Is this remote job a scam? 5 warning signs to watch out for

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The one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the world realized how great remote work can be. We are at a point in history where interest in remote jobs and digital nomading is higher than ever, with some predicting it will increase even more. But while all these new opportunities appeared, scams have also increased.

The end goal is usually to get you to send them money or give them enough details for them to steal your identity, which they can then use to obtain money illegally. Some of the scams are obvious, but many are so good that they could trick even the most vigilant among us. After all, scammers are professionals. They are just as good at this as you are at your job. 

So how do you know if a job is legit? There are too many scams to learn about, and more are being created each day. However, there are some warning signs most job scams exhibit, and knowing them can alert you before it's too late.

Here are the most important warning signs to watch out for:

  • The company has no online presence
  • They offer very few details initially
  • They promise huge amounts of money
  • They are overly friendly
  • They ask you to pay them before starting to work

1. The company has no online presence

It’s unusual these days for any company to not be on social media. But when it comes to companies that hire remotely, it’s even more unusual since most of them conduct their business online.

Considering that social media can bring new customers, there’s no reason why a legitimate company would not be on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. If they are not on social media, it's quite likely they are hiding something. They are not a real company, or they don’t want a centralized place where people can expose their bad practices. 

Having minimal activity and very few likes and followers can also be suspicious. And so is having a generic or cheap-looking website, or communicating through a Gmail or Outlook email address rather than one that uses the company's domain. 

2. They offer very few details initially

This is extremely common in Facebook and LinkedIn communities. The job post is only a few sentences long, usually along the lines of “Hiring [job title], good salary, flexible schedule. DM me for details”

They leave out the most important parts of a job post:

  • details about the company
  • job responsibilities
  • skill and experience requirements

This doesn’t make much sense, as it’s much easier to write or copy the job details once in the post rather than doing it for each person that may message you. 

So why would someone be so brief? Are they an Ernest Hemmingway fan? Most likely the job is a scam, and the more details they give publicly, the more likely people are to call them out in the comments. Since this would significantly decrease the scammer’s success rate, they’re doing their best to avoid that. 

3. They promise huge amounts of money

They promise a huge salary because they know this way you will overlook the parts of the job that don’t feel right. It’s the same principle behind gambling. We know that most likely we will lose, but the small chance of winning a huge amount of money makes us ignore that and take the risk. 

However, in this case, the chance of earning the promised money is even lower than winning the lottery. A company's goal is to make a profit, so it wouldn't make sense to pay someone a huge salary when most people would be willing to perform that job for less. If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. 

4. They are overly friendly

Does the interviewer or point of contact in the company talk a lot? Do they compliment you excessively? Do they give you details about their personal life that you did not ask for? They are trying to build trust and establish an emotional connection because this will make you less likely to question their requests later on. 

In a professional environment, people are not usually this friendly. Of course, you don't want to dismiss a genuinely friendly and extroverted person, but be careful. 

5. They ask you to pay them before starting to work

You find a job opportunity you like, the salary is good, the interview goes very well, and then they mention a training fee or a software fee. This is a huge red flag, but it appears at a point where you’ve already spent hours and hours on the hiring process. Because you’re so invested in this you think that maybe, just maybe, it’s a normal requirement. It’s not.

Companies do not ask their applicants to pay a fee to start working for them. Ever! They have budgets for software and equipment, and they get very good deals since they buy in bulk. One extra software license is not something they would have trouble covering. 

As for training, it’s an essential part of the hiring process whose cost is always taken into account by companies - a business expense, just like salaries, equipment, office and utilities, etc. Requiring employees to pay for this is just as ridiculous as requiring them to pay for the electricity they consume while at the office. It’s a scam, without exception.

Closing Thoughts

There are scams out there, but don't let that discourage you. As long as you can trust your instincts and keep an eye out for those red flags, you should be fine.