Work-from-home jobs: real or scam?

December 29, 2015 15:00 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I am a college student and I’ve been looking online for part-time work so I can make a little money.  I see work-from-home jobs advertised, but my friend says most of them are scams.  How can I tell if a job posting is legitimate or not? 

Consumer Ed says:  

It can be difficult to distinguish legitimate online job offers from those placed by people who are just out to get your money, especially when it comes to work-from-home jobs.  Scammers advertise jobs where real employers and job placement firms do, like the Internet and online job boards, newspapers, TV, and even the radio.  For every legitimate job posting out there, there are plenty designed to steal your identity and cheat you out of your hard-earned money.  But there are certain aspects of an offer that can help you spot a potential scam:

  • Requests for payment.  Legitimate employers and recruiters don't charge to hire you, whether through a fee for certification, training materials, background and credit checks, or their expenses for placing you with a company.  Real placement agents or employers don’t require payment from applicants for the prospect of a job.
  • Requests for sensitive financial or personal information.  You should be suspicious of any company that requests via phone or email your social security number, driver’s license, bank account, PayPal, or credit card information as part of the initial application process.  Scammers may try to elicit this information from you so that they can steal your identity and your money.  Legitimate employers will typically ask for this information after you have been hired and are setting up payment and tax information.  You don’t want to grant any organization access to your information until you know it’s completely trustworthy.
  • Offers high salary for simple tasks or minimal experience.  A legitimate employer will evaluate your experience and abilities before deciding on what to pay you.  If the company offers you a big income that is far beyond the type of task involved, or is completely out of your range based on your education and experience, the offer is likely a scam.  Before trusting an offer, do a little research on what the position you’re applying for generally pays. 
  • Communicates via non-business address.  Any company that communicates from a free email account such as Yahoo, Live, Hotmail or Gmail is likely a scammer. Legitimate job-related emails will come from corporate email accounts.  Also, carefully examine links in emails to guarantee they are linking to a legitimate website, rather than some fake site.  If there’s a phone number in the email, call it to see what information the person on the other end gives you.
  • Immediately offers job.  Actual employers take their time to research and get to know potential job candidates before offering a position.  Be skeptical of a job offer that has come via email, when you’ve never had a telephone or in-person interview.

Additionally, you can avoid being a victim of an online scam by being proactive in your search:

  • Research the company.  Visit the company’s website.  If they don’t have a website, or if the website company listing doesn’t match the job description, consider it an indication that the job might be a scam.  Check with the Better Business Bureau or the FTC to find out if any complaints have been filed about a company.  Keep in mind that a lack of complaints doesn’t mean the business is legitimate.  You may want to do an Internet search with the name of the company and words like “review”, “scam”, or “complaint.” 
  • Ask Questions. Legitimate work-at-home employers should be willing and able to answer a variety of questions about their programs.  The FTC suggests you ask the following:
    • What tasks will I have to perform? (Ask the employer to list every step of the job.) 
    • Will I be paid a salary, or will my pay be based on commission?  
    • Who will pay me?  
    • When will I get my first paycheck?

And don’t be afraid to ask for references if you're not sure if the company is legitimate. Request a list of other employees or contractors.  If the company isn't willing to provide references (names, email addresses, and phone numbers), be skeptical of the opportunity.

  • Know the common scams. Some industries are more likely than others to offer real opportunities for at-home work. Many legitimate employers utilize home workers to take orders over the phone or as customer service representatives.  But other job offers, like envelope stuffing, at-home assembly work, medical or claims processing, and refund recovery, are commonly used by scammers.  Additionally, be on the lookout for scams that request that the applicant or employee accept payment to his or her own bank account and then wire money on behalf of the company. Almost always, the money the victims are transferring is stolen, and therefore, the victims are committing theft and wire fraud.  

Finally, as a rule of thumb, avoid offers that seem too good to be true.  If you think you’ve been targeted by a job scam, you can submit complaints to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Rate This

Can employer refuse to hire me if I don't consent to a credit check?

December 19, 2013 19:52 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

At a job interview I was asked if I would give my permission for the company to pull my credit report.  I know my credit is not very good, so I did not consent to this.  Now I'm concerned that refusing might cost me this job.  Can a company deny someone employment on this basis?

