When searching for work, particularly if you are looking online, be on guard against scams that prey on job seekers who may be so desperate that they'll go against their better judgment. Some scams are obvious, while others are more subtle. The key to avoiding job scams is knowing that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We'll discuss how to spot the primary types of job scams.

Work-at-Home Scams

Work-at-home scams are most often found in newspapers and on online job boards on sites such as Craig'slist. You can recognize them by the exaggerated claims of earning potential they advertise, as well as by the way they request an upfront investment of money for training, supplies or certifications. The Federal Trade Commission warns that many work-at-home scammers make grand promises that they will refund your money if you don't succeed, but really what they're after is your credit card or bank account numbers so they can make unauthorized charges.

Well-known work-at-home schemes include: envelope stuffing, assembly or craft work (such as sewing or sign making), rebate processing, online searches and medical billing, the FTC says. Query any work-at-home opportunity and ask for specific information about the job requirements in writing, the agency urges. Good questions to ask are what exactly does the job entails, whether you will be paid a salary or by commission, who will issue the paychecks and what are the total upfront costs of the work-at-home program. If you can't get straight answers, steer clear.

It's also important to do your due diligence on a company by searching online to see whether there are any complaints about it, the FTC says. Do not wire money to someone you do not know or trust, or give out your credit card or banking account information over the phone to someone you haven't met.

Pyramid Schemes/Multilevel Marketing Businesses

Pyramid schemes and multilevel marketing companies will often approach you with job opportunities via online employment postings. They can also come at you through what appears to be a "networking" opportunity from one of your acquaintances or through social media, where participants in such organizations try to recruit new members. Pyramid schemes are illegal because they require a significant monetary investment upfront and promise a high return on that money in a short amount of time as long as you continue to recruit more people into the "business" underneath you, who in turn recruit more people underneath them, thus forming a business "pyramid," according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Multilevel marketing companies, on the other hand, are legal because the people who work for them sell an actual product or service and don't make money by recruiting more people. To succeed at this type of business, however, you are still urged to persuade people to sign up under you, so you can earn higher profits off of their sales as well. The FTC warns job seekers to be cautious about these types of opportunities, as there is often a fine line between illegal pyramid schemes and legitimate multilevel marketing companies. As with work-from-home scams, do your research on any company where you are being urged to become a distributer of a product beneath someone else. It may not be valid.

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