How To Spot Work From Home Job Scams And Avoid Them At All Costs

You probably see work from home job scams all the time. Scroll to the comment section of any popular article and you’ll see “Work from home and make $1,000,000 in the first 5 minutes!” Or, “Do nothing all day and make $5,000!” You can find work from home job scams all over the place – in…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 4, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

You probably see work from home job scams all the time. Scroll to the comment section of any popular article and you’ll see “Work from home and make $1,000,000 in the first 5 minutes!” Or, “Do nothing all day and make $5,000!”

Do you know the differences between work from home job scams and legitimate work from home jobs? Here are my tips to find real online jobs from home!You can find work from home job scams all over the place – in your email inbox, phone calls to your home, online articles and more.

Sadly, many of these work from home jobs are actually scams.

Now, this doesn’t mean that every online job is a scam.

There are many, many legitimate work from home jobs. Many of them are great and allow you to work from home, earn a good living, be your own boss, and more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24% of employed people did some or all of their work at home in 2015. This number is growing, and it doesn’t even include self-employed people! In fact, according to Forbes, one in five Americans work from home, and this is a statistic from 2013. I’m sure this number has grown significantly in the past 4 years.

However, you should always be careful because there are probably 10 work from home job scams for every legitimate one.

Related posts about legitimate work from home jobs:

Scammers know that many people would love to work from home, so they prey on this very alluring fact.

Here are my tips on avoiding work from home job scams:


Is the company promising you the world?

If a company is making outlandish promises without mentioning any real logistics of the job, then there is a possibility that it’s a scam.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it might be.

For example, in the comments I mentioned above: “Work from home and make $1,000,000 in the first 5 minutes!” Or, “Do nothing all day and make $5,000!”

Those both are 99.99999999% likely to be scams.

If there is absolutely no work or very little work required from you, then these are probably work from home job scams.

Possible work from home job scams and jobs that promise too much include:

  • Stuffing envelopes – I’ve seen “companies” say that they pay $10 per envelope stuffed. Just think to yourself: Why would a company EVER pay that much money for a person to stuff an envelope?
  • Traveling the world for life for free – I’ve seen “companies” offer to foot the bill for a round the world trip that lasts for years, and in exchange, you have to do… NOTHING. This definitely sounds too good to be true. Why would a company want to do that?
  • Building craft toys – This is a scam in which “companies” offer to pay you large sums of money for building toys at home. Just think to yourself: Why wouldn’t this company have their own factory?

Related: 17 Legitimate and Best Online Jobs 


Most work from home job scams ask for a fee.

Many work from home job scams require you to pay an upfront fee to join their program, for your training, and so on. However, this is how these scams makes their money – by asking you to pay an upfront fee! And, most of the things you buy end up being a waste of money.

Now, this doesn’t mean that every single company that asks you to pay money upfront is a scam. Most legitimate businesses will require that you pay something, because no business runs for free.

However, you should be smart about what you are paying for.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed


Are they asking you to go to PayPal to pay for something?

To go along with the above, a company may ask you to pay for something via PayPal in order to start with their company. To make it “easier” for you, they may even include a PayPal link in the email they sent you.

The PayPal scam is something I receive almost every day. Since I regularly deal with PayPal for my business, these are the types of scams I truly hate. They are also looking more and more authentic, so I’m sure there are plenty of people falling for PayPal email scams.

This scam asks you to click on a link that will supposedly take you to PayPal’s website.

Except, the link isn’t actually to PayPal’s website. It’s usually to a website that looks VERY much like PayPal’s. However, it’s actually a scammer who is trying to get your username and password so that they can drain your PayPal account.

Here’s how you can protect yourself against this PayPal scam:

  • Never click on a link that you are questioning. Instead, head on over to PayPal yourself and log in.
  • Check the sender’s email. In some cases, scammers may cloak their email address to look like it’s coming straight from PayPal, so this may not be enough. However, the email address is often something that is obviously fake, and that will be your first clue.

Related: Phone Scams: The Best Tips To Avoid Becoming A Victim


How easy is the interview process?

When I was in college, I tried finding a nanny job on the side of my full-time job so that I could earn extra money.

I found someone online, and we had several chats over email. They offered to pay me well, but then I received an email asking for a ton of unnecessary information. They asked for my social security number, my bank account information, and more.

