It can be tough to find a new job or change careers. Many are turning to the internet for recruiting agents, job posting sites or looking on social media. Scammers are also waiting to pounce on job seekers to make things even trickier.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned that criminals use popular messaging platforms to lure victims with false promises. Unfortunately, there isn’t a real job being offered, and the criminals make off with valuable personal information.
Side hustle scams are becoming more of a problem than ever. Read on to find out how to find side gigs and make extra money safely.
Here’s the backstory
There are plenty of dangers when searching online for a side hustle. Even on popular job boards, you risk falling victim to a scam. That is not to say that you shouldn’t go out there and apply.
You should apply to as many positions as possible to increase your chances. But you need to be aware of the risks.
As the BBB points out in a blog post, there are several things that you must do to avoid being a side hustle victim. It starts with researching a person who offers you a job or a company you want to apply to.
If you sign up on a work-for-hire website like Upwork, never agree to move communications or projects off the site. Many scammers use these websites as bait but conduct crimes where the administrators can’t catch them.
How to avoid side hustle scams
BBB gave some tips on avoiding getting scammed when looking for a side hustle. Here are some suggestions:
- Screen potential clients. If you are approached by an individual instead of a company to do freelance work, like photography or pet-sitting, get to know them before you agree to do any work. Ask lots of questions, look up their social media accounts, and press for a meeting via video chat. Most scammers will avoid meeting you and won’t answer specific questions.
- Keep work on freelance job sites where it belongs. One common scam on freelancer job sites involves circumvention. In this con, a supposed employer first approaches you on the website. Then, they ask you to do work and accept payment outside of the site. These scammers may try to convince you to accept payment through PayPal or another outside payment method, claiming they want to help you avoid any fees the freelancer website charges. Chances are, once you turn in your work, you won’t receive any payment and your client will disappear for good.
- Watch out for too-good-to-be-true job postings. Any job that offers excellent pay rates for an easy job that requires no special skills is likely a scam. Car wrap scams are a perfect example of this tactic.
- Research side gigs before applying. No matter how good a job seems, do your research before applying. Go directly to the company’s website to verify the job posting. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Also, do an online search for the job title and company name. Don’t engage with the company if you find the same post popping up in multiple cities or people reporting the job is a scam.
- Watch for work-from-home scams. Work from home gigs are more likely to be scams than traditional job postings. A 2020 BBB report found a rise in work from home scams since the COVID-19 pandemic. Be very wary of applying for jobs like “warehouse redistribution coordinator” that involve reshipping (often stolen) packages. Scammers impersonate well-known retailers like Amazon and Walmart and post the jobs on major employment platforms.
- Be cautious of fake checks. Many scammers offer to hire you for a position, only to tell you they will send you a check for supplies you need before you start work. Typically, the scammers “overpay” and ask you to send back some of the funds via a wire transfer or prepaid gift cards. After you send the money, you’ll get a notification from your bank that the check you deposited was a fake. You’ll have lost any money you “returned” to the scammer.
- Never pay to work. You should never have to pay a fee to apply for a job or get a position. Also, a legitimate company won’t pay you anything before doing any work.
- Get all details in writing. Put together a basic contract detailing the services provided, the timeline and the amount paid. Scammers tend to avoid providing specific information, so this is a good way to discourage them. It will also help you avoid disagreements with legitimate employers.
- Guard your personal information. Be cautious of any job that asks you to share personal information right off the bat. If a company insists they need a copy of your driver’s license or bank account information, be sure you’re dealing with a legitimate business before handing over that sensitive information.
Depending on your age, you might be looking for a specific, safe job. For example, if you are a senior citizen that can’t wait tables or deliver fast food, there are options.
We’ve previously tackled side hustles for seniors. We compiled an easy-to-use list of 15 best-paying side jobs for seniors.