by: Better Business Bureau
Side hustles have become a popular way to earn extra money, start a small business, or transition into a freelance career. But not all part-time gigs are what they seem. Just like with traditional job scams, scammers use fake opportunities to lure unsuspecting victims into a trap.
Their objective ? It could be identity theft, a fake check scam, or a shipping scheme. Whatever their scheme, the scammers are hoping to get their hands on your money, your personal information, or both. Here’s how to protect yourself.
How to avoid secondary scams
- Filter potential customers. If you are approached by an individual rather than a company to do freelance work, such as photography or pet sitting, get to know them before agreeing to do any work. Ask lots of questions, research their social media accounts, and lobby for a meeting via video chat. Most scammers will avoid meeting with you and won’t answer specific questions.
- Keep the job on freelance job boards where it belongs. Upwork reports that a common scam on freelance job boards involves circumvention. In this scam, a supposed employer first approaches you on the website. Then they ask you to work and accept payment outside the site. These scammers may try to convince you to accept payment via PayPal or another external payment method, claiming that they want to help you avoid fees charged by the freelancer’s website. Chances are that once you turn in your work, you won’t receive any payment and your client will be gone for good.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true job offers. Any job that offers extremely good pay rates for easy work that requires no special skills is likely a scam. Car wrapping scams are a good example of this tactic.
- Research side gigs before applying. No matter how good a job, do your research before applying. Go directly to the company’s website to check the job posting. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact details? Also do an online search for the job title and company name. If you see the same message popping up in multiple cities or people reporting that the job is a scam, don’t engage with the company.
- Beware of work from home scams. Work-from-home gigs are great for college students or stay-at-home moms, but they’re also more likely to be scams. In fact, a 2020 BBB report found an increase in work-from-home scams since the COVID-19 pandemic. Be very careful when applying for jobs like “warehouse redistribution coordinator” that involve the reshipping of (often stolen) packages. The scammers impersonate well-known retailers like Amazon and Walmart and post job vacancies on major job platforms.
- Beware of fake checks. Many scammers offer to hire you for a job, only to tell you that they’ll send you a check for the supplies you need before you start work. Typically, scammers “overpay” and ask you to send some of the funds back via wire transfer or prepaid gift cards. After sending the money, you will receive a notification from your bank that the check you deposited was a fake. You will have lost all the money you “returned” to the scammer. Learn more about scams involving fake checks and other types of payment.
- Never pay to work. You should never have to pay a fee to apply for a job or to get a position. Also, a legitimate company won’t pay you anything until you’ve done any work.
- Get all the details in writing. Draft a basic contract that details the services provided, the schedule and the amount paid. Scammers tend to avoid providing specific information, so this is a good way to discourage them. It will also help you avoid disagreements with legitimate employers.
- Protect your personal information. Be wary of any job that asks you to share personal information upfront. If a company insists they need a copy of your driver’s license or bank account information, make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate company before passing on this sensitive information.
For more information:
Learn more ways to protect yourself by visiting BBB.org/EmploymentScam and BBB.org/ScamTips.
If you are targeted by a job scam or know someone who has been, report the experience to BBB.org/ScamTracker to help raise consumer awareness and hinder the efforts of scammers.
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