With fake job ads flooding online job boards nowadays, you’ll definitely come across a shady job posting or two.

Because the possibility of making money while staying at home sounds very enticing to job seekers, work-from-home jobs have become the favorite among scammers.

It’s getting harder to distinguish legitimate from fraudulent work-at-home opportunities as scam artists are getting craftier with their schemes — some posing as a recruiter or employer preying on unsuspecting, desperate job seekers.

In spite of that, there are legitimate remote jobs that allow you to work from virtually anywhere, and your first key to success is knowing how to read between the lines and determine if a job you’re applying to is indeed real.

While the allure of over-the-top benefits and unusually high salaries might catch your eye at first, don’t just haphazardly dive in without doing your research.

Here are 5 basic red flags to look out for when seeking employment through online job sites.

When the employer is asking for an upfront payment

This is the biggest red flag of all! Scammers might ask you to pay upfront in order to be considered for a job. For example, they might request you to send money for training, travel charges, or visa and passport costs. Others might ask you to purchase their so-called “required” software or starter kit necessary for work. If they ask you to shell out an amount before getting hired, stay away! Remember, you’re looking for a job to get paid, not the other way around.

When the employer is asking for personal information

If you’re asked to provide confidential information before a formal job offer, don’t! Never give out your personal information such as your banking details, Social Security number, or passport freely as scammers might use it to steal your money, use your identity, or worse, commit a crime. As a rule of thumb, keep your confidential information confidential. The only time you’ll be giving your personal or financial information is after you’ve been officially hired and they need your information to pay you.

Tip: If you ever do need to submit confidential information online, ensure that the website you are visiting is secure: it should be https:// instead of http:// — the additional ‘s’ stands for secure.

Is This a Genuine Remote Job or a Scam_

When the job description is vague

Is the job description unclear or missing important details? Is it littered with grammatical errors and misspellings? If yes, chances are it’s most likely a fake. A job description tells a lot about a company or employer. Legitimate remote job listings are written professionally, have detailed job descriptions, and contain quite specific requirements — usually including necessary skills or experience and educational credentials.

When job applications are going to a generic or free email account

Hiring managers and recruiters will use their company or business email address to send correspondence. Free email accounts like Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail often raise a flag for fake job postings as compared to business email accounts. Look at it like this: it’s most likely legit coming from [email protected] than from [email protected]. However, do keep an eye out as some scammers make email accounts look like they’re from real companies. You can run a quick search in Google to check if the email address has been previously reported as a scam: copy and paste the email address into the search box and add the word “scam” afterwards.

When it just seems too good to to be true

We’ve all seen those “make $$$ a day” ads that require little to no effort — those get-rich-quick schemes are the most obvious ones. Other possible indicators of a fake job include a very high paycheck, no prior experience, and offer without an interview or immediate hire. Let’s face it, earning money, whether you’re in an office or at home, requires hard work and a little bit of luck. You should also be skeptical when receiving a job offer without applying to it. Do keep in mind though that there are real remote-first companies offering generous benefits and high salaries based on a candidate’s skills and experience, of course. Bottom line: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Recognizing job scams will save you precious time, effort and money in your job hunt. Remember to trust your gut — if you feel that there’s something off, move on to the next job ad.

When you do come across a job scam on a job search site, in the first instance report it to the website administrator so it can be removed and further investigated. In very serious cases, the information can also be reported to the relevant Internet scam authority in your country.

Tip: Applying directly to the employer and making use of job sites that screen each job and company are your best defenses against job scams. For example, we prefer sites like Flexjobs and Virtual Vocations for this very reason. They do charge a subscription fee for their service, but you have peace of mind knowing that every job listing is a legitimate opportunity.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

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