportunities are some sort of ad posting. You don’t have a job; rather, you’re trying to earn affiliate commissions by placing ads on websites. You’ll have to pay to find that part out, of course.

Job Boards With a Fee

Many online job boards, such as the one I run here, are free for job seekers to use. Others charge a fee. There can be very good reasons to pay a fee, but make sure you know what you’re getting into. Some of them don’t give you anything worthwhile. Do your research before paying for any job board. You want to know what their refund policy is in case you aren’t satisfied even if it looked good from the outside.

Reshipping

The reshipping scam has been around for a while. Basically, they tell you that you will receive packages from sellers that need to be repackaged correctly to be shipped elsewhere.

What’s really happening is that they’re paying with stolen credit cards and such. When the fraudulent payments are discovered, it’s your address investigators will come to. That’s not something you want to get mixed up in, as it can mean jail time.

Envelope Stuffing

Here’s a scam that predates the internet. Someone advertises that you can make money stuffing envelopes, just send them a few bucks and they’ll tell you how.

Want to know how? You do the same to the next suckers down the line. No product, just tell people how to advertise this exact same opportunity. It’s not legal.

Email Processing

Email processing is essentially the same as envelope stuffing, just done online. You place ads telling people they can make money online, just buy your system. You send them the instructions on how to do the same thing you’re doing. Just as with envelope stuffing, this is not legal.

At Home Assembly

When you love to do crafts, assembling items at home can sound appealing. 99 times out of 100, it’s a scam. You’d probably be better off taking a chance on starting a business selling things you made yourself than trying to assemble things at home for someone else.

Usually you’re expected to pay for supplies, then get paid when your work is up to their standards. It won’t happen.

Pyramid Schemes

Pyramid schemes have been around for a long time. They come in many forms, and not all of them involve money directly. Most recently, I saw one that was about sending books to each other – each person would send books to those above, and recruit others to send books to them, who would recruit others, on down the line. It doesn’t matter what is being sent through the pyramid; the point is that pyramid schemes are illegal.

Sometimes these are hard to spot, and you will always see participants claiming that their version is legal. If it’s a pyramid scheme, it isn’t legal.

Job Offer Out of the Blue

Some companies will contact people completely out of the blue with an apparent job offer. This one often goes with a check cashing or money order scam, but may be something else as well.

Seriously, unless you have some serious skills for one job or another, companies aren’t likely to seek you out. That’s especially true for jobs such as mystery shopping, where they can find candidates with relative ease because the basic requirements are low. If you aren’t doing the kind of work where companies use headhunters to find new employees, it’s extremely unlikely that a potential employer has picked you out of nowhere. Be wary.

That doesn’t mean you’re immune if you have better skills. It’s easy for scammers to imitate any kind of a job offer. Know who you’re really dealing with when you get a job offer so you have a good chance of getting paid.

Medical Coding and BillingMedical Billing Scams

Medical coding and billing is one of those tricky ones. There are legitimate ways to learn medical coding and billing from home – Career Step (aff) is one of them. It’s not cheap to learn from legitimate sources, which can make scams look appealing.

Medical billing scams will claim to offer you training and resources to help you, and may give you a list of doctors who might need your services. The problem here is that most doctors and hospitals have their billing and coding done through a service. If you’re highly experienced, you might be able to find clients on your own. But training on your own with poor quality resources? No.

Even if you go through a good quality training program, most times you won’t be able to do medical billing and coding at home until you have a least 2-5 years experience in an office. It’s not that easy a job, and you’re usually best off learning it with more experienced people around you so you can ask questions.

Many billing and coding jobs also expect you to have accreditation from AHIMA or AAPC. Anyone who tries to tell you that you can do their course and find clients just like that once you’re done probably isn’t legitimate. AHIMA has a list of coding programs they approve of, and I would suggest you look there. As of this writing, Career Step is on there. I expect them to remain there.

Turnkey Websites

If a business opportunity comes to your attention claiming to offer you a turnkey website, be very aware of the chances of a scam. It’s very difficult to make money off a turnkey website – they’re competing against other identical sites, and so don’t tend to get natural traffic. Income potential is often greatly exaggerated.