I thought that was very odd. We had never met, the interview process was too easy, and they definitely did not need that information. They even offered to pay me more money as long as I gave them my personal information. I finally called them out on their email scam, and I never heard back from them.

These work from home job scams happen when you apply for a job and then the hiring manager tells you that you have the job with little effort required from you. There are no interviews (or the interviews are very easy), the job supposedly pays well, has great benefits, and so on.

That’s when they get you. After luring you in, they ask for a ton of personal information that is supposedly used to fill out your employee paperwork, set up direct deposit, and so on. While many jobs do need certain information, if you easily get a job that seems too good to be true, then you should be very wary of any information that you give to them. At least talk to the person and do your research on whether or not the position is real.


Do you remember signing up?

Some work from home job scams are just there to take your information. If you don’t remember signing up for the company, definitely ignore their emails and don’t click on anything!

These work from home job scams are hoping that you will just hand over your information without thinking. They know that some people have been looking for jobs for a long time and that some people will do anything to have a job – and that’s when they take advantage of you.

If the company contacts you and you didn’t contact them, then you should be wary of what they are offering you.


Crazy large checks come from work from home job scams.

Recently, I was on Facebook and a person in a financial group asked if something they were doing was a scam. They had received a $3,000 check from a “mystery shopping” company. The company asked this person to cash the check and then forward the next mystery shopper $1,500, meaning she would be able to keep the other $1,500.

This is a complete scam. No mystery shopping company is going to pay you $1,500 to cash a check for them.

Mystery shopping can be a fun way to make extra money, but it’s definitely not a way to get rich quick. The average mystery shopping company only pays around $3 to $100. And, the higher the amount you make, the more work you’ll have to do.


How to find legitimate work from home jobs.

To sort through the scams and find legitimate ones, you should always make sure to research the company.

If you are afraid of falling for work from home job scams, you should do things such as:

  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if the company is real.
  • Research the company online to see if there are any mentions of it being a scam. I like to type in “Company name + Scam” into a search engine and see what pops up.
  • Always be careful if the company asks you to pay money.
  • Before you give out any personal information, such as your social security number, you should make sure it’s a legitimate job.
  • Search the Federal Trade Commission and see if they have any press releases or articles about work from home job scams that they may have found.
  • Never click on any links or download anything in a suspicious email.

And, most of all, trust your gut! If you feel too weary of something, then it’s probably best to move on and find another opportunity.


Here are some legitimate work from home jobs.

After reading all of the above, you are now ready to find a REAL work from home job.

There are many legitimate work from home jobs, such as:

  • Creating a blog – I run Making Sense of Cents and I can honestly say that blogging is great. It allows me to earn $100,000 a month, travel full-time, and be very happy. While it is tough at times and there is a lot to learn, those who stick with it may be able to build a great business. Please check out my free blogging course here.
  • Selling on Amazon – Selling on Amazon can be an interesting way to earn money from home. Learn more at How To Work From Home Selling On Amazon FBA.
  • Becoming a virtual assistant – Virtual assistant tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing blog posts, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business but doesn’t need to be done by them. Learn more at Make Money Online as a Virtual Assistant.
  • Making money as a grammar nut by proofreading – In 2014, Caitlin made slightly over $43,000 as a freelance proofreader, while also going on several fun vacations. Learn more at Make Money Proofreading By Becoming A Freelance Proofreader.
  • Bookkeeping even if you have no experience – Yes, you can start your own bookkeeping business, and you don’t have to be an accountant or have any previous experience! Learn more at Make Money At Home By Becoming A Bookkeeper.
  • Using your voice as a voice over actor – A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons. Learn more at How To Become A Voice Over Actor And Work From Anywhere.
  • Creating an ebook – Abby made over $110,000 from sales of digital products (such as eBooks) in 2015, and she crushed that in 2016 with over $400,000 in sales. She started 4 years ago knowing nothing about blogging and now makes six figures a year, due in large part to her eBooks. She is now teaching others the process she uses to write and launch profitable eBooks, and you guys, it is genius! Learn more at How To Create A Profitable Ebook With Abby Lawson.
  • Starting a successful freelance writing career – A freelance writer is someone who writes for a number of different clients such as websites, blogs, magazines, and more. They don’t work for one specific company, rather they work for themselves and contract out their writing. Learn more at How I Earn $200,000+ Writing Online Content.
  • Completing surveys – Survey companies I recommend include Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, VIP Voice, Pinecone Research, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can to receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • 20 Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs – Looking for an entry level work from home job? This is a great place to start!

