How to spot a work from home scam

Updated Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ever had a leaflet drop through your door telling you how to “Earn extra cash in your spare time”, or seen a sign at the side of the road exclaiming how you can “Make £££s working from home?”

If so, there’s a very good chance you’ve been targeted by fraudsters.

And if you made your way here via a social media message with the promise of how to earn £££s in your spare time, then sorry to disappoint you be we don’t have any ways to make a fast buck from home.

But we are going to tell you how to spot a work from home scam, and so could save you £££s in wasted time and money.

What is a work from home scam?

A work from home scam is a money-making scheme run by fraudsters who con people out of time and money by offering them bogus business opportunities they can carry out in their spare time.

And there are two basic types of work from home scams:

  1. Work from home stuffing envelopes, assembling craft items or carrying out any number of other menial tasks as an employee of an unknown company who will never, ever pay you for your time.
  2. The scam that ‘helps’ you start your own home-based business, usually as a mystery shopper or network marketer where you once again do all the leg-work but never see any of the money.

And although some will offer legitimate opportunities, you should always approach any such venture with extreme caution, and there are a few red flags you need to watch out for…

Answering an ad over the phone

So you’ve seen the ad that offers you a way to earn extra cash in your spare time, all you have to do now is to call the number listed on the ad and you’ll soon be doing backstroke in you swimming pool full of cash, a bit like this fella…

Hang on though – have you not stopped to consider why there’s just a phone number on the ad and no details of a website to visit and learn more about this amazing opportunity?

One reason could be because the people behind this scheme want you to call a mobile or premium rate number which they will then make money off by keeping you on the line.

Another could be because the scheme is so outrageous if you read in plain black and white you’d never believe it, but once their silver-tongued telephonist gets in your ear it’ll sound too good and opportunity to pass up.

Either way, you’ll soon end up out of pocket – so ignore the advert at all costs.

Who do the scammers target?

Although anyone can become the victim of fraud, the basic principle behind any scam is to exploit a basic need in people – and that’s why the most vulnerable in society are often targeted.

So if you’re really struggling to make ends meet then the opportunity to work from home for extra cash is one that’ll be too tempting to turn down.

Or if you’re a silver surfer (that’s the slightly patronising term used for elderly computer users), you could find you’re targeted by cold callers who have somehow managed to find an imaginary problem with your PC that can easily be fixed by you accessing their website.

Once you’re on that website, your computer will be crawled and sensitive data, including bank details will be stolen. Obviously, there was nothing wrong with your computer in the first place but it definitely now has a nasty virus.

So the fraudsters tap into people’s needs and fears and take money from those that can least afford it, to the tune of an eye-popping £70 million a year according to estiamtes from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

And while there will be some genuine businesses out there, looking to recruit extra hands without having to pay the extra overheads brought on by extra office or warehouse space, there are a lot out there who just want to rob you blind.

And then take your eyes, most likely.

So here are some things to look out for to help spot a work from home scam…

Too good to be true?

Watch out for ads that urge you to apply immediately and those that ask for a registration fee up front – a genuine job is unlikely to ask you to pay a fee before you get started. Likewise, be wary of any jobs that ask for sensitive information like credit card numbers and PINs.

There are some jobs that lend themselves to scams purely because they’re quite appealing or convenient. So keep an eye out for secret shopper positions and work from home jobs with generic titles like: “admin assistant” or “customer services representative”.

“No training needed” is also a good one to look out for as it has mass appeal – the more arrows the fraudsters fire in the air, the more likely they are to get a hit.

If you see the vacancy online, or the flyer has a web address on it, do your homework and try to find the employer on your own to make sure they’re legit.

In short, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you feel you’ve been scammed, contact Action Fraud at or on the local rate number (which will be free as part of any free minutes plan) 0300 123 2040

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