How to Avoid Work From Home Scams

I hate change. Lots of people do. But I’ve discovered change, when it’s forced upon us, often brings


Meg Stewart

3 years ago | 6 min read

Photo by Agnieszka Boeske on Unsplash

These tips will help you make the most of the current climate of change and uncertainty.

I hate change. Lots of people do. But I’ve discovered change, when it’s forced upon us, often brings new opportunities. We just have to remember to be open to it.

The good news is if you’ve ever thought about working from home, now might be a great time to give it a try. For some people, it could be the only time you’ll get to give it a try.

The bad news is, in times of crisis like now, some people will go out of their way to create work from home scams. They will capitalize on your fear and your desperation.

I’m a full-time freelance writer in Ohio Everything except essential businesses are closed down including the schools. We are under an order to shelter in place and only go out when necessary. I’m sure you are in a similar situation or are anticipating one for your state.

Working from home means the COVID-19 shut down isn’t immediately catastrophic for me

If this had happened back when I was working a full-time brick and mortar job in the early 2000’s, it would have been devastating for me as a single mom of four. I depended on my employer for my income.

I lived paycheck to paycheck, was receiving food stamps, and many times had to borrow money from family members to make it through the month. There was no child support coming in even though I had a court order for support.

A shutdown of non-essential businesses like what’s happening now, even for two weeks, would have been devastating for me then.

But because I’ve been working full time as a freelance writer, my life during this COVID-19 shutdown has not changed much at all. Other than self-isolating, using tele-med technology for doctor appointments, and my youngest not physically going to school, we’re doing fine so far.

In fact, I started teaching tech help calls in early February and I took on a few private coaching clients. This was in addition to my freelance writing income and writing on Medium. And, in the last few weeks, a new and unexpected opportunity developed which adds even more stability to my income.

I’m one of the lucky ones. With my experience as a working writer, I know I can ramp up my freelance writing income pretty quickly any time I need to do so.

As I’m reading the stories of others, I realized many people are looking for work from home gigs, especially writers. I don’t want to see any of you get scammed. I want to help you have more confidence when looking for and pitching for writing gigs or work from home jobs.

Work from home scams are not new

When I first looked into working from home, in the early 2000’s, it seemed all the work from home jobs advertised were really just scams. I can’t even tell you how many different times I signed up for something and sometimes paid money, only to find it was a scam.

One I remember in particular was for a data entry gig on a third-party platform. It seemed like such a great work from home job. I could work while my kids were asleep, set my own schedule, and there was “no limit” on the work I could do. The first tasks I did were simply entering data from scanned receipts. But after about a week, most of the tasks available were surveys that took sometimes 30 minutes to complete, and many times after answering all those questions, I’d be told I didn’t qualify.

It took me a long time to learn how to spot and avoid scams. So, I’m going to give you some tips to avoid work from home scams.

Tips to avoid work from home scams

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay away from ads promising you can work from the beach, in your swimsuit, and make $100,000 a year in no time.

The reality of working from home is it takes hard work and it takes time to build your business. Sure there are ways to make some money early on. The amount of time it takes will vary based on your skill set, a bit of luck, and the time you put into it. But there’s literally no one who can promise you will make six figures overnight. I’m sure a few people have had overnight success but in most cases, success comes only after a period of hard work and sacrifice.

2. Think twice or even three times before you pay anyone for job listings or for the privilege of applying for a writing or freelance job.

The truth is many people make a business out of convincing other people to pay them for job listings or to apply for a job. Once they get your money, there is no incentive for them to help you actually land a writing gig or job. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, there are plenty of ways that you can find writing gigs or writing jobs without having to pay anything at all. Save the money you have so you can invest it in your business when it really matters.

3. Protect your personal information. Once scammers have personal information about you, they can use it for all kinds of things. Some scammers even use work from home ads to collect information and sell it to other people who use it to scam you or to try and sell you something. You can set up a Google voice phone number for your business contacts if you’d rather not use your personal cell number. Create an email you use only for applying to work from home type gigs. Once you’ve determined an opportunity is legitimate, you can always update to your main email.

4. When in doubt, verify the company or offer by checking the reviews, including through the Better Business Bureau. If you are thinking about signing up for something, google it first. Use the name of the offer, company, or freelancing platform, and the word review or scam. See what other people are saying about their experience with that offer or company. Look at multiple reviews on Amazon or by using a Google search and look for comments that are similar or mention the same complaint. If only one person complains about not getting paid, it’s probably not an issue. If multiple people complain about slow payments or not getting paid, then steer clear of the company or platform.

5. Trust your instinct. One of the best things you can do when looking at potential clients or job platforms is to trust your instinct. If something feels shady or feels off, it probably is. This should be your clue to do some thorough investigating before going further. And don’t be afraid to tell a client you’ve changed your mind about working with them, even if you’ve already given the initial go-ahead.

6. You are NOT an employee, you are a business owner. Don’t act like an employee who is desperate to get “hired”. Desperation is like fresh blood to a shark, scammers can smell it. Decide the rate of pay you are willing to accept and stick to it as much as possible. Make sure you consider that you will need to cover your business expenses, health insurance, self-employment taxes, etc. with the money you earn.

7. Always ask questions until you are clear about the scope of the project including any details about payment amount, milestones, and how work will be delivered.

8. Avoid content mills and keep your guard up when using third party freelance sites (i.e. Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer). If you do feel it necessary to turn to these, make sure you clarify in writing the details of the project, payment, and deliverables. I did work through Upwork for many years, you can earn money there, but don’t rely on it as your sole source of income. Make sure you know what fees and other work requirements you agree to when you use any third-party platforms.

I hope the tips above help. If you have additional questions, email me. For more on related topics, join my email list.


Created by

Meg Stewart

Meg Stewart is a freelance writer, coach, and Founder of Freelance Ladder, which helps writers and other business creatives learn the technology they need to do business online. Her sweet spot is where coaching, technology, and writing intersect. She is also the Manager of Member Services and a writing instructor for Ninja Writers, LLC .







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