Warning Signs and Red Flags to Be Aware of When Applying for a Work at Home Job

Updated on: by Erica Martin

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Written By: Erica Martin

Work from home jobs are everywhere.  In the 8 years I’ve been working from home, I’ve seen many wah job leads posted – while most were legitimate,  some were also scams.  When I started applying, the only thing I really had to worry about was whether I would have to pay money to apply for the job. I was not in a position to pay money to do work, and I had no interest in companies like Avon or Mary Kay. At the end of the day, I wanted to know I actually earned money for the time I put in.

Nowadays  there are other warning signs and red flags to watch out for when applying for work from  home jobs.  This post provides some information on the warning signs and red flags to look for when evaluating a possible work from home job.



Warning Signs : If you see any of these warning signs, you should be on your guard. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up on a lead completely.

The email address is from a free email account like Yahoo or Gmail 

Since anyone can create a free email account, it’s easy for scammers to use them – but since just about everyone has at least one free email account, don’t give up on a lead just because the email address comes from Yahoo or Gmail.

The post contains bad spelling or grammar 

I am a spelling stickler, so if it were up to me I’d give up on a  lead that contained a lot of misspelled words. However I also realize that not everyone has the best spelling ability.  That’s when you have to evaluate the lead based on other qualities  – if the person seems like a genuinely honest person, that may be enough of a reason to look past the bad spelling or grammar.

The website is new

Be cautious if the website is under two years old, however, don’t be scared off if the website looks professional.  Also remember that if a website sells a product or service and doesn’t just offer a job, that’s also a good sign.

Credit or background check fees are high –

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Credit or background checks usually cost between $20 and $50, unless they’re doing a very thorough background check – that could cost a few hundred dollars.  When you’re looking to apply with a company that charges a fee for the background check, find out if you can get a copy of the results – if you can that’s a good sign that the company is legitimate.

You have to purchase special software –

If you need to have special software to do the job, you may have to purchase this as well. Many companies charge you for the software because they’re unsure if you’ll stay with the company – if they go through the time of training you and then you leave after a few months, then they’re out the cost of the software, as well as the time it took to train you. When you’re applying with a company that requires special software, find out if you can get it somewhere else for cheaper, or if it’s very special software that’s  proprietary to the company.

There’s no company name mentioned in the ad  or posting 

Just because there’s no company name mentioned in the posting, doesn’t mean the company is necessarily a scam – they may be protecting themselves from getting too many resumes or calls about jobs.  If you’re unable to find out the name of the company after you submit your resume though, definitely be careful about pursuing the job further.


Red Flags : If you see any of these red flags, definitely proceed with caution.


Easy Work for High Pay

Would you pay someone $30 an hour to cut and paste information into a spreadsheet? I wouldn’t.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You have to pay a fee before you’re interviewed –

This is different from the fees mentioned above for credit or background checks or special software – those are usually paid after you’ve been interviewed and the company has decided to move forward with the next step.  If you have to pay before anyone will even interview you for the job, something’s fishy.

You still can’t get the company name even after you’ve emailed your resume –

If you can’t find out a company’s name after you’ve emailed them, be careful.  Also proceed with caution if you can’t find a website or any information about the company.

The website is badly-designed and/or only advertises a job –

As mentioned above, new websites can be a warning sign,  but not necessarily a red flag.  If the website is badly-designed and/or only advertises a job however, this is a red flag – be very careful.

You’re hired instantly –

If you’re hired for the job instantly without any type of interview or email communication between you and the client, be very careful – you may find that you can’t get paid later on.  Even people advertising freelance jobs should at least send you an email asking you some questions before they decide to hire you. Do your homework on job leads that you find on the internet, especially on sites like Craigslist.

The company hired everyone

If everyone that applied was hired, be careful.



Tips on applying for work from home jobs you find on the Internet:

If you find a job that you’re interested in but unsure about, be sure to check it out before applying for the job.

You can check boards like Work Place Like Home to see if anyone has had any experience with the company.

If you have a company name, email or website, you can check them out on the Better Business Bureau – however if the company is new, the BBB’s website may not have any information yet.

Other websites to check are the National Association of Attorneys General and Rip-Off Report.  The National Association of Attorneys General can tell you if the company actually has a business license, while the second may have actual complaints from people who’ve dealt with or worked with the company.


Also Note:
Freelance Websites like Elance and Odesk can be a great place to find work from home jobs, people advertising jobs on these websites will often have feedback from people they’ve hired in the past.

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If you’re applying for a job listed on one of these websites, see if the person or company you’re applying with does have feedback- if they do you’ll be in a better position to decide whether or not to apply for the job.  If they don’t, it’s probably because they’re new to Elance or Odesk – don’t rule them out completely, but do proceed with caution.


This has turned into a long post.  I hope it’s given you some information on what warning signs and red flags to look for when applying for work from home jobs.  Happy hunting!

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Leisa Good

December 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Good job, Erica. I agree and also sometimes a “legit” WAH job can go wrong or start engaging in questionable practices. It’s important to be aware of the red flags, but also use your “gut” instincts and don’t forget to ask others for their opinion.

Lisa Mills

December 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I always look for bad spelling and grammar also, either on the website or in the job listing. It’s always a big red flag for me.