When I first heard that Student Loan Hero was hiring writers, I thought it was a complete scam. The job description, benefits, and perks—working from home full-time, a stipend to set up my home office, health insurance, and unlimited vacation—sounded too good to be true.
I was so skeptical that even though I thought the job was a perfect fit, I thought about withdrawing my application. I did some more research into the company and looked at testimonials from employees, and I decided to hang in there. I’m so glad I did; I just had my one year anniversary, and it really is the best job ever for me.
Twenty-two percent of U.S. employees work at least part-time from home. If you’re like me, the idea of working from home sounds amazing. However, there are people out there who know how in-demand work-from-home gigs are and have started scams to cheat people out of their money or personal information.
Because remote-work scams are so prevalent, it’s important to do research into the company before handing over your Social Security number, state ID number, bank account routing info, or other personal data. Whether it’s a full-time role or just an at-home side gig, it’s worth doing some homework.
If the business has these six signs, that’s a strong indication that they are a legitimate organization.
1. Online communities know the organization
When I was going through the application process with Student Loan Hero, I scoured internet communities and review pages for more information. I visited sites like Glassdoor to see what both applicants and current employees had to say. The comments were overwhelmingly positive, which was reassuring.
Using those sites, as well as checking the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau (U.S. companies only), can reveal whether other candidates had a positive experience. When reading employee reviews, look for some level of detail. If every post is just one sentence about how great the company is, that can be a red flag that the company is not legitimate or the reviews are fake.
Ideally, you want to see at least four or five reviews that include details about management, pay, culture, and the actual job.
2. They explain the hiring process
I had applied for other work-from-home jobs before, but I discovered most were fake because they were vague about how the hiring process worked. One said I was hired before I was ever interviewed.
A real organization will be able to detail the hiring process for you. The hiring manager or human resources representative will tell you who you’ll interview with, if they require work samples or a sample assignment, and how long they expect the process to take.
Of course, some sophisticated scammers might design a thorough hiring process; just having one in place doesn’t mean a company is completely real.
Use the interviews to ask lots of questions about the company, the perks that come with working from home, and how your performance will be measured.
Look for any signs that they’re not being forthcoming. If they dodge questions, give you half-answers, or get defensive, consider walking away from the opportunity altogether.
3. There’s a clear job description
Many remote job descriptions are short on detail; they just list a task and a salary that might sound really appealing. Scammers design too-good-to-be-true positions to encourage lots of people to apply and provide personal information.
Legitimate companies will outline what requirements candidates should meet, or what the responsibilities are for the job. Although there can be companies that falsify that information as well, a strong job description is a good sign—though it’s still a smart idea to look at other factors and do additional research on the company before handing over your resume.
4. Current workers have solid employment histories
One of the biggest signs that a remote company is legitimate is their employees. I used LinkedIn to look up current Student Loan Hero staff members. Each and every person I found had a lengthy work history.
The staff previously worked for well-known investment firms, financial institutions, and marketing firms. They had glowing reviews from previous managers, and they were well connected in the personal finance realm.
It’s a good idea to check out the LinkedIn profiles of employees at the company to which you’re applying. If you can’t find anyone, or if their previous work history is blank or full of companies you’ve never heard of before, that’s likely a sign that the employees could be fake and the business is not reputable.
5. You communicate with a real person
When I was looking for work, I received tons of template messages and bot responses. While that can be the norm for some legitimate companies, be cautious if the company only uses email or texts; you should speak to a live person either during the interviews or if you have questions about the job description.
After applying to my current job, I received an email to set up a video chat interview. Despite being hundreds of miles apart, I was able to see a real person on the screen and ask questions. Throughout the whole process, I regularly had contact with an actual person, which was reassuring.
If, on the other hand, the company constantly demurs or offers excuses about why no one is available via phone or video chat, it might be worth rethinking the opportunity.
6. Identifying scams
With work-from-home jobs becoming more popular, scams and shady job listings are posted every day. However, by doing your due diligence, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim. If you’re the victim of a work-from-home scam in the US, you can file an official complaint and report the company to the Federal Trade Commission.