Fraud Prevention

3 work-related scams to avoid

The stress of lost or reduced income can make certain tempting offers hard to resist … but anything that seems too good to be true should be studied carefully, because it may be a scam. Here are some common work-related scams, and the warning signs that the amazing offer you were emailed is not the life preserver you hoped for.

3 Types Of Work-Related Fraud You Should Avoid

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on many people. The stress of lost or reduced income can make certain tempting offers hard to resist … but anything that seems too good to be true should be studied carefully, because it may be a scam. Here are some common work-related scams, and the warning signs that the amazing offer you were emailed is not the life preserver you hoped for.

Work at home scams

Oh, those tempting email and Internet Ads: “Be Your Own Boss”; “Earn $5000 A Month From Home”; “Earn Money In Your Spare Time.” They all make it sound like you can switch on the cash-flow like turning on a light. But most of these offers are either out-and-out scams or don’t deliver on their claims.

Here are some of the possible consequences for falling for these offers:

If it’s a Scam:

  • You pay for starter kits or certifications that are useless
  • Your credit card is charged without your permission
  • You get caught up in a fake check scam (in particular, someone might send you a large check as an “advance” and ask you to cash it and wire some of the funds back to the issuer as a fee – then the check bounces and your account is overdrawn
  • A fake or fraudulent check often will not be returned in the expected time frame for an NSF item. Fraudulent checks can be returned at any time, up to 2 years, and any loss incurred is the responsibility of the account owner

If it just doesn’t live up to promises:

  • You may have to work a lot of hours without pay
  • The offer might not disclose all your up-front costs
  • You might spend money based on promises you’ll quickly earn it back — but you don’t.
  • You might lose thousands of dollars, as well as your time and energy.

What do these scams look like?

There are a variety of types of ‘job offers’ that can be used for this scam, including:

  • Start your own Internet business
  • Envelope stuffing
  • Assembly or craft work
  • Rebate processing
  • Medical billing

Check them out

Before agreeing to any offer that seems too good to be true, do your homework:

  • Carefully review any disclosures they provide you – under the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule, sellers must provide you a one-page document that provides key information about the opportunity
  • What do people say? Search for the company or promoter’s name with the words “complaint,” “reviews,” or “scam” in Google or another search engine.
  • Consult your local consumer protection agency, your state Attorney General, or the Better Business Bureau — not only where the company is located, but also where you live. But remember, just because you don’t find any complaints, doesn’t mean the company is legitimate. Some fraudulent businesses will relocate and change their name.

How to report a scam

If you’ve been working with a person or company and decide they are not legitimate, and they will not work with you to refund your costs, you can file a complaint with:

  • The FTC’s website or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
  • The Attorney General’s office in your state or the state where the company is located. Find yours at The office can tell you if you’re protected by a state law that regulates work-at-home programs.


Secret shopper scams


In some ways, a secret shopper scam is just another type of Work From Home fraud. You’re asked to go shopping at certain businesses and report on your experiences for money. While there are legitimate secret shopper/mystery shopper businesses, many are scams:

  • Scammers might tell you that you need to pay for worthless certifications, directories, or job guarantees
  • Others are running fake check scams — they ask you to deposit checks and wire some of the money back, before you and the bank find out the check is fake, and you’re responsible for paying it back
  • You should never have to pay to be a mystery shopper

How to find legitimate secret shopping opportunities:

  • Research mystery shopping. Check libraries, bookstores, or online sites for tips on how to find legitimate companies hiring mystery shoppers, as well as how to do the job effectively.
  • Search the internet for reviews and comments about mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications online.
  • You never need to pay for any sort of certification.
  • Never wire money as part of a mystery shopping assignment.


You can visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at to search a database of mystery shopper assignments and learn how to apply for them


If you think you’ve seen a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with:


Fake grants


We all dream about winning the lottery. But the truth is, there really is no such thing as ‘free money.’

One of the latest scams involves a random phone call with the promise of a “Federal Grant”  - all you need to do is pay a processing fee, provide your checking account information, or both. Don’t!

Where you’ll see these offers:

  • Some scam artists advertise “free grants” in the classifieds, inviting readers to call a toll-free number for more information
  • They might call you out of the blue.
  • They lie about where they’re calling from
  • Or they claim legitimacy using an official-sounding name like the “Federal Grants Administration.”
  • They may ask you some basic questions to determine if you “qualify” to receive a grant. FTC attorneys say calls and come-ons for free money invariably are rip offs.


What the scams do

Grant scammers generally follow a script:

  • They congratulate you on your eligibility
  • Then ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account,” or cover a one-time “processing fee.”
  • The caller may even reassure you that you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied
  • In fact, you’ll never see the grant they promise; they will disappear with your money.


How to avoid these scams

  • Be dubious about offers of ‘free money’
  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing - just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean he is. Take a moment to see if the agency named exists
  • Don’t trust Caller ID - some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code – they could be calling from anywhere in the world
  • Take control of the calls you receive – add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.


So, the lesson really is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. You can do your part to report any fraudulent activity to the FTC at