There are times when a company website makes sense. It’s not uncommon for network marketing opportunities to include a website, but you’re sending people to it through your own marketing efforts, which are often more local. If they’ve been at all honest with you, you should know what you can and cannot expect from your company website.

They Don’t Care About Your Qualifications

Any job that doesn’t care about your qualifications is likely to be a scam. Even jobs that don’t need experience want to know if you have had other jobs, if you’ve volunteered, what your education is and so forth. They want to know what kind of an employee you might be.

You should also expect an interview where they’re very interested in your answers to some challenging questions. Anyone who has worked an entry level job can tell you that they want to talk to you for a while first. The job offer does not come just based on your resume. Employers want to know something about the person they might hire by interacting with them. It may be only a phone call for a home based job, but there should be some kind of serious interview.

Ask Around

When in doubt about any work at home opportunity, ask around about it. Don’t rely on the people you heard about it from, find other people to talk to. This can be as simple as asking a family member what they think or talking to a friend.

You can also discuss the opportunity on a work at home website. Many are good at spotting scams or at least telling you if it looks a little iffy.

Google can be useful, but it won’t always give useful answers. There are people who promote opportunities by targeting the name of the opportunity plus the word “review” or “scam.” It’s not always easy to sort out legitimate reviews from reviews done by people who have a financial stake in it and no problem with lying. I do not mean that all affiliate reviews or sponsored reviews are bad. It’s just that some people aren’t all that concerned with keeping a reputation for honesty and will be positive about anything.

Even though work at home scams are plentiful, there are real jobs and home business opportunities out there for you to consider. Use caution and don’t share your most important personal information until you are certain it’s safe. This includes your social security number and bank account information. Any other information you can protect is good, but those two are the most important.

Know Your Keywords

The right keywords are vital to any job search. “Work at home” is not an ideal keyword. While many legitimate jobs use it, it’s commonly used by scams as well.

I find “remote” to be an often useful keyword, although it can mean something other than a job you can do at home. Some companies use it to mean you won’t be in their main office, but you may be in a smaller one. I’ve also seen it used for jobs where you would be sent to work in another country. Remote indeed!

“Telecommute” and “telework” are also useful. Sometimes these mean that you will work in the office part of the time, but many are fully at home. Freelance can be good if you don’t mind taking on projects rather than getting a regular job with an employer. With any job search keyword, beware of scams, as they can hide anywhere.

Narrow your results down by including the kind of job title you’re looking for or a skill you have. The more specific you are, the better your search results will be. I have far too many people email me asking how to get a work at home job who have no idea what kind of job they want. It’s hard to give advice to someone who hasn’t thought their search through even that much. It also won’t impress a potential employer if you apply to jobs you aren’t remotely qualified for.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

February 2nd, 2015

Beware the IRS Impersonators Phone Scam

Beware the IRS Impersonators Phone Scam

Have you ever received a phone call from the IRS? There’s a big scam that has been going around with people claiming to be from the IRS and demanding immediate payment of taxes owed. Sometimes they even have the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number, making them sound more official. But they aren’t. Even if you happen to owe back taxes, this isn’t how the IRS goes about collecting them.

The scammers make it all sound scary. My brother-in-law got this call some time back, and it worried him, because he hadn’t heard of the scam before. Fortunately, he didn’t fall for it, but it did make him nervous. Most people aren’t comfortable with being told that the police are on their way to your door if you don’t pay up, and that’s one of the threats these people use to make victims pay up. They may even call back to really push you.

If you get a call claiming to be from the IRS, and they’re demanding immediate payment by credit, debit or money transfer, it’s a scam. If you’re in doubt, the press release from the IRS on this issue says you can call 800-829-1040 if you think you really do owe back taxes and have a question on payments, or visit http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml if you don’t, but still want to report the scam.

As with many other scams, avoiding this one comes down to knowing who’s really contacting you. You can always visit the IRS website or contact them yourselves when you’re in doubt, just as you would contact your bank if you received an email saying there was a problem with your account, but you weren’t certain it was from them. You should always try to look things up when it’s not clear if something is legitimate. Don’t share any personal or financial information when you aren’t certain that something is legitimate.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.