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Scam or No Scam: Are These Legit Jobs From Home?

6 WAH Opportunities That Get Singled Out--Fairly or Unfairly--as Scams


For these six common work-at-home opportunities, this is not as straightforward a question as you might think. I would love to be able to say: ”No scams here, folks. Dive right in.” or “Always avoid these scams!” But, of course, it’s not that simple — at least for five of the six.

Read on to find out which of these are real WAH jobs and how you can tell if you’re being scammed.

1. Data Entry

There are definitely legitimate online data entry jobs. In fact, I have a list of home-based data entry jobs. However, compared to most of my lists of work-at-home jobs, it is rather short. There really aren’t many online data entry jobs that actually pay decently, and this is an industry that has been rife with scams. You really have to do your homework.

One problem is the way data entry jobs pay. Even jobs that aren’t scams, per se, are really not good ways to make money. Typically these jobs pay based on your output, or on a per-piece basis, but it can be very hard to tell upfront how much time the data entry will take.

And some of these jobs are definitely scams. They aren’t very different from many typical work at home scams, such as pyramid schemes, fake classes and certifications or payment for resources available for free online.

Read more about how to spot data entry scams.

2. Mystery Shopping

Christmas Shopping Black Friday
Getty/David Ramos

While I would say mystery shopping falls into the “no scam” category, I would only place it there with a couple caveats: Don’t ever pay for opportunities to mystery shop and/or cash checks, wire money, etc. You should not need to pay for lists of companies in need of mystery shoppers or for application fees or anything. And never ever cash a check or wire money for anyone. This is a very common scam that takes all sorts of forms and mystery shopping is just one of many.

Read more about mystery shopping scams.

3. Micro Jobs

Online Job Search
Petter Dazeley/Getty

Whether or not a microjob is a scam really depends on who is offering the job. And when I say "who" I don't mean the website where the job is listed (though some are far more likely to contain scams and others), I mean the person or organization contracting individuals for micro jobs.

The concept behind these online gigs--as they are often called--is rather new and the definition rather loose. For the most part, it is defined as a small task that earns a small fee. On most online microjob sites the poster of the job can reject the work and not pay for any reason; however, the protection for the work is found in a rating system for posters in which workers can post feedback. A site that does not have a robust rating system for it posters and workers is more likely to be rife with scams.

Read more about what you need to know micro jobs.

4. Affiliate Marketing

Work at Home Jobs
Getty/Chris Hondros

Affiliate marketing is a perfectly legit work-at-home business; however, any opportunity that tries to sell you an “affiliate marketing business” is likely a scam. First let’s go over exactly what affiliate marketing is: Affiliate marketing is selling products or services by hosting links or banners on a website or blog, for which you are paid a commission for each sale resulting from clicks on those links. In order to get clicks on those links and subsequently sales, you must have traffic to the website. And so, the real business here is the website, which might generate revenue from other means, such as advertising, as well. No one can sell you a ready-made affiliate marketing business; most likely they are selling you useless information that could be had for free elsewhere.

Read more about how to start and affiliate marketing business.

5. Multi-Level Marketing

Direct Sales
Marc Romanelli/Getty

This is a tricky one in that multi-level marketing (MLM) taken to an extreme is a pyramid scam. (Read more about the difference between and MLM and a pyramid scheme.) However, MLM is also the same form of business used in direct selling, which is not necessarily a scam at all. Legitimate companies, like Avon and Mary Kay, use multi-level marketing. Other less reputable direct sales companies sell questionable products, focus too much on recruitment or demand to large an initial investment, making them essentially pyramid schemes.

Read more about the 6 Considerations before starting a direct sales business.

6. Envelope Stuffing

Work at Home Scams - Online Scams -  Fraud
James Baigrie/Getty

Yup, this one is always a scam. Avoid envelope stuffing, craft assembly and the like. Think about it, mailing work to be stuffed/assembled is just not cost effective, especially since machines can do this.

Read more about envelope stuffing scams.

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