Real Company, Fake Job

There are real data-entry jobs. Data-entry is a real thing. Online data-entry work is a real thing.

Unfortunately, recently it feels like 90% of the ads for online data-entry work actually lead to grind (I still love you mTurk) or survey sites.

Now there’s a wave of hiring scams that are targeting data-entry, clerical, and transcription workers with the promise of freelance work from home. The story is pretty slick, the ads are varied and look official and they present as a big corporation that needs to adjust to the current pandemic. This scam is extra cold because it targets people recently laid off or unemployed trying to be industrious.

The scammers give you an interview.

OMG I was hired! My scammer hiring agent was good too, super professional. We made it through the whole interview process before I thought, “This is probably bullshit.”

Since in the past I had done work with businesses that were in distress and attempting to adapt on the fly I was less suspicious than I should have been. As a VA, I’m fairly used to legitimate clients that fake it until they make it, so maybe the bullshit radar didn’t ping quite as early or quite as loud as it should have.

Red Flags:

  • Contact name doesn’t match any names on the business’s Linkedin profile, in fact first web search performed on the contact’s full name returned famous historical colonizer as results.
  • Documents look pasted together and off, company details were correct but letterhead doesn’t match examples of official company letterhead found online.
  • Didn’t request 1099 tax form.
  • Contract was a simple sign and date form, not an employment or limited services contract (which are usually four b’jillion pages and require 86 b’jillion initials and a notarized and sealed blood pact before they can be returned via fax– because email attachments are just too hard for Janet to figure out how to print.)
  • Website given in document wasn’t fully functional and didn’t match the hiring website for the company, which I easily found via search engine.
  • Contact also said the company would send me money to purchase new office equipment for my use.

That last point is what really tipped me off, because that’s a variation of a very old work-at-home scam. They’d hire me, send me a paper check far exceeding the value of whatever I’m expected to buy (in this case a laptop and printer), have me deposit the check into my account to cover the purchases, apologize for the accounting error and ask me to kindly return the excess to them via cashiers check (or now I suppose instant transfer.)

It’s chilling to think that this scam relies so heavily on the better parts of human nature like the desire for gainful employment and honest dealing.

Speaking of honest dealing, I have a few things to say about the platform Upwork which the scammer is using to target freelancers.


  • Unyime Etim

    April 9, 2020

    Really engaging post! I love your writing style, Wendy. Keep up the good work.

    • wendy

      April 10, 2020

      Thank you, I hope you come back again. I’m really excited about starting this site over and sort of knowing what I’m doing this time.


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