As you can see, there are many great online jobs from home that anyone can start doing. Remember, though, they all require work, and none of them are get rich quick schemes.

Have you ever come across any work from home job scams? What legitimate work from home jobs do you do?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Mustard Seed Money

    I haven’t had any experience with work from home jobs but I know there are a ton available. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit for you and not falling into a get rich fraudulent scheme. Like you said, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

  2. When I was between jobs and having no luck, I looked into a lot of different work from home options. And like you said, most of them are “too good to be true”!
    I think that the legitimate jobs you listed above are the better way to go. You are more in control of your work that way, and aren’t constantly wondering if it’s all just a big scam after all.

  3. Ramona


    I am being approached by a potential client on my medical marketing website. He wants a farm related project built up. It’s OK, I’ve done hundreds of websites from clients ranging from doctors, to businessmen, car dealers, churches etc.

    I give an estimate.

    He writes back telling me he can send me my 50% and some money for the content creator and logo designer. I previously told him I can do all the work (logo, site design, optimization, content), but, hey, if he’s got the logo/content already done by a third party, it’s fine, I’ll just re-do the offer.

    He tells me he cannot pay the other person but can send money to me. So I should be paying the third party and keep my ‘part’.


    Quick questions come to my mind:

    1. why hasn’t he solved the payment issues BEFORE ordering the job (or why didn’t the freelancer he worked with ask for at least an upfront payment?

    2. how can he pay me and not the other?

    3. where does the other live and not get paid, there are countless ways to send money, even put it in an envelope and send it by mail.

    4. why should I care about his money issues?

    Of course I refused to do this and actually read about some scams like this. When I told him I will handle ONLY my money, he stopped replying

  4. Mike Collins

    Unfortunately there are a lot of shady “opportunities” out there. One that I used to see advertised was for Data Entry positions. you had to pay for the Starter’s Kit or whatever they called it and all it did was tell you how to set up an account with Google Adwords and start placing ads.

    If you did it right and promoted the right products with a reasonable budget you could theoretically make money. But I’d bet that most people who tried it out ended up losing everything they invested in the ads.

    1. Karen

      Rat Race Rebellion is a excellent site to get a at home job !

  5. So you mean all those people on Facebook really *didn’t* make $8,918 last month? Shocker!


    Great post. I always hope that everyone can see through these ridiculous offers, but I guess the fact that they keep popping up shows that some are getting through. Thanks for sharing this. I hope it helps people!

    1. Yeah, sadly a lot of people fall for these scams. So upsetting!

  6. Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    This is a great list! Like you said, if they’re promisingly the world and it seems too good to be true – it probably is. It saddens me that honest people are taken advantage of every day by scams just like you mentionsed. Thanks for creating such a succinct post to shed some light on this topic.


  7. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    This is going to sound weird, but I filter through job listings and immediately reject anything that uses a lot of caps. I’ve never seen a reputable company use CAPS TO TELL ME ABOUT A JOB. Maybe I’m judging a book by its cover, but I’ve never been steered wrong.

  8. When I was looking for work on Upwork or something similar, I was contacted about a job claiming to be a real company. But it’s a HUGE international company so there would be no way to verify it was actually them.

    They sent me a check for a few thousand dollars that I was supposed to cash to purchase the software I needed. I was suspicious and tried to see if it was legit. Turns out, it was probably part of a money laundering scheme. I got the check and it came from a personal address of someone in another state… not a business check. It’s crazy how many scams are out there!

  9. Those are very helpful tips. There are so many job scams, which makes people suspicious about everything, even the real money-making opportunities. Your list is great for people who are looking for legitimate ways to earn money from home.

  10. Jaimie Mccallum

    I work from home signing people up for Roadside Assistance. The company just got an A+ rating from the BBB, however, it does require work but the payout is huge once you get going. You really do have to keep working too. The money doesn’t just jump into your account without putting in the hours. I did have to pay $40 up front to get my Roadside Assistance Package, but I got something for the money. That’s where scams get you. I actually fell for one that the guy sent me money orders and said “don’t take them to your bank” of course I did and they were stolen.

