BBB Tips on Job Scams and Work-at-Home Schemes

Tip: Job Scams and Work-at-Home Schemes

hands with laptopWhen you’re unemployed and out of work, any lead on a job can give you hope.  And this can make you vulnerable to scams.  There are many different ways to look for a job and all sorts of resources to sift through.  Here’s a look at some of the shady possibilities and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Job Listings for Government and Postal Jobs

The U.S. and Canadian federal governments and the U.S. Postal Service/Canada Postal Service never charge for information about jobs or applications for jobs.  You can start your free search for government jobs at USAJOBS.gov or the Government of Canada Job Bank at http://www.jobbank.gc.ca/and for postal jobs at usps.com/employment in the U.S. or https://www.canadapost.ca/web/en/pages/aboutus/careers.page in Canada.  Be wary of any offer to give you special access or guarantee you a job for a fee – if you’re paying for the promise of a job, it’s probably a scam.

Here are some other red flags that you may be facing a scam:

  • You need to supply banking or credit information
    Never give out your bank account or credit card information unless you are familiar with the company asking and you have agreed to pay for something.  This information is not needed to get a job.
  • The ad is for a secret or undisclosed federal government or postal job
    All of these positions are announced to the public; nobody can give you legitimate access to government or postal jobs that nobody else knows about.
  • Company names that sound like federal agencies
    Some companies will try to trick you by using names that sound like federal agencies like “U.S. Agency for Career Placement” or “Postal Employment Service.”  Make sure you research the companies to make sure they are real. 
  • You can buy study materials to ensure high scores on exams needed for jobs and guarantee you positions
    Some con artists will lure you in by placing ads for jobs in your area and when you inquire, sell you study materials for exams.  Even if there is an exam needed for a government or postal job, their coaching won’t guarantee you a high score and a high score won’t guarantee you a job.  
  • Ads referring you to a toll-free number
    When you call the number, an operator will encourage you to buy information on jobs, practice test questions and tips for exams. 

Job Placement Services

There are many legitimate job placement services out there and they can help you find jobs and navigate through the application process.  But there are also many who you need to avoid.

How to protect yourself while considering a job placement service:

  • Check with the hiring company
    If a job placement service says they can get you a job at a particular company, check with that company to see if they actually use the placement service.
  • Get all details in writing
    Ask the company to provide you details in writing: cost, what you get, who pays (you or the hiring company), what happens if you don’t find a job.  If you can’t get clear answers, you should reconsider working with the service.
  • Get a copy of the contract with the placement service
    Any legitimate company will be able to provide a complete contract for their services.

Work-at-Home Schemes

As you’re considering your options and looking for a job, you may be tempted by ads you see for work-at-home businesses.  The thought of working at home, on your own schedule, can be very attractive as a way to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, many of these opportunities are scams.  Victims not only don’t make money, they end up losing money.

Typical work-at-home scams include:

  • Internet Businesses
    Be wary of any promise that you can make lots of money with no experience. You may find yourself buying coaching and training services to help you with your opportunity with no return on your investment.  Not only are the services worthless, but by paying a fee, you are giving the scammer your financial information and they may use that to take more of your money.
  • Envelope Stuffing
    The ad says you’ll make money by stuffing envelopes, but this turns out to be a pyramid scheme where you only make money by getting other people to buy into the same opportunity.
  • Assembly Work
    Putting together products while you watch television at home can seem like the perfect way to make some extra money, but you may find yourself spending hundreds of dollars for equipment or supplies and your work deemed “unacceptable” or “not up to standards.”  This scam leaves you with equipment and supplies but no income.
  • Mystery Shopping
    What could be better than shopping or dining out and making money doing it? While there are some legitimate opportunities out there, many are scams.  If the company tells you that you need to pay for certifications, directories or job guarantees, it’s probably a scam.

The biggest warning signals that you may be dealing with a scam are up-front fees for promises of guaranteed big income.  Here are some questions to ask as you investigate an opportunity:

  • What does the job entail? What will I be doing?
  • Am I paid a salary or on commission?  When will I get my first paycheck?
  • How do you determine the likely earnings?
  • Who pays me?
  • If I have to pay any fees, what am I getting for my money?

If the company is reluctant to answer these questions or the answers are vague, be very careful.  These may be tip-offs that you are dealing with a scam.

Also research any opportunity through third parties.  Search online for the company name along with words like “complaint,” “reviews,” or “scam” to see what other people have had to say.  Check bbb.org or contact your local consumer protection agency , state Attorney General or your Provincial Government department responsible for consumer and corporate affairs.

References/For more information:

In the U.S.

BBB Scam Tracker:  https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us

FTC on Job Scams:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0243-job-scams

FTC on Government Job Scams:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0083-government-job-scams

FTC on Work-at-Home Businesses:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0083-government-job-scams

FBI on Work-at-Home Scams:  https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2009/april/workathome_041709

FTC on Bogus Business Opportunities:  https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/bogus-business-opportunities

If you have concerns, you can start here for help:

Your local Better Business Bureau at bbb.org

The Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint, or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

Your state attorney general at naag.org

In Canada

BBB Scam Tracker:  https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/canada

Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions: http://www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca

Competition Bureau:  http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/fraud

Royal Canadian Mounted Police:  http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes

Government of Canada – Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm

Last Reviewed:  October 13, 2016