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How to spot a work-from-home scam

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Working from home, being able to set your own schedule and work the hours you please, as long as you meet deadlines and performance targets, is seen by many as the holy grail of adult employed life. No wonder then that it is so easy for scammers to take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of South Africans hoping to give ever-increasing travel costs and road congestion the proverbial boot.

In 2007, in response to multiple complaints from individuals who had been scammed by false work–from-home opportunities being advertised, the Department of Trade and Industry regulated the types of work that could be done from home. This was done in an effort to minimise the cases where scammers advertise possible job opportunities and then end up giving the applicant information and “training” to start their own business. So, essentially, a job opportunity is advertised but is never delivered.

Regardless of the fact that these advertisements are illegal they can still be found, and for those not familiar with the warning signs, it is all too easy to become a victim of a work-from-home scam.

What are the signs that the “job offer” is a scam?

#1 The offer is too good to be truehappy typist

You are unlikely to find an employer who will pay R25,000 for admin or typing work.

#2 Being asked to pay an upfront fee

This should probably be viewed as red flashing warning lights. Do not pay a fee over to a promoter or advertiser of promised work-from-home opportunities that seem unrealistically lucrative. Often this fee is requested in advance for training material or equipment you will need to do your job. Unsuspecting individuals pay the money only to receive nothing or, best case scenario useless “training” brochures.

#3 If the “job” entails you recruiting others

Often times these scams revolve around recruitment of individuals who are then asked to pay a fee for the recruiters to earn an income, reminiscent of financial pyramid schemes in a way. Not only is this a risk to you financially, but should you start to recruit others you are in danger of dabbling in illegal practices.

#4 Job offers or confirmations from sources you did not apply atconfused-man

If you did not apply for a job, you cannot receive employment confirmation, as simple as that.

#5 Personal e-mail correspondences

Although this is not always the case, an e-mail from a personal free address such as Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail might indicate a scam. Companies are more likely to use an e-mail address containing the name of the business for recruitment purposes.

Top tip: Google the company or person offering you an opportunity. Any scam complaints should show up in your search results.

Legit work-from-home jobsworking from home resize

In most cases work-from-home jobs are opportunities that individuals create themselves. This generally requires a special and unique skill such as being able to speak a foreign language to offer translation services, content creation, or the skills to teach art or music.

However, crowd sourcing and freelancing opportunities are becoming increasingly popular. Individuals or companies that require short-term fast jobs to be done place the work on sites such as Freelancer, Freelance Central, eLance, Guru and Work At Home SOS. Freelancers with appropriate skills then bid on the job and then the assignment is completed by the user whose bid is accepted.

While, on crowdsourcing sites such as Clickworker or Vivatic users can sign up to complete small jobs such as verifying addresses or search results.

We’ll say it again, if you are unsure, Google is your friend.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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