  11. It’s scary how many scams are out there. Definitely, have to be careful when looking for side hustles or work from home opportunities.

    When I was 15 I was selling my dirt bike on craigslist. I got an email stating that they were very interest in buying my bike. They also talked about paying more than I was asking for. I was really excited as I was only 15. It was a total scam and luckily my parents were right by my side to report the situation to the authorities. Learned my lesson from a young age.

    1. Craiglist is so full of scammers! I sell on there frequently and almost always get Western Union scams along with ones like you described. You can generally filter out the BS by looking at grammar in the emails. I usually answer emails from craigslist with my phone number, which ends up with spam as well.

      Most of the time the scammers are so blatantly obvious I just laugh at it. Its sad to know, though, that the scams work out enough times for the scammers to make a lot of money, or they would not be running the scam.

      Just finished reading a good book about a con artist that said, “A con only works if the mark wants to believe it.”

  12. ReachingTheCrest

    If you want to make ‘real’ money, you need to do a lot of work. These too good to be true ‘opportunities’ just don’t work.

  13. Tyler DeBroux

    Great tips Michelle!

    I litterally see countless “Work from home” ads and emails every week, that make it seem easy and make false promises such as making thousands of dollars instantly.

    It is possible to work and make money from home, but like anything else it takes time and a decent amount of effort.

    Excellent post and nice job raising awareness on this issue!

  14. Your example on PayPal is spot on! I have received multiple emails that show they are from and are asking for what sounds like legitimate info. However, when I have not purchased anything using their service for awhile, it makes me suspicious.

    The best way to look for scams is in the email header information. Tons of people use Gmail, so on there, click the arrow next to the “reply” button and check the information before the actual text of the email. You can find if it came from the actual servers or from some false server here.

    That is how I analyzed the fake PayPal email that I got. Gotta love the Western Union scams as well 😛

    Thanks for another great post!

  15. Alex

    This is fantastic article!
    These “Work from home” job scams are so common these days and get advertised so much.
    Thanks for sharing these great tips.

  16. These are great tips Michelle. A little thoughtfulness can go a low way in protecting someone from scams – of all types!

  17. I see a lot of work from scams being promoted on Craigslist. It’s a shame that there are criminals that try to prey on people. I also see some work from home signs posted on the college campus that I work at. I hope the students are smart enough to not fall for the scams.

  18. Abigail

    Good Eye Opener for all who are trying to work Online & Make a living. I myself had been duped couple of times.

    Now I am an active Freelancer in Upwork & only taking clients which are legitimate with good history. Earning a decent monthly income from there.

  19. I think one of the biggest things to look out for is paying just to get information. There are a lot of scams out there that won’t release all of the info until you pay and then after you do you’re given instructions to do the same to other people – there’s no actual product or service involved.

    A little common sense and research should help most people avoid scams.

  20. Wondering, i got a job offer from a travel website to work from home as an Administrative Assistant. The hiring manager told me that I will be receiving a check on the mail to buy software for a new computer sent from the hiring company. I have done my research on this wondering if this is fraudlent, but haven’t found any information. What else can I do? Thank you

  21. Lo

    Few days ago, I got offered a work from home job by a company called Addex Pharmaceuticals Limited. The hiring manager interviewed me through the Google Hangouts app. After she hired me, she made me deposit a check with $1150.14 on the company’s behalf in order to buy working supplies. The following day, she kept asking me to transfer $1000 to a vendor and I ended up depositing the check into my bank account so I can transfer $1000 like they wanted me to. The payment did not go through because my bank was still reviewing my check and the funds were not available yet. Then I told them that I changed my mind and I’m not interested in working for the company so I wanted to return the company’s funds to them. They told me that I would have to transfer $250 one at a time to the vendor in order to pay back the company’s funds. When I did transfer the $250, my own money got transferred instead of the company’s funds. They kept asking me to transfer $250 immediately even though I told them that funds from the deposit check was on hold in my bank account. I just did not want to end up transferring my own money to them. I did make an online fraud report against the company who offered me the work from home job.I’m also trying to find a way to get the deposit check out of my bank account. I do regret not canceling the check in the first place.

    1. Amanda

      Thank you for your comment!!! I googled that company because I received the same job offer hah!