Don’t Get Ripped Off: Here’s How to Spot Some Common Work-From-Home Scams
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
Can you spot work-from-home scams? You might be surprised how tough it is to tell them apart from real money-makers.
We hate to see all the Scammy McScammertons out there trying to take advantage of people like you, who just want to stick a little extra money in the bank.
We see new work-from-home opportunities everyday, and we’ve gotten pretty good at telling the good from the bad.
Here are some common ways you’ll find to make money online — and how to tell whether they’re the real deal.
1. Paid Online Surveys
These are simple: A company will pay you to spend just a few minutes taking online surveys.
You’ll sign up and answer a few questions about yourself. Then you’ll receive invitations to take surveys when you fit the qualifications, and you’ll get paid for each survey you take.
This is for real — but you have to know what to look for.
Before signing up for a survey site, look for these red flags:
- It asks for money.
- It advertises on Craigslist.
- It sounds too good to be true (almost always is!).
- The “pre-qualification” portion goes on forever — like, you just took a whole survey for free.
- It requires an unattainable amount of earnings before it’ll cut a check.
You won’t get rich taking surveys, but you can earn a few bucks a day with the right companies.
MyPoints is a legitimate paid survey company. Check it out and let your voice be heard.
Plus, you’ll earn a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.
2. Posting Ads Online
These companies promise you’ll earn up to $100 a day working for less than an hour.
What a deal!
The job is to post pre-written ads to the free resources the company provides — usually to Facebook pages and groups.
This is a scam.
Here’s the kicker: To sign up, you’ll pay a one-time “membership fee” — a major red flag. Also, do you want to contribute to social media spam?!
If you want to earn money for almost no work, here’s a legitimate way.
A number of companies will actually pay you for downloading apps on your smartphone or computer — this is a great way to boost your passive income!
One we love is called MobileXpression. After you’ve installed this app on your smartphone for one week, you get to play an instant rewards game for a prize (everyone wins something). We've seen users win a $25 Amazon gift card, but some of the other prizes include iPads and Samsung TVs.
The app collects data and helps companies better understand web and mobile usage — such as what times of day people browse, how long they stay on websites and use apps, and what types of sites and apps are popular (or not).
3. Reselling Discount Products
A company will get in touch over the phone to help you sign up for a work-from-home business opportunity.
Here’s how it works: They’ll sell you brand-name products at below retail value. Just order your products, and they’ll be delivered to your door. You’ll pay cash on delivery, so no credit card required. Then you resell the products for a profit.
This is a scam.
Typically, you’ll open the box to find unusable junk, and you’ll never get a refund.
And always be wary of a company cold-calling you with a business opportunity! The COD requirement is also a problem, because you have to pay before inspecting the products.
If you want to earn money reselling brand-name products, try selling your own stuff.
Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus tech hardware like cell phones, tablets and game consoles.
Just download the app and start scanning the barcodes on your media to get immediate quotes. It’s completely free to use, there are no listing or seller fees, payment is super fast and Decluttr even pays for shipping.
You can also sell virtually anything on Letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s also free to use.
4. In-Home Product Assembly
Know how to sew? These companies hire you to assemble aprons and other clothing at home. You purchase the materials, the company mails them to your door, you assemble and mail them back.
The only problem? It’s a scam.
Your items have to pass inspection before you’re paid. And guess what? They usually don’t. That upfront payment for materials is also a red flag.
Compare that with this legit work-from-home opportunity with R. Riveter. The company is transparent and doesn’t charge you to start working.
5. Mystery Shopping
Mystery shopping is a fun and simple way to make extra money — but you have to vet the opportunities.
Don’t ever pay a fee to sign up, and don’t wire money as part of an audit. Either of those should tip you off it’s a scam.
For legitimate opportunities, check out our list of the best mystery shopping companies.
6. Pyramid Schemes or Multi-Level Marketing
Want to work for yourself and set your own schedule? This company will pay you a 20% to 50% commission to sell health and beauty products.
You’ll pay $25 for a starter kit, including your training materials. After that, you can promote as you see fit — door to door, online, to friends and family or others.
In addition to sales commissions, you’ll have the opportunity to build and lead a sales team and earn even more.
This is legitimate!
These are the details of selling with Avon, a legitimate direct sales opportunity.
Skepticism isn’t unwarranted, though. Many companies have turned the multi-level marketing structure into pyramid schemes — which are scams.
The key difference is the product: Are you selling something? Or are you mainly (or only) getting paid to recruit other sales reps? The latter is a scam.
If someone is trying to recruit you for a direct sales company, ask these questions to vet the quality of the opportunity:
- How much money did you make last year (income minus expenses)?
- What percentage came from recruiting other distributors?
- How many people have you recruited?
- What are your annual sales of the product?
- How much time did you spend last year on the business?
- How long have you been in the business?
7. Get Paid to Go Shopping
Through this company, you’ll get paid to do your regular shopping
Just sign up and browse deals through the app. Anytime you shop and scan your receipts, you’ll automatically earn cash back.
Verdict? This is actually real!
We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.
Here’s how it works:
Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.
Bam. Cash back.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.
8. Get Paid to Lose Weight
This company lets you bet on your own weight loss. Set a goal weight, a timeline to achieve it and an amount of money you’re willing to bet on it.
You’ll choose an amount to bet each month until your deadline, between six and 18 months. Hit your weight-loss goal by then, and you’ll win your money back — plus a bonus.
Do you believe it? This is legit.
HealthyWage will actually pay you to lose weight.
You might be skeptical of an opportunity requiring you to pay in before you can cash out — and that’s smart!
But we’ve vetted this company and talked with tons of folks who’ve lost weight and earned big money.
Are You a Nos-tra-scam-us?
How’d you do? It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but we hope these tips help you parse the good from the bad in your future money-making quests.
Want to really test your detective skills? Now that you’ve done your homework, take this quiz to see if you can spot the scams.
Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.