Mothers, especially those who take a break from the daily grind of a full-time job, comprise a vast market of underutilized workers. Whether they’re young or mature, skilled professionals or not, they receive alluring advertisements touting the glory and convenience of working from home. Savvy women understand that not all such work-from-home opportunities offer legitimate work and subscribe to the tried and true caveat of “If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.”

Why work from home?

Parents who work full-time jobs lament missing out on the children’s milestones: those first words, first steps, and so on. Leaving the raising of their children to someone else, especially in the first few years, piles on the guilt for not being a “good” parent. Many parents—mothers, especially—drop out of the workforce so they can attend to the needs and development of the next generation of employees. Unfortunately, many companies consider children an expensive hobby and disallow the flexibility parents would like.

Work-from-home jobs offer the ultimate in flexibility and convenience: no lengthy commute, no uniform. Conditions of employment vary, of course, but many allow remote workers to set their own hours, a welcome point of flexibility that enables mothers to accommodate babies’ nap and feeding schedules and older children’s schooling, doctors’ appointments, and extracurricular activities.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Before embarking upon the hunt for work-from-home jobs, determine why you want to work from home and whether it’s truly feasible for you to do so. If it’s a question of needing quick money, then consider something that doesn’t require a commitment. US News suggests selling unused or unwanted items on eBay. Some companies hire work-from-home employees as subcontractors, such as medical writers, dog sitters, or telemarketers. Another option is to establish your own at-home business, but that imbues a level of uncertainty some people do not wish to accept.

Work from Home Scams

The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker℠ shows 198 employment scams in the USA reported between January 1 and April 30, 2018. Writing for The Penny Hoarder, Carson Kohler cites Katherine Hutt, spokesperson for the BBB, who states that work-from-home jobs are especially susceptible to scamming because the people who seek them tend to be the most vulnerable. Fraudulent employers know the information legitimate employers need—that personal information which facilitates identity theft and all the problems that flow from it—and have no compunction about asking for and using that information.

The serious threat of a hijacked identity, emptied bank account, or ruined credit score merits equally serious caution from those seeking work-from-home employment. Fortunately, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and The Balance Careers identify some warnings that should help at-home employment seekers to discern the legitimacy of an offer for remote employment:

Do not accept or send money

Legitimate employers do not ask new hires to either accept or send money. Initial expenses, such as uniforms, background checks, and so-called starter kits, should be deducted from the first paycheck. Never pay to apply for a job. Never pay to work for a company; the company should pay its employees. When submitting to a background check, submit sensitive personal information to the company or agency performing the check, not to the hiring company. Oh, and be sure to verify the legitimacy of the company performing the background check. Scammers often collaborate.

Use common sense

Begin by doubting everything. Skepticism protects you. Any job that promises top dollar for unskilled work and beckons with the magic words “no training required” is likely a scam. These fall under the too-good-to-be-true category. Job descriptions that could be just about anything and don’t specify the tasks or responsibilities pertaining to that job also demand further investigation before signing up and handing over sensitive personal information.

Research URLs

Most job hunting is conducted online, and scammers know how to copy and paste brand logos, duplicate color schemes, and engage in other deceptive practices to mimic real companies. Therefore, it behooves the job seeker to review the URL of the job listing. Enter the URL between quotation marks into a Google search. If the job’s a scam, warnings will pop up. Check the company’s website and review the contact information. A legitimate company should offer usable contact information, such as a viable telephone number and mailing address. Check the company’s social media, too.

Seek transparency

Most work-from-home scams that employ telephone interviews do so because that human connection often bypasses the target’s skepticism. Check out the person on LinkedIn and/or the company’s website to verify his identity before accepting what could be a fraudulent offer. Expect transparency regarding job responsibilities, the hiring process, pay, benefits, and anything else that affects you as an employee. A lack of transparency could indicate a fraudulent company.

Know the lingo

Work-at-home scams employ similar vocabulary. Some may sound like genuine job opportunities, such as direct sales or multilevel marketing. Business start-up kits often command expensive fees for useless information or product samples. Other warning flags are home assembly, envelope stuffing, product re-seller or wholesaler, stock trading systems, online surveys, and mystery shopping. High-pressure tactics that stimulate a sense of urgency also ring those warning bells. Avoid responding to any job ad that tries to compel a quick decision and payment.

Consider the source

Legitimate companies generally do not use paid online advertisements (i.e., “sponsored links”) on general search engines that cast a wide net for anyone using a general keyword search. Legitimate companies and scammers use job posting sites like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder. If you do receive a job offer and you’re still unsure, head to Glassdoor and look up employee reviews. Disgruntled ex-employees exercise their option to leave negative review more often than former employees who liked their jobs, so consider the feedback in context.

Fight the scam

Should your research identify a fraudulent offer of employment—in other words, a scam—then alert the BBB. If you fell for the scam and the scammer took your money, then file a police report. Sure, you’ll probably feel a little stupid, but a bit of embarrassment is worth recovering your funds and possibly contributing to putting the thieves in jail. If you suspect or know that a scammer has usurped your identity, then notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its online service, IdentityTheft.gov. The FTC offers a free recovery plan to guide you through the steps for recovering your identity. You should also notify your state’s attorney general.

Scammers have wreaked havoc upon civilization since the beginning, thus lending additional credibility to those ancient Romans who also warned caveat emptor: “may he beware.” Or, if you’d like a more recent proverb, harken to the Boy Scouts’ motto: “Be prepared.” Bring skepticism and common sense to the hunt for the perfect work-at-home opportunity, and you just might find a new employer who appreciates the skill, experience, and enthusiasm you bring to the job during the hours that best suit you.

A little encouragement

Legitimate opportunities exist, and you can find them with a mixture of business savvy and smart marketing. Application of common sense and bit of research takes some “up front” time that you may be tempted to think better spent working on paying projects; however, that extra effort might just save you an expensive lesson. Working from home isn’t a piece of cake, but the benefits in flexibility and variety make remote employment a viable and fulfilling choice for many.