Consumer Ed Says:

Yes, an employer can deny employment based either on your refusal to let it see your credit report, or on the contents of the credit report itself.  In 2012, a bill was introduced in Georgia to prevent employers from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against someone because of his or her credit report, but the bill didn't pass.

This isn't to say that an employer can look at your credit report without your permission-it can't.  But an estimated 60% of employers perform credit checks.  Commonly, employers are looking for signs of irresponsibility, and some are worried about the potential for employee theft (although this is more common in fields like banking and finance).  Employers may also be concerned that an employee's worries about his/her debt will have an impact on job performance.  This concern is unfortunate, since many recently laid-off people have fallen behind on their bill payments precisely because their income has decreased.  Many employers consider an applicant's credit history because they are looking for a pattern showing that the applicant is able to pay, and actually does pay his or her debts, as a sign that the employee is a responsible person.

An employer must receive your written permission before it can obtain a copy of your credit report; this permission must be in its own document separate from any employment contract.   Giving this permission may give you some anxiety, especially if you know you have some negative credit history.  However, this might be a good time for you to go ahead and explain any negative information in your credit report.  You need to remember that if you don't give your permission, the employer is likely to (and is allowed to) reject your application on that ground. One caveat:  If you're applying to jobs over the internet, do not give your credit report out.  These requests are scams; any legitimate business can obtain credit reports from the major credit bureaus, and doesn't need for you to provide that information through a website.

If you give permission for the employer to look at your credit report, and it rejects your job application based on your credit, federal law requires that employer to notify you of this reason, and show you the report.  You can then obtain a copy from the reporting agency for free within 60 days of such notice from the employer.  If you find errors in the report, see for information about how to address this problem.

If you suspect your credit history is hampering your job search, here are some tips to help improve it:


  • Make a budget. Live within or, if you can, below your means.  Incorporate late bill payments into your budget.
  • If you have been denied credit, you may request a free credit report.  Learn why you were denied credit.  If you find any errors, contact the reporting agency to dispute the information-they must correct errors.
  • Make a list of what and to whom you owe.  Contact creditors to discuss payment options and begin catching up with late payments.
  • Look for ways to combine bills.  This may include transferring a credit card balance to another credit card with a lower interest rate while simultaneously reducing the number of credit cards you have.
  • Look for ways to decrease your spending.
  • Look for ways to increase your income.
  • Do not use credit until you have paid off most, or all, of your debt. Consider cancelling or hiding your credit cards for this period of time. 


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Rate This

Arrest for a dismissed case still showing up on background check

June 20, 2013 18:34 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was recently turned down for a job because of an arrest last year. The case was dismissed and my record was supposedly expunged. Why did it still show up on a background check, and how do I go about getting all of these records removed so it will not affect my future employment?

Consumer Ed says: 

In Georgia, an expungement only affects the criminal record maintained by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC), and the relevant state and local agencies.  So an expungement order served on GCIC doesn’t necessarily remove the booking records from the arrest held at the local police or sheriff’s department.

The employer might have found out about your arrest from a private background check.  Some, but not all, private background check companies will remove expunged information if you contact them (usually for a fee—especially online “background check” sites).  If the employer used a private company for your background check, they should have provided you with information about this company and how to get in touch with them.

Regardless of how the employer found out about your arrest, you don’t have the right under Georgia law to deny the fact that you were arrested.  This is true even if you have had the arrest and charges expunged.  This is why, if a potential employer asks, it’s best to just be honest.  You can explain the circumstances involved and make sure that the employer knows that you were not convicted of any crime and have completed the expungement process.  If you deny that you were arrested and that arrest appears on a private background check, you might be turned down for other jobs or face termination after you are hired. 

Remember, you should keep copies of all relevant documents that prove that your record was expunged.  If you would like to get copies of your GCIC records, contact your local police department or sheriff’s office.  You will need to bring your ID and about $20 for any associated fees. You should also ask them if you can have the local arrest file expunged. There may be a fee to do so of around $25 to $50.

For more information on how to access or contest your criminal record, visit

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Rate This