As a career counselor, I receive many questions about work-from-home opportunities. For most people, the prospect of working from home is ideal—offering convenience, flexibility, availability to take care of family duties, extra income to help pay the bills, and space to deal with physical or medical limitations.
See also: Looking for a work-at-home job?
Most of the questions I get come from people who need to balance financial needs and family obligations. Financial pressures and family needs often create stress, anxiety, fear, and sometimes even desperation. People with these feelings are the perfect target for scams and frauds!
Private and government research estimates that more than 98 percent of work-at-home opportunities are fraudulent. That’s the assumption you should start with if you’re looking to work from home.
Here are several questions I’ve received recently, along with some helpful advice about legitimate work-at-home opportunities.
Q: I would like to work from home and make use of my computer and administrative skills. I have been an Internet user for several years and have really good customer relations skills. I’d like to work about five hours a day and use the rest of my time to care for my Mom, who lives with us. Many of the work-at-home opportunities I see on the Internet aren’t very clear about what I would be doing to earn the money—up to $2,000 each week. How do I know which ones are for real? – Margaret, Memphis, Tenn.
A: Margaret, working from home and capitalizing on your computer and customer-contact skills seems a natural way to make extra money and still be able to handle family obligations. But first off, any ad that suggests you’ll earn more than $10 to $15 per hour is almost certainly fraudulent. The testimonials with pictures of men and women holding up their “first week’s earnings” check for $6,400 are just a marketing trick. Don’t believe them.
Here are several jobs and opportunities available from legitimate organizations:
1. Customer Service and Call Center: You’ll need a high-speed Internet connection, a land-line phone (not a cellular or Internet-phone service) with a headset and a work area that will allow a quiet and professional environment. Major traditional employers, such as JetBlue Airlines, employ call-center staff who work from home. You apply for these positions as you would for any job opening.
Most opportunities, though, are from companies such as Alpine Access, West, and LiveOps, which principally employ home workers. Expect to pay equipment fees, background-checking fees, and training fees. Don’t be put off by these fees from legitimate employers; think of them as the cost of getting into the work-at-home business. You handle customer service, order processing, and lead-qualification calls. Some of these jobs pay “by the minute” that you’re on the phone, and others pay hourly wages. You commit to a work schedule, and you’re expected to be available at the assigned times. Get all the details before you sign anything or send any payments.
2. Medical Services: This can include medical billing, claims, and records coding or file transcription. There are many legitimate firms looking for qualified individuals to work from home—but there are even more frauds and scams. Medical records and administration often requires training beyond high school and some relevant experience. MedQuist is a firm offering work-at-home medical administrative-service jobs. You should also consider contacting local hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices to get the names of the services they employ, and then apply with those services.
3. Virtual Assistant and Concierge Services: A number of organizations hire people to work from home as personal assistants or to provide concierge services. These include AssistU, Get Friday, and VIPdesk. From home, you’d provide the same services as an administrative or personal assistant or the concierge desk in a hotel. You’d need a complete computer, Internet, and phone setup, and you’d have to commit to specific hours of coverage. Prior experience is a plus.