Our Scambusters, Louise Baxter-Scott from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, and James Walker from Rightly, show you how to take control, how to spot a scam and what to do about it. This month we’re focussing on Working From Home scams…
For many, working from home is a very attractive prospect. It can help us manage domestic life, as well as introduce some work-life balance, but if you’re looking for WFH opportunities, beware of scammers.
What is a working from home scam?
A working from home scam is a fraudulent scheme that targets individuals who are often looking for remote employment opportunities. Scammers peddling these scams exploit the popularity of remote working and the desire for flexible jobs, particularly among those who want to avoid commuting or achieve a better work-life balance. Here are some common types of working from home scams:
- Payment processing scams: Scammers offer victims a job where they are supposed to receive payments from clients and then transfer the funds to other accounts, keeping a percentage as their commission. However, the payments are often fraudulent or stolen, leaving victims responsible for the losses.
- Envelope stuffing or assembly scams: These scams promise easy work that involves stuffing envelopes or assembling products at home. However, victims are typically asked to pay a high upfront fee for a starter kit or materials, only to discover that there is no actual work or that the assembled products are rejected due to poor quality.
- Reshipping scams: Scammers hire individuals to receive and reship packages to international locations, claiming it’s part of a legitimate business operation. In reality, these packages often contain stolen goods or products purchased with stolen credit cards or bank details. Victims unwittingly become accomplices in illegal activities.
- Pyramid schemes: An old one, these scams often disguise themselves as legitimate working-from-home opportunities but are actually illegal financial schemes. Victims are encouraged to recruit others and invest money, with promises of high returns. The primary focus is on recruitment rather than selling products or services, making them unsustainable and ultimately leaving most participants with financial losses.
- Fake job offers: Scammers pose as genuine employers offering remote job opportunities. They may use fake company names, impersonate real companies, or use deceptive job descriptions to lure their victims into providing personal information, such as National Insurance numbers or bank account details, which can then be used for identity theft or financial fraud.
- Mystery shopping scams: Some scammers pose as legitimate mystery shopping companies. They may send victims a cheque and instruct them to deposit it in their bank account, keep a portion as payment, and send the rest back. However, the cheques are fake, and victims end up losing money when their banks discover the fraud.
- Data entry scams: Scammers advertise data entry jobs where individuals can work from home. They typically require applicants to pay an upfront fee for access to a database of potential clients or training materials. However, the promised jobs do not materialise, and victims are left poorer.
- Email processing scams: Scammers claim that individuals can earn money by processing emails from home. Victims are promised large sums of money for each email processed, but they have to pay an upfront fee to access the program. Once victims pay the fee, they might receive generic information about email marketing but no actual work or earnings.
How Can You Keep Safe From WFH scams?
Here are our 5 top tips:
- Research the company: Check the legitimacy of the company by doing some thorough online research. Look for reviews, check their website, and search for any scam alerts or complaints from other job seekers.
- Beware of upfront fees: Be cautious if a company asks for upfront fees for training, materials or job placements. Legitimate employers typically don’t require upfront payments.
- Protect your personal information: Be cautious when sharing sensitive information like your National Insurance number, bank account details, or copies of identification documents. Only provide this information after verifying the legitimacy of the company.
- Trust your instincts: If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Trust your intuition. If you have doubts or concerns, it’s better to be cautious and avoid proceeding further.
- Consult official sources: Check with reputable resources such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Action Fraud, or the official government website for information about reported scams or warnings. Overall, stay informed and cautious.
Data: Keep Things Close
Often, a scammer approaches a potential victim by using email lists or contact information lifted from social media to get in front of their target. They may have found a way to contact you through publicly available sources, or by buying stolen data from the dark web, put there by hackers whose business it is to steal information from legitimate companies.
We often hear of hacks of all sorts of well known companies, and if they have your data, it’s at risk of falling into the hands of hackers, then scammers who use it to target you.
The best way to avoid having your data stolen in a data breach is to make sure it’s not stored amongst any data that gets stolen. You can get your data deleted from any company that no longer needs it by using the Rightly Protect service. It’s quick, simple and free and will tell you just who has your data and give you the chance to instruct them to completely erase it, if that’s what you want to do.
Our Scambusters Mail Bag – Answering Your Questions
“I have a holiday coming up and am looking for the best deal on travel insurance. However, the more I look, the more adverts and emails I am receiving from insurance companies offering competitive rates. How can I work out what’s genuine and what’s too good to be true?”
Scambusters say: You’re not alone – so many of us are unsure how to determine what’s simply a good deal and what could be a scam. As the cost of living crisis continues, the number of fake insurance deals are increasing and are becoming even more sophisticated and hard to recognise. This is because “ghost brokers” buy policies through legitimate companies using false information, which they then doctor and sell on. It’s always best to check a broker’s status on the Financial Conduct Authority or British Insurance Brokers’ Association websites, or indeed contact insurers directly, rather than going through offers via email or text message.
Tip of the Week
Regularly check if you’ve been hacked by making a habit of checking if any of your information has been breached. You can do this for free at haveibeenpwned.com, which checks your email against databases on the dark web. You can then change key information and passwords to prevent being hacked or scammed.
Remember, if you have received a text you think is a scam then you can forward to 7726 or take a screenshot and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are receiving lots of unwanted phone calls or text messages you can also consider removing your details from data brokers, ensuring that you use a right to object to processing of your data. You can learn more about this on Rightly to stop the sharing of your data exposing you to scams.
Or why not take a free training course on how to fight against scams on www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk? The more we talk about scams the more we take away